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vinton 2.jpg (17379 bytes)   Increasingly we are becoming a wired nation as new technologies become a part of school classrooms, libraries, and other community settings. However, having a new "highway" is one thing; having a reason to use the highway is another. Our goal is twofold: to encourage local people in our Appalachian, Ohio region to use the information resources that will be increasingly available to them; and by doing so, help build a renewed sense of community currently lost to many rural towns and villages in the region.
To do this the Countdown To Millennium Project combines the newest form of information gathering, the internet, with the oldest form, storytelling. Theoretically, information infrastructures are potential solutions to some of the region’s economic problems, but there is no compelling reason for people here to even begin to learn how to navigate such technologies. At present, few see why having a computer is important. Through the schools, even the poorest schools, the children will increasingly have more exposure to the information technologies. It is the premise of this project that the children will be the ones to take these technologies into the home and into the community. This approach builds on the strong family ties and interest in local history within these rural communities (many of the families here can trace their roots back to the mid 1800s). It gives local residents a reason to learn about and use advanced technologies because there is a down-home reason to do so.
Trimble.jpg (295876 bytes) Ohio Unversity's College of Communication recognizes these dilemmas and wants to use the technological know-how of its faculty and students to serve the region where the University is situated. To do so it is parterning with Rural Action, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build sustainable communities in southeastern Ohio. The problems facing this region -- loss of a sense of community, low self-esteem and the multitude of problems associated with high poverty rates -- are not unique. They are problems that occur in many communities. Countdown To Millennium is a cooperative effort between Ohio University, Rural Action  to address some of these problems in a way that will serve as a model for others.

 Many of the towns in Athens, Meigs and Vinton counties, the areas targeted by the project, were the "boom towns" of the late 1800s and early 1900s; generating great wealth from coal, oil/gas, clay, timber and railroads. They were home to ethnic immigrant and indigenous people, representing distinctive cultural heritages. But with the natural resources of the region now extracted and the industries and their wealth gone these communities struggle to survive. Countdown To Millennium will give school children the means to record those histories and provide them with learning skills necessary for their futures and opportunity to teach what they have learned to adults. When children can take parents to the local library or community center and show them the community profiles, the photos and interviews with grandma that they have helped to design on a Web page, the parents are exposed to Internet technology and the children gain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

With the help of faculty and students from Ohio University's School of Telecommunications, Schools of Communication and Development, Journalism and Visual Communications, in conjunction with Rural Action staff; middle school and high school students and their teachers will learn how to collect, graphically design and organize, record and technologically share these profiles in several interactive media formats.

CTM will provide schools with multimedia training and equipment and also provide eight communities with Internet connection sites. These will be the only public Internet access points in six communities. For the first time the people in these communities will have Internet connections and training on how to use them.

The oral historoes will also become the foundation for a radio series, "Countdown To Millennium", that will air the Fall of 1999 to count down to the new millennium. The series will take these oral history interviews to a radio audience that covers one quarter of the state of Ohio and put these personal stories into a broader perspective to show what, over the course of the 20th century, southeastern Ohio has contributed to the nation.There are other outcomes from the project as well. The oral histories that are collected will aid in the research for Rural Action’s Mural Corridor and Appalachian Action Theater. Schools can used the collected or histories as a research base upon which to build walking/driving tours, art/photo displays, etc.

Countdown To Millennium is a partnership between Ohio University, Rural Action, the School Districts of Trimble, Federal Hocking, Meigs Local, and Vinton County and the communities, of Glouster, Amesville, Kilvert, McArthur, Trimble, Hamden, Wilkesville and Pomeroy. The project is funded by grants from the Ohio University 1804 Fund, The Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Humanities Council.

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