Lauren Stewart, Appalachian School of Law, $1,500 General Fund Scholarship
Living and studying in the heart of Appalachia and being surrounded by the mineral industry have significantly influenced my coursework and career trajectory. Pursuing my school’s Natural Resources Law certificate, I’ve had the opportunity to expand my understanding of the field of natural resources through courses like Sustainable Energy & Policy and the Natural Resources section of Appellate Advocacy and Moot Court.
Attending school in Appalachia has forced me to intimately understand the lasting impact the coal industry has had on the community in which I currently reside. I was among the many people who were completely removed from where our energy originates. I knew very little about a resource so crucial in keeping society functioning in ways we often take for granted. Since moving here, I’ve had the opportunity to become far more involved; not only in environmental groups on and off campus but also in the greater Grundy community at large.
I meet with local grassroots activists from environmental groups like Appalachian Voices in search of resources and opportunities I could bring to the community. After weeks of research and numerous phone calls, I proposed the idea of a community green space to the town. With help from various organizations such as the Virginia Outdoor Foundation, I’m actively developing and drafting a grant proposal that would bring a much-needed community space to the town. The experience I’ve gained through directly engaging with the needs of Appalachia has been invaluable. While everyone bears the cost that climate policies have on our environment regardless of their national origin, socioeconomic background, race, or gender; that cost has not been distributed equally. Usually, the communities that have contributed the least to our growing climate crisis are the first to face the most devastating effects. This is why communities’ voices must be represented in natural resource policy, legislation, and law.