A! Magazine for the Arts

The Origin Project encourages students

June 26, 2018

Just as family, her hometown and history are important in Adriana Trigiani’s writings, they are important to another endeavor of hers, 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,” she says.

That memory helped spark The Origin Project, which unites Trigiani, teachers and guest artists to inspire students to find their voices through the craft of writing about their Appalachian origins.

“I was kicking around ideas with my friend Nancy Bolmeier Fisher who is an amazing talent, she’s the go-to girl when you need anything when it comes to students. We met when I was an office temp, and Nancy was a successful Wall Street exec. She married and had a wonderful son and was always deeply involved in projects. And I told her I wanted to start a project that was simple, just students with a paper and pencil and a story, and that we’d publish those stories, those glorious Appalachian stories; and bring authors into the classroom. Nancy was all in,” Trigiani says.

Retired teachers monitor the classroom work. Trigiani and Fisher work in the classrooms either in person or through Skype. In the second semester, students submit a poem, essay, short story or work of art to their teachers for inclusion in “The Origin Project” anthology which they publish at the end of the school year.

The project began with 60 ninth-graders at Union High School in Big Stone Gap in 2013 and now services nearly 1,000 students ranging from fourth grade to 12th grade. Students from Flatwoods Elementary, Norton Elementary, Appalachian Elementary, Powell Valley Middle School, Union High School, Eastside High School, Lee High School and Abingdon High School are involved.

Trigiani says, “We want to give students grades two through 12 a sense of their own creativity through writing, but also a skill set that they can use in any aspect of their future employment. The ability to write effectively and well is necessary in any profession. We also believe that our students, if they have a sense of pride about who and what they come from, and can celebrate it by writing about it, will carry their rich Appalachian history forward in a way that will galvanize and strengthen them to pursue their dreams on their own terms. The Appalachian people are my heart, and their kindness, strength and resolve, along with their humility, are inspiring.

“I want our students to get the same exposure that students in urban areas get: access to the best authors. It is a cornerstone of the program to bring in authors who write books the children have read or can read in the library.”

The Origin Project also works with Barter Theatre, which hosts guest authors and the annual finale assemblies.

“It’s so important for our students to attend the theater. Field trips have been minimized, and it’s a shame. It gives our students an opportunity to meet students from other schools and to have an experience that enriches what they read about in books. Everyone in Southwest Virginia should subscribe to the Barter Theatre season. Everyone. It’s wonderful to take the family and expose them to great plays and musicals. It sparks the imagination of children and gives them time off electronic devices. Art can save us because it shows us who we are and you have a jewel in the Barter Theatre. We are most grateful for their dedication to young audiences.

“We have big plans for the coming year. announcements of our guest author, more schools to add, and with that, more Appalachian stories and history to share, to be handed down, to treasure. As it should be,” she says.

Meet Adriana Trigiani at fundraiser