Appalachia Voices | No Education Not Choice for Some in Appalachia

Monkey Do Project Appalachia High School Dropouts

Appalachia Voices | No Education Not Choice for Some in Appalachia

My mom dropped out of high school because her family was so poor that she didn’t have shoes or a coat to wear to school.


When you hear the phrase “high school drop-out,” it brings to mind many things, most of them negative. You may think of a slacker who is too lazy to finish school. Or maybe you think of a girl getting pregnant and dropping out because she can’t handle the pressure of being a mother and a student. Perhaps it makes you think of someone whose addictions have taken over their life, making school a pretty low priority. Whatever image comes to mind, it’s probably not a positive one.


My mother was a high school drop-out. She didn’t drop out because she was lazy or unintelligent. She didn’t drop out because she was pregnant. She didn’t drop out because she was on drugs. My mom dropped out of high school because her family was so poor that she didn’t have shoes or a coat to wear to school. My mom dropped out because she could barely afford to live, let alone get her education.

My mom grew up in rural West Virginia, in the heart of Appalachian coal mining country. She experienced a level of poverty most of us can’t imagine. Meals consisted mostly of whatever could be caught (Mom says squirrel brains were a favorite of hers), and lots of beans. New clothing was almost unheard of. I remember my father telling me that when he met my mom, she and her sister were sharing a winter coat because they only had one. Things like new toys and trips to the doctor were rare occurrences. My mother’s family was truly just getting by.

I wish I could say that things have changed since the days when my mom was a child, but unfortunately that is not the case. The Monkey Do Project West Virginia Appalachia  photosAppalachian region of the United States is still one of the poorest in the nation. It breaks my heart to know that such poverty exists right here in America, the supposed land of opportunity. It’s why I’m so passionate about The Monkey Do Project.

As I look back over old family photos, I don’t see lazy people who were looking for a handout. I see proud people who worked hard and did the best they could with what they had, little though it was. I look at those faces, the faces of my ancestors, and I realize that I am only one generation removed from that life. I could have been that coal miner’s daughter, barely surviving, not getting to finish school. I am not ashamed of what I have come from, but I recognize that I am extremely blessed that God has put me where I am today. And I realize I have to give back.

Will you join me? Even the smallest action can mean the world to someone who has nothing. Consider the ways you can help the Monkey Do Project, whether it’s donating, sharing our cause with others, or even saying a prayer for our work and the people of Appalachia. Everyone can do something to help.

Appalachia Voice Crystal Paschal is a blogger and writer at Mom for Less and founder of It’s Fundamental blog for children’s books and parenting info.

  • Jessie
    Posted at 17:21h, 27 April Reply

    Great article! My mom is from rural West Virginia as well. Her dad was a cop so they weren’t that bad off, but still had very little money. And my grandmother was one of 9 children. Definitely a whole other world from the one I grew up in! Thank you for bringing this issue to light.

  • The Power of a ShareMonkey Do Project, Inc. | Monkey Do Project, Inc.
    Posted at 23:55h, 06 September Reply

    […] The Power of a Share If you’ve been following the Monkey Do Project for any length of time, you’ve probably seen us asking for donations, both financial and tangible. The need in the Appalachian region is great, and it takes money and items to help meet those needs. It may seem like we do a lot of asking, but the reason we do all that asking is because we believe in this cause. For me, a close personal connection to the Appalachian region fuels my desire to help. […]

  • Why I'm Walking 40 Miles in July | Monkey Do Project, Inc.
    Posted at 12:47h, 07 July Reply

    […] place in my heart. My mom was primarily raised by her grandmother, who lived in Clay. And while she experienced the poverty that so many in this region deal with, she still has a love for where she’s from. When I told […]

We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment now!