THE ORIGIN PROJECT
“I always loved when guest artists came to our school. It sparked something in the students to meet writers from other places, and I know for sure it changes the lives of the writers.” – Adriana Trigiani
The Origin Project, co-founded by author Adriana Trigiani and Executive Director Nancy Bolmeier-Fisher seeks to inspire students to find their voices through the craft of writing about their Appalachian origins. When we connect to the stories of our past, we are able to build our dreams for the future.
This year-long academic program begins at the start of the school year with the disbursement of an Origin Project journal given to each child in the designated classrooms. The students are greeted by Adriana and Nancy with the mission of writing one project that year about their roots. They are encouraged to interview family members and to provide photographs and artwork to illustrate their stories.
A treasure trove of retired teachers, headed by award winning educator Grace Bradshaw monitors the work process in the classroom with current teachers. Throughout the academic year, Adriana and Nancy work in the classrooms in person or via SKYPE. During the second semester, each student submits one poem, essay, short story or work of art to their teachers for inclusion in The Origin Project anthology published at the end of the school year. A copy of the anthology is provided to each published student. The book is also available in the public and school libraries of their towns, and shared with educators and librarians across the state.
The Origin Project began with 60 ninth-graders at Union High School in Big Stone Gap in 2013, and now services nearly 1000 students ranging from 4th grade to 12th grade, in four counties in southwest Virginia. Currently, we serve Flatwoods Elementary, Norton Elementary, Appalachia Elementary, Powell Valley Middle School, Union High School, Eastside High School, Lee High School and Abingdon High School.
We bring renowned authors, filmmakers, journalists and professional artists into the classroom to discuss their writing careers and encourage students’ creation of their own narratives in stories, poems, letters, journals, essays and visual arts. The visiting artists bring their enthusiasm, experience and ideas into the classroom, sparking the imaginations of the students in new and exciting ways.
The Origin Project also engages in community outreach. Our middle school students make an annual visit to the Festival of the Trees at the Southwest Virginia Museum, where they receive a tour and holiday luncheon. Our Abingdon High School students traveled to the University of Virginia at Wise for Coffee Night, which featured the work of poets and writers in southwest Virginia, including the award winning professor, Rita Quillen, of MECC and the late Fran Keuling-Stout, an accomplished poet and educator.
Our teachers encourage the students to submit their work for competition outside of our project, including the prestigious John Fox Jr. Writing awards through Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap. Under the direction of Mrs. Kim Blanken, Union High School teacher, we participated in Appalachian Heritage Day which brought artists skilled in all manners of Appalachian craft into the school for a day of celebration of storytelling, music and fine art.
The Origin Project received the 2016 Helen M. Lewis Community Service Award at Shepherd University. Nancy accepted the award on behalf of the Project, Grace Bradshaw and Adriana.
The Origin Project has featured internationally acclaimed blockbuster author and Virginian David Baldacci, popular and critically acclaimed young adult author Mary Hogan, and bestselling novelist of Meg Wolitzer. We are grateful to these brilliant writers and look forward to bringing more storytellers to engage with our students in the years to come.