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Erika Kitzmiller for Central PA Info Hub

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11/30 Youth Collaborative

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Project Update

Our project began as a journalism website and has evolved into a youth-driven first-person storytelling project that showcases the voices and stories of individuals who call Chambersburg, a small town in Central Pennsylvania home. Our project aims to present a fuller picture of the community for the community. You can access the site here:

We support the development of first-person narratives, particularly among young, marginalized individuals who are rarely heard or seen in the mainstream media and to bring people together to listen to and learn from the wide array of stories that Chambersburg residents tell themselves.

This is the problem the project seeks to address:

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11/30 Youth offers these story collections to community partners as op-eds and testimonials to further social justice work in the community.

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We have published two volumes of work: one on racial justice and one on LGBTQ+ advocacy and experiences.

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To do this work, we have created an incredible team of youth, creators, and educators all of whom have ties to rural Pennsylvania.

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You can learn more about each of us here:

Progress on objectives

As we stated before, our project started as a journalism project but after deep consideration of the community's needs, we evolved into a first-person, youth-driven site.

We have published a variety of pieces: poems about racial inequity, interviews about racial justice advocacy, first-person narratives about growing up as a nonwhite youth in a majority-white community, and films documenting LGBTQ+ lives and advocacy. We have also incorporated book reviews that feature Appalachian authors who have written about the themes and ideas in our work.

This is an overview of our journey:

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Key activities

This winter, we published a collection written by and for youth on race and racism in Franklin County. Madison Mellinger and LeShan Wilkinson, the collaborative's youth directors, wrote the introduction to the collection:

In the summer of 2020, national media recognized a few things we have known all along about Franklin County: the population is not entirely white, racism exists here, and grassroots organizations are beginning to mobilize our citizens to fight for racial justice. While the county’s rural agricultural roots and location in the Appalachian Mountains has led many to believe the area is a white, Republican, Christian monolith, we present a different perspective. In our high school classes, on our sports teams, in our clubs, and even within our own families we know people whose lives defy the stereotypes others perpetuate about rural communities. In this first collection from the 11/30 Youth Collaborative, we present stories written by a few of those people who stand out in our minds. We aim to showcase the diverse range of narratives that exist in Chambersburg, focusing specifically on racial diversity and the local fight for racial justice. We encourage you to get to know each of our contributors through their works, deeply consider their messages, and continuously reflect on your own position in the Chambersburg community. Most of all, we encourage you to act. To learn more about how to get involved with the local fight for racial justice, please consider Racial Reconciliation Franklin County, PA.

You can read the collection here:

This past summer, we published another collection, Franklin County Pride. Madison and Erika Kitzmiller, a collaborative advisor, wrote the introduction to the collection:

When many people think of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, they envision parades and festivals in major metropolitan areas with thousands of community members and allies clad in rainbow attire dancing and celebrating in the streets. However, in small, rural communities with less extravagant events, the LGBTQ+ community is still present and proud. In this collection, we explore what Pride looks and feels like for those who live in Franklin County, with a particular focus on the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in our community. In both of these instances, we emphasize the importance of allyship in rural spaces. We also expand our lens to Appalachia as a whole, considering the perspectives of LGBTQ+ people across the region.

We encourage you to get to know each of our contributors through their works, deeply consider their messages, and continuously reflect on your own position in the Chambersburg community. Most of all, we encourage you to act. To learn more about how to get involved with local efforts to fight for and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, please consider Pride Franklin County.

You can read the collection (which is still in progress) here:

Communications and marketing

We have discussed our work with local residents, our advisory board members, and most recently, in a Grant for Web Community Call.

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Listen to the clip here:

In addition, Madison Mellinger and LeShan Wilkinson, our youth directors, were finalists in Glen Nelson Center's Next Challenge. An incredible feat for our young project and a testament to their brilliance!

What’s next?

We have two more collections planned, one this fall on Pennsylvania politics and advocacy and another on intergenerational dialogue and learning.

Beyond these collections, we have created and established a process for generating and publishing youth-driven work in rural America. As educators and youth committed to social justice and equity in rural America, we are eager to think more deeply about this moving forward in this community and beyond. This is the process to date.

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We are eager to think more deeply about this process and to find collaborators across the state and Appalachia who are interested in partnering with us in this work.

What community support would benefit your project?

We would love to hear any suggestions the community might have for the project, partners we might reach out to, and ideas for increasing readership and creative output. We are so grateful for these funds and so proud of the work we have started--we are eager to work with others to scale this work with more youth and educators in rural Pennsylvania and beyond.

Top comments (1)

filomena profile image
Filomena Slovak


I am annotating several articles from the community for better reach outside of the community.

Here is yours.