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My Hometown is Cool

More than 40 youths competed in the competition to receive $2,500 mini grants to implement their ideas to make their hometowns cooler.

Learn about 2021's four finalists!

About My Home Town is Cool

The My Hometown is Cool project was developed by WVU Extension Service to provide youths with opportunities to learn about community development and how their ideas, creativity and commitment can help drive change. Each team was provided with a number of resources to use in developing their ideas. 

More than 800 youths from across the state have completed the 2020-21 WVU Extension My Hometown is Cool lesson series. WVU Extension Service and the WVU Chambers College of Business and Economics hosted a statewide pitch competition for youths ages 9-18 in April 2021. More than 40 youths competed in the competition, with four finalists from four counties selected to receive $2,500 mini grants to implement their ideas to make their hometowns cooler. The mini-grants were provided by the West Virginia Community Development HUB, West Virginia Association of Counties and Williams Companies.

2021 My Hometown is Cool Winning Teams

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 Service 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 Service Family & Community Development Agent Ami Cook.