experiential learning

Tyler Hueston

Gateway Baptist Church

November 6, 2016

The next event that I attended was church.  Again I would have never been able to experience this if it wasn’t for the brothers in Alpha Gamma Rho. As much as fraternities have bad names people need to open their eyes and realize that these men are respectful god loving people.  The brothers took me under their wing and asked me to attend church with them on November 6th.  We attended gateway Baptist church on Harding Avenue.

One thing about Blacksburg and Appalachia that is the same as my town is the impact god has on the people in the community. Upon arrival at Gateway Baptist I noticed that the parking lot was full of loyal patrons of the church. We were greated even before entering the church by respectful gentle men who kindly shook our hands and thanked us for being there.  We entered the church and took our seats in a pew near the back of the church as we listened to music being played on a grand piano.

The church service started soon after 11:00 and I was in amazement of the pastor. His name was pastor Scott Souther, a man in his mid-40’s but a man greatly influenced by god. Much of the service was on the idea of forgiveness. Pastor Souther said to the crowd “you must forgive people who your upset with as they will most likely not even remember what made you upset”. This quote related to me greatly at the time as I was unforgiving of a person in my life.  At that point I decided that I will forgive that person and make my life right again.

As the service continued we skyped the new church that Gateway Baptist help constructed in South America. We met the pastor there as well as his family as he described what was going on in the building of the church as well as describing the impact the church is starting to have in the community there. Pastor Souther asked the pastor from South America if there was anything we could help them with by praying. The pastor stated that they are in need of chairs for the grand opening of the church as well as slippers for many children of the town.  At that point it really hit me hard that us as Americans neglect the little things in life like slippers.  We need to assist others in need instead of looking out for ourselves.

Attending church that day has changed my life since. The bible belt of Appalachia and the deep south has impacted me and allowed me to take god into my life.  Pastor Souther was the best pastor I have had the opportunity hear preach. As my college years progress here at Virginia I plan to continue to attend church services at Gateway Baptist and hopefully make god closer in my life and be able to share god with my pledge brothers and other people around campus.

Appalachia, including the people in it have affected my life more than anywhere else I have ever been in my life. I can only hope I can continue to gain these life changing experiences in the three and a half years I have left in the region.

Familar faces in far out places


One of the biggest things learned in this class is not only become personally close to the culture but as well as becoming personally close to the people.  This class has taught me more than just a culture, it has taught me a new way of life that I am influenced from greatly. Beyond the class something that has introduced me into the culture more than anything else is the Fraternity I am pledging, Alpha Gamma Rho. The fraternity founded on agriculture therefore multiple brothers own farms right here in Appalachia. Through the relationships that I have gained I have learned how much of an impact farming has in Appalachia. Unlike where I am from where the land is flat and the soil rich for crops I have learned that most farms in the region are cattle farms. As to what I learned in class, the experiences are endless. The best place to start when learning about a culture is learning about where that culture came from, what makes that culture great.  We learned about the Native Americans at first.  We learned about their heartache as colonist came and settled their land pushing them away. next we learned about the physical history such as the log cabin that was taken away or the fort that is now a major highway. History is always important to preserve, it keeps the culture alive. next we learned about the darker side of Appalachia where drugs are the ones running peoples lives. Appalachia has one of the highest drug related death rates in the country.  On a lighter note Appalachia is full of beauty that is mostly shown through nature.

Autumn Mountain Sunrise
Autumn Mountain Sunrise

Much of Appalachia is still undeveloped leading to beautiful scenery’s. If you truly want to see what Appalachia’s all about you have to get out there. Whether it Be getting in your car and traveling the Blue ridge Trail or just walking down to you local restaurant and meeting locals. There is always something you can see and do. Like the West Virginia Commercials say on television “get out there”.

experiential learning

Brann and king Pumpkin farm
Riner, Virginia
Multiple days in September and October
Throughout the semester I have learned a lot about Appalachia through my experiences. I have had a busy semester since I am pledging a fraternity but in fact pledging has taught me more about Appalachia than I would have ever learned myself. The thing I learned most about Appalachia is that only Appalachians can show what Appalachia is really about. Through the fraternity I have been places I would’ve never been as well as gain experiences that I would never experience otherwise. One of the first things we did was work on a farm.
The farm we worked on was Brann and king pumpkins. This farm on the outskirts of the town of Riner consisted of cows, grain, and 32 acres of what the owner, Mr. Brann, called orange gold. The fraternity as well as I assisted in the delivery of pumpkins to several different clients. The farms biggest client was Walmart where they delivered thousands of pumpkins to over 25 Walmarts scattered throuought the state of virginia. As well a delivering to Walmart Brann and king pumpkins also delivers to a very special client. For the past few years they make a very special delivery to Richmond to deliver a very special pumpkin to the governor. I have talked to the farmers about this and they said that they were honored to be one of two farms in the state to be able to deliver one to the governor We worked hard during our experience loading thousands of pumpkins into a trailer all by hand. I was challenged physically during my experience working on the farm due to the rate at which the pumpkins were loaded( which was fast) as well as the shear volume of pumpkins loaded per day. One thing that I found interesting compared to my home town in tidewater is the type of labor used. Where I am from most farm labor is usually Latino immigrants working for farmers doing manual labor. However, in our case everyone working for Mr. Brann and Mr. King were all white american citizens who were either locals or us college kids. Another thing observed is the so called “homeyness” of both farmers. At no time did the other workers or farmers make me fell like an outsider. Even on the first day of working they made me fell like ive been there for years. I wouldn’t say many of the readings really helped me but I fell like a lot of our class discussions related to what I observed on the farm. The farm like much of Appalachia is lacking technology. All of the equipment used is very outdated with no plans to upgrade their fleet of tractors. Throughout my experience I learned how farming in appalachia differs from farming in tidewater as well as pretty much any other region in the united states


