My Hometown is Cool
More than 40 youths competed in the competition to receive up to $2,500 mini grants to implement their ideas to make their hometowns cooler.
About My Home Town is Cool
The My Hometown is Cool project was developed by WVU Extension to provide youths with opportunities to learn about community development and how their ideas, creativity and commitment can help drive change. Youths from across West Virginia come up with project ideas to help better their hometowns, and they submit a video explaining their idea to the My Hometown is Cool Statewide Pitch Competition for a chance to make it a reality.
Teams of two or more youth ages 9-18, with an adult coach, are invited to share their innovative ideas for their own communities. Each team will submit a three-minute video explaining what makes their hometown cool and what they think could make it even cooler. Once registered, teams will be sent a lesson series on community development for the coach to go over with the team.
Each winning team can request between $500 and $2,500 in mini-grant funding to turn their idea into a reality. Thanks to the generous support of donors, including Williams and Associates, $10,000 in mini grants is available for projects.
This project is a partnership between WVU Extension and WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
Summer 2022 My Hometown is Cool Winning Team
Brooke County: Create a safe teen hangout space at Brooke Hills Park
Youths in Brooke County love their hometown and the many recreational opportunities it offers the community. But a team of Brooke High School students noticed there was an opportunity to take an underused area of a popular park and make it even cooler.
The team of Jace Campinelli and Olivia Rocchio, two 16-year-old students from Wellsburg, plan to renovate a forgotten part of Brooke Hills Park. Their proposal is to revamp the old boathouse to create a place for teens to hang out, free of alcohol, drugs and nicotine. They have worked with the park's management team and other community leaders to get permission to turn this empty structure into a hangout spot that is full of life.
They plan to use the $2,500 mini grant to bring in TVs and speakers and create an outdoor space where they will have activities such as cornhole, a volleyball court and even grills to cook food. The group will partner with the Brooke High School Future Business Leaders of America Club to fulfill the project. Campinelli and Rocchio are coached by Adam Haught, teacher and advisor of FBLA at Brooke High School.
Greenbrier County: Expand recreational opportunities at Hollowell Park
A group of teens from Greenbrier County are committed to creating and expanding recreational opportunities in their community. With current renovations being done at Hollowell Park in Lewisburg, Suzanne Bicksler, Zach Ellis, and Ryan Vaughan felt this was a great opportunity to piggyback on the project by adding four permanent pickleball courts at the park.
The teens’ idea is not only to promote exercise in their community, but they also hope the new courts will encourage residents to try a new sport. And, in the mindset of true entrepreneurs, the group believes the addition of the courts could lead to local and regional tournaments, clinics and other events, which will benefit the local community.
Their mini-grant will go toward the installation of four pickleball courts, seating area and a kiosk in Hollowell Park. The City of Lewisburg will partner with the group to assist with the project installation. The team is coached by WVU Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent Robin Haynes.
Marshall County: Neighborhood Food Pantries
For Megan Pintus, a business education teacher at John Marshall High School, the My Hometown is Cool project resonated with members of her hospitality and tourism marketing class. With food insecurity remaining a major concern in communities all across West Virginia, the teens wanted to focus on not only making food more accessible, but also reducing stigma for people who need help.
Team members Mack Allen, Peyton Dille, Catherine Foster, Matthew Hall, Michael Hebert, Sean McNeil, Rayna Ratliff, Coltin Rogers and Hailey Schramm plan to use their mini-grant to build and stock at least three food pantry boxes, which will be located in high traffic areas of town. The City of Moundsville is in the process of building one pantry, so the team felt this could be an extension of those efforts and expand access to the pantries.
The team also recognized in their planning the need for partnerships. The group will work with the city, local church food banks, community groups, and community members on the project, including identifying food donations from churches, local organizations, business and community members. The teens also will get some help from 4-H Teen leaders in the county who will be helping to assist with the construction of the mobile food pantries.
McDowell County: The County Perk
Karinna Finley, Meredith Miller, Dalton Powell and Autumn Reynolds are committed to creating new opportunities and offerings in their community. The team identified a need for their community in the form of caffeine. The “County Perk,” an artisan coffee and baked goods food cart, not only will provide a service currently not available in Welch, but also create a “third” spaces in the city.
Looking to the future, the group would like to purchase and rehabilitate a building in downtown Welch that would become a brick and mortar coffee shop. The shop would also include a “features” space for open mic nights and a used book store, as well as space to support other youth entrepreneurs.
Using the $2,500 mini-grant, the team will create a pop-up coffee shop experience, which will be hosted throughout the town this summer, and provide them with an opportunity to test their business the concept. Starting small, the group hopes to use the sales from the coffee cart to generate revenues that can be used to expand and/or support the existing business. The team is coached by Jenny Totten.
Nicholas County: SummersFESTIville
Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel Route 19 through Summersville on their way to points north, south and in between. But nine-year-olds Auriana Barnett and Chloe Cook want you to reroute your trip a bit and spend time visiting local businesses in the downtown area.
The duo, who are the youngest winners of the competition, plan to use their mini-grant to host SummersFESTIville, a day-long event to bring residents, visitors and others to the downtown area to eat, shop and play. Funds will be used to create art projects, decorate the downtown and host activities such as wildflower seed bombs, canvas paintings and rock paintings for a hidden rock contest. As part of the event, businesses will offer special discounts set up outside with special samples and activities.
Barnett and Cook have already generated support for the festival, including a thumbs up from the mayor of Summersville who has agreed to help fund the project and provide other resources to help make the event a reality. The team is coached by WVU Extension Family & Community Development Agent Ami Cook.