Individuals from all over the country travel to Vermont to take classes at Yestermorrow prompting our halls and grounds to be filled with two inter-related questions: What's your story? Why are you at Yestermorrow? Berea College student Eva Griffin joins us on-campus for two months this summer and offered to share her story.

For several years, I have seen the unfulfilled potential in my family’s four wooded acres in Tracy City, Tennessee. However, lacking the skills and knowledge to bring that potential out—or the money to hire those who did—we have instead waged a constant battle with decay and disrepair. As an example, the water situation is particularly frustrating: when the well works at all, it gives about fifteen minutes of water at a time, and we have no running water in the house. While taking an Ecological Design course for my minor in Environmental Studies at Berea College, a small liberal arts school in Kentucky, I clarified a sense that I needed to take responsibility for knowing how to turn my ambitions for this land into a reality. For this reason, I chose to spend two months as an intern at Yestermorrow this summer. My primary goal is to develop a preliminary design for a house to be constructed on an existing foundation on our property. In addition, I hope to begin acquiring the skills and knowledge to work on the design I come up with, and to make repairs on our existing home.

Toward that end, I have already taken the Beginning Furniture Making course, and will also take Home Design/Build. Through my classes and work trade, I have begun to feel competent in areas such as woodworking, plumbing, gardening, and tool use and maintenance, for the first time in my life. As a woman from a low-income background, I have found my experience at Yestermorrow particularly empowering. As a member of a close-knit, but economically-distressed community, in the beautiful and remarkably biodiverse Cumberland Plateau, I find the worldview espoused by Yestermorrow and the culture of Vermont an inspiring and practical long-term alternative to the path of “progress” in my region. As a non-traditional student, I am glad to be part of a learning environment which helps me take responsibility for designing my own future and that of my community.