coal views collide

Throughout the week we learned about the affects coal has on Appalachia outside of the mine.  In the short video we watched we learned the effects of strip mining and the people that live around it as well as the way that the government regulates the way coal companies strip mine.  I as many of my classmates were shocked to find that the regulations west virginia imposes on their strip mines is a less than valiant effort. The coal companies are told they have to rebuild the mountains they destroy but what they leave in place is a rocky wasteland where plants cant grow and life refuses to exist. An interesting fact that I found out was that when we made our coal flower, it actually looked pretty. Coal towns do this within the school systems to make coal look pretty and not just a black rock that comes out of the ground.  This project creates a good image for a bad situation within the coal fields of appalachia

coal and what it means

As many people know coal is a major provider of jobs in Appalachia. But how do the coal mines really work? I mean obviously coal controls towns and people. And obviously there has been many arguments and blood baths concerning this resource, but why? Why are the big companies making themselves present in all parts of there worker lives. The answer is simple. profit. The large companies pay little money to miners and then because they need a place to live the only place is the mine owners rental housing. Because the companies owned so much land no one in the town could escape the mine. This is why they were called mine towns. Many people tried to unionize miners but this turned out to be difficult because again the town was owned by the mine and all the laborers were too scared to unionize against the mine.

Misrepresented Ashland


This town looks like the average small town on a railroad but like the photos that are taken in Appalachia this one is deceiving. In Merchandising the Mountaineer there is a picture taken that portrays the mountains as a place of mystery. a place where big business can grow large and flourish. These pictures were taken this way to try to place big business in Appalachia. The one thing the picture didn’t show was the problems associated with moving the business here. Just like the picture of Appalachia this picture of the town of Ashland in Hanover county only portrays part of the town. What the picture doesn’t show Is the interstate less than one mile away from what seems like the quaint little town. It also doesn’t show that Ashland is number one in the state for trailer parks per square mile.. The point is pictures can be deceiving.  You never know what you have until you get there, just like Appalachia

economic problems after the civil war

The south including Appalachia experienced an economic hardship after the civil war. Much of the south including certain states in Appalachia used confederate money which was now worthless. This put many families into debt which they could never recover from. On top of the money not being worth anything the civil war left Appalachian infrastructure in shambles. All major towns in the area were destroyed leaving much of the population with no money and no way to get money.  The south as well as Appalachia in many ways have never recovered from the civil war, the whole industry of textiles has never recovered.

Appalachia history dissappears

While much of Appalachian history is expressed through stories passed through generations, there is not much history that i have seen so far that deals with location. In one of the readings “Ghost Boundaries And Names” they speak multiple times of Fort Chiswell. In today’s time, Fort Chiswell is only a name on a sign, the actual fort no longer exists today. So why does a location that was so important in the westward expansion of our country have nothing but a road sign to mark its place? I think that this shows a major flaw in the way our country works. For every war we have had in this country our state and nation preserve the history of these wars through battlefields scattered throughout the country. So here is the question to ask the government about, why can we remember some historical places yet place a roadway over others?  History is only created once. Once history is destroyed it cannot be made again. We need to conserve all of our nations history, not just what we want to conserve. Many things involving history are forgotten because people don’t conserve the history that has actually had a huge impact on our country today.

Sources: “Ghost Boundries And Names”

Power mapping of my hometown

Every town is different in the world and even in the state. we each have our own meeting places our own little group with our own little goals. We live for those Friday night lights to cheer our on football team. When we experience a life loss we cry as a community. This water tower town is mechanicville Virginia.

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- The Windmill is a Mechanicsville landmark.
MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — The Windmill is a Mechanicsville landmark.

A tight knit town 45 minutes outside Richmond in Hanover county and a place i call home. Hanover and mechanicsville are full of history. From route 606 which was George Washington’s rochambeau route to Yorktown, to Patrick Henry’s birthplace in studley, we have all the history you can imagine. mechanicville is a town on route 360 just west of Richmond. We have many rivers the a a stones throw away including the Pumunkey and Chickohomony. We also have any restaurant you could ever imagine for the out of towners to hop of interstate 295 and grab a bite. Our town is full of southern heritage due to the fact that one of the major battles of the civil war was faught here. In the past mechanicsville has also been ranked on of the top towns to live in in the United states. So if you up for a small town with large heart mechanicville is the place you could call home.