Several area college students are spending their summers interning at various non-profits throughout the Alleghany Highlands this year.
Two are working with The Alleghany Foundation, three are assisting at the Alleghany Historical Society, and one is interning at the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
The student interns include Chris McHenry and Brianna Negrete at The Alleghany Foundation, Autumn Woodson, Zoe Wulff and Paul Hanna at the Alleghany Historical Society and Mackenzie Kenny at the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
“The Alleghany Foundation Board of Directors is proud to have provided opportunities for current college students to learn about the work of our grantees and aspects about our community that might not have been as visible growing up here,” said Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of The Alleghany Foundation. “At the same time, the interns have helped us tremendously with research to explore ideas that have arisen other times of the year and will help us as we move forward.”
Chris McHenry, a member of the Alleghany High School Class of 2017 and the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Class of 2021, is spending his summer at the foundation focusing on how to engage with community members and to encourage them to live more actively.
“To do this, I am researching ways to create an online presence, especially through Facebook, that The Alleghany Foundation or other organizations could use to market parks, trails, blueways and other outdoor amenities in and around the Alleghany Highlands community to its members,” he explained. “My scope of work is part of the foundation’s focus on Health and Wellness.”
Chris is the son of Dennis and Sandra McHenry of Clifton Forge, and he has lived in Alleghany County for 13 years. At Virginia Tech, he is studying business information technology with a concentration in decision support systems and with a minor in computer science.
Also at Tech, Chris is involved in CRU, an on-campus church club formerly called Campus Crusade for Christ International. He also volunteers with the Blacksburg Middle School after-school child watch.
Chris enjoys swimming, running and playing with his dog, Morty.
Bath County native Brianna Negrete, a rising sophomore at William and Mary, is studying neuroscience and is on a pre-med track toward graduation in 2021.
This summer, her scope of work coincides with the Vision 2025 initiative that focuses on community landscaping and destination gardens.
“I am furthering the development of a community garden with the help of the Alleghany County Parks and Recreation Department,” Brianna explained. “I am also conducting community outreach in search of potential partners and garden managers.”
Brianna is the daughter of Debora Gibson and Fernando Negrete and the stepdaughter of Donald Gibson. She was the salutatorian for the Class of 2017 at Bath County High School.
At William and Mary, she participates in Quiz Bowl. The team travels to nearby college campuses — including the University of North Carolina and Virginia Tech — to compete in collegiate academic trivia competitions. She is also a member of Colleges Against Cancer, an organization that raises funds for cancer research and hosts an annual Relay for Life event in Williamsburg.
Autumn Woodson, a senior social science major at Radford University, is conducting interviews to gather information on local industries for the Alleghany Highlands Industrial Heritage Museum.
Autumn is the daughter of Melissa Woodson and was the valedictorian for the Class of 2015 at Covington High School.
“We’re gathering oral histories from local residents who worked in area industries,” Autumn explained. “It’s been interesting, and it’s been very challenging, but it has been very rewarding.”
Zoe Wulff, a senior media studies major at Vassar College, grew up in Roanoke and graduated from Hidden Valley High School but has family ties to the Alleghany Highlands. Her mother, Teresa Wulff, grew up in Covington, while her grandmother, Delilah Ervine, and her aunt and uncle, Brenda and Paul Linkenhoker, “have all kept me connected to the area.”
Zoe explained her intern work over the summer.
“I am working with the Alleghany Historical Society to collect information and conduct interviews for the Industrial Heritage Museum,” she said.
Paul Hanna is a rising junior at James Madison University majoring in public history with a minor in microbiology.
Paul says he “wants to work in museums and be hands-on with history, engaging the past with the present for everyone in the community.”
A graduate of Covington High School, Paul is the son of Kevin and Dianne Hanna. He has been volunteering one to two days a week at the restored Covington C&O Depot and has participated in some of the intern activities.
“Not only has Paul been available to greet visitors at the depot, but he has also worked on cataloging and storing the collections of the Alleghany Historical Society,” explained Dr. Paul Linkenhoker, president of the Alleghany Historical Society. “In return, he has gained a much greater knowledge of the heritage of the Alleghany Highlands.”
Dr. Linkenhoker said he appreciated the efforts of all his interns this summer.
“The opportunity to have college interns and volunteers working on society projects this summer is exciting and extremely beneficial to our mission of historic preservation,” he said. “The interviews being conducted with individuals who have first-hand knowledge of our industrial heritage are priceless. We are also fortunate that the media skills of these young people will allow us to capture, preserve and present these interviews in a variety of video, audio and print options.
“The Alleghany Historical Society is grateful to The Alleghany Foundation for providing the funding and support for this important work,” Dr. Linkenhoker added. “It has also provided a tremendous opportunity for these college students to be involved in an educational experience with both a practical and meaningful result.”
Mackenzie Kenny is spending her summer as an intern at the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. A lifelong resident of Clifton Forge, Mackenzie is the daughter of Ed and Jean Kenny.
A 2014 graduate of Alleghany High School, Mackenzie will earn a bachelor’s of business administration degree in marketing from Radford University in May 2019.
“My time interning with the chamber this summer has been wonderful,” she said. “The staff has been so helpful and willing to teach me how things work around here.”
Mackenzie has devoted much of her summer to promoting the Alleghany Highlands as a tourist destination.
“I’ve especially enjoyed learning about the efforts they put into promoting the Highlands,” she said. “This is my home, and I’ve always wanted to see it grow and thrive, so being a part of an organization that is doing this for the area has been a really neat experience for me.”
Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Executive Director Teresa Hammond said she has enjoyed having Mackenzie on staff this summer.
“She assisted with several special projects and with the outdoor events, including the Jackson River Scenic Trail Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, as well as the Alleghany Gran Fondo,” Hammond said. “Mackenzie learned about how we are trying to strengthen and grow our tourism industry here in the Alleghany Highlands.
“Having a college student from the area working in our office also gave us a renewed perspective on why we focus our energies on tourism and educating the visitors on all that the Alleghany Highlands has to offer,” Hammond added.
Anyone interested in applying for an internship for next summer should check The Alleghany Foundation’s website in December and January and/or look for an ad in the Virginian Review.
In addition, pending national grant funding, anyone interested in community service should contact the foundation if you might be interested in becoming an AmeriCorps service member this fall.
Reprinted with permission from the Virginian Review. This Story appeared in the August 2, 2018, edition of the newspaper.