Change of Plans: Documenting Alternative Youth Experiences in Appalachian Ohio

What does it mean to “create a sense of place?” as a young entrepreneur? How are those meanings entangled with the joys and challenges of building a sustainable life in Appalachian southern Ohio? This paper explores themes of authenticity, creativity, place, mobility, and change present in three interviews I conducted in Scioto County, Ohio as a student researcher for the Ohio Field Schools (OFS), an ongoing research project facilitated by the Center for Folklore Studies at the Ohio State University. In my presentation, I will discuss the dual experience of working with the OFS project as a graduate assistant and as a student learner, engaging hands-on ethnographic methods to document the expressive lives of young people in Scioto County, Ohio and the goals they have for their lives and their community. I will also discuss how network importantly shapes and sustains their efforts, allowing them to choose paths which diverged from their initial plans. Attending to the broader mission and trajectory of the OFS, I will share my individual experience as part of this project and how the themes which arose in my interviews with young people mirror the larger concerns of the field school – in short, the insights, tensions, and surprises that go hand-in-hand with sustaining the early energies of community-based ethnographic research at many levels.