Before I can even start talking about a wedding I should probably introduce myself, huh?
My name is Amy Skeens, and I am from a small rural town in West Virginia called Cowen. (It is pronounced cow-in… not cohen.) Then again, I usually introduce myself as being ‘from Webster County, West Virginia’. They say that when you say the entire county rather than a town it means you’re hoping someone has at least heard of it. The thing is, though… that tons of people (at least from the region) have indeed heard of it. Maybe they were visiting Camp Caesar, Camp Cowen, the Woodchopping Festival, Holly River State Park, or fishing/hunting/camping… but so many people have said to me “Oh, yeah! I’ve been through there!” I guess living right in the middle of Wild and Wonderful while growing up is why I haven’t interested in going camping until recently?
My parents graduated high school, and moved to Baltimore, MD in search of work. That is where they got married, and my brother and I came along. After a while the rents decided that Baltimore wasn’t where they envisioned raising a family, and they moved back to ‘their home’. I was only five then, so I don’t really have many memories of life before West Virginia. While my father still refers to me as ‘A Baltimoron’, I have always called myself a West Virginian. (…from Webster County)
According to the US Census Bureau the population of Webster County is 9,719. The county is 555.9 square miles, so that works out to about 17 people per square mile. It is the 10th smallest when ranked by population, and the 12th largest when ranked by land area. Every student grades 9-12 goes to the same high school: Webster County High School. That means that some students from the edges of the county can ride the bus for 2 hours one way. Some students even transfer busses. There are around 500-600 students total depending on the year, and I graduated with around 100 students. Yup, that is small, but with a teaching staff of around 40 that’s a student-teacher ratio of around 12:1. That is the kind of attention that parents dream of when it comes to the public school system! (of course, that’s a totally different blog topic isn’t it?)
Disclaimer: I can find the population information online from the Census Bureau, but I am totally estimating on the statistics about the school!
I wasn’t necessarily a stellar student when it came to academics. I did what I needed to in order to get by. I was pretty involved at the school, but most students were. Throughout my time at WCHS I was a member and Treasurer of the National Honor Society, Secretary of the Student Council, and Treasurer of my class. (or at least that’s how I remember it… and for being Treasurer, I never saw or touched money… but I bet I thought it would look great on a college application!) I was also a captain of the WCHS Showgirls (Dance Team), and one of the Varsity Basketball Cheerleading Squads. I was accepted to West Virginia University in Biology. I planned to apply to nursing school like many other young women seeking a postsecondary education, but hoping to end up in town. (The health care profession is one of the few occupations for women in the area. After high school, many men go straight into the coal mines, timber industry, or enlist in the military.)
I was nervous to leave my small town for such a larger place! Sometimes called Mayberry, Webster County made me who I am! No fast food- only hometown diners. Everywhere closes at 8pm. Everybody waves. The same things that make you love it can make you hate it: everyone knows everyone! I remember a conversation with my father after ‘Senior Night’ at a football game. I had been recognized, and my family had a chance to stand with me in front of the crowd so that I could thank them. I was just a little hysterical (you’ll learn that’s a theme with me) at the thought of leaving all of that behind. As an 18 year old senior that definitely knew everything, I said to my father:
“…but, Dad, how can I leave this place? I. RUN. This. Place. I’m a big fish!” I then broke into the theme song from Cheers to take attention away from the fact that I was vulnerable. I knew that my rein as a big fish in a small pond was coming to an end, and it scared me to death.
The day that I came to Morgantown, WV for New Student Orientation to WVU I changed my major to Journalism. It took some adjusting, but I found my footing. Throughout college I worked in a daycare, as an RA, and as a secretary. I was on WVU News as a reporter, and went on to be a Floor Manager/Producer. I made a new friend as an RA that I consider my best friend and soul-mate to this day. I met my college sweetheart at a WVU football tailgate. I graduated early with a Bachelors of Science in Journalism with a Concentration in Broadcast News, and a Minor in English Literature. Turns out reporters in West Virginia don’t make much, and I stayed at WVU enrolled in the Masters of Arts program in Educational Leadership Studies. I’m finishing that Masters now with a focus in Higher Education Administration, and specialization in Educational Psychology.