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New Appalachian Fellowship Program Aims to Rebuild Region's Economy

A new fellowship program will begin next year, aiming to help communities in Central Appalachia rebuild their economies.The Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program is a project of the non-profit Highlander Center, based in Eastern Tennessee. Early next year, it will select 15 communities in the Appalachian areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. With input from those communities, they’ll select 15 fellows to undertake one-year economic development projects.On the surface, the concept isn’t new: for years, nonprofits and federal agencies have spent money on community development in the region, with varying degrees of success.But program coordinator Elandria Williams says this fellowship program is different than programs that have provided support to Appalachia in the past.“This is very different. What we’re saying is actually the leaders we have to engage in, the emerging people we must, we must invest in are people from our area,” she said.In that vein, the only people who are eligible for the fellowships are people who have actually lived in Appalachia, whether they’re from there or transplants, and have demonstrated commitment to the region. They’ll be paid $24,000 for their fellowship year, and the 15 host communities will have a hand in selecting their fellows. Fellowship applications are due in February.