Brent Hutchinson

Providing culturally-rooted education and community development to help Central Appalachia thrive.

Location:

Hindman, Kentucky

Superpower:

Connectedness: seeing how things work together and how factors influence each other

Favorite book:

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter

Challenge:

Rural communities in the Appalachians have long wrestled with federal disinvestment, cycles of extraction, and a lack of access to resources. With grocery stores few and far between, for instance, communities like Hindman are virtual food deserts, lacking healthy and affordable options for local families. The coal industry continues to shrink, endangering livelihoods as well as communities’ traditional sources of pride and hope. Existing institutions have a vital role to play in understanding evolving local challenges, promoting resilience and other home-grown assets, and adapting programming to ensure communities continue to flourish-in-place in each generation.

Strategy:

As the nation’s first rural social settlement school in 1902, Hindman Settlement School was created to provide education, health, and social services to the area. Since then the School has evolved to support each generation of Central Appalachians. Through community and public-school engagement, the Settlement preserves and promotes the region’s inheritance as a leader in Appalachian arts, crafts, letters, and music. Hindman’s dyslexia education program directly addresses the region’s above-average rates of this genetic learning challenge. Under Brent’s leadership, the School has strengthened its outward focus. The new Foodways Programs provide families with training, tools, and seeds to grow their own food. Access to a shared canning facility and pipelines to sell produce at the local farmers’ market bolster family economies, while the Settlement itself farms sustainable meat and produce, giving overworked neighbors healthy alternatives. As rural regions look to the future, Hindman provides a compelling model for holistic community engagement.

Greatest victory:

“A young man from our community was looking for work to help support his young family. We hired him for a temporary summer position and then offered him a role as an AmeriCorps VISTA. He worked there for three years. At the end of that period, our foodways program had grown to support a full-time farm manager position, which had always been his goal. He went from lacking focus to gaining vision for the community, where he was raised, and is now working in his ideal position. He also started his own sourdough bread making business through our community kitchen. He and his wife are raising their children on our campus and making an enormous difference in the community where they are from.”

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