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Perceptions of Math and Education in Appalachia Padua

Melissa Meyers
Monday, March 22, 2004
Padua Chamber of Commerce
Padua Project 

Mr. President

A wonderfully warm feeling overcomes me as I walk in the door of the Padua Chamber of Commerce.  So far my interviews have not been up to par but I know Dr. Lucas paved the way with the Chamber President and this interview will be successful. I continue to feel enthusiasm about our project.

Right away I notice the eagerness this man has to not only speak to us, but learn from us as well.  “Hello! I’ve been expecting you all.  You’re with Dr. Lucas’ group from the college, right?” Mr. President says with a smile and a welcoming handshake.

“Hi! Yes, we are.  I’m Melissa, it’s very nice to meet you! Do you have a few minutes? Do you mind if I ask you a few questions for our study?”

“Of course, please do.”

Mr. President takes a seat and offers me one as well.  Immediately he focuses all his attention on me and begins to crank off questions of his own.  After several questions about my knowledge of math and whether I like the subject Mr. President notices my engagement ring.  Two times already people notice I’m engaged, and this time, of course, isn’t any different. 

“Are you engaged Melissa?”

“Yes, I am,” I tell him with an enormous smile.

“Well I really hope he has some good math skills after what you’ve just told me! You’ll both be quite near outta luck if not,” Mr. President teases.

“Wow! How right he is,” I think to myself.  Quickly I assure him Jason’s math skills are really good, that we’ll be just fine and quickly start on the interview before he has a chance to quiz me again.

Mr. President listens contently to my questions and carefully prepares his answers.  His strong views and opinions shine through especially when it comes to work ethic.  Mr. President begins to express his feelings of math and tells me the extreme importance of it for everyday life.

“It’s the most important thing for anybody to know, if you don’t have it you aren’t equipped to do anything,” he boldly exclaims.

I see a strikingly obvious pattern now.  The general concern and fear in this man’s face are very genuine.  Quickly the town’s becoming overcome by drugs and as the President of the Chamber he sees the direction things are going.

“Math is just so important to me; I couldn’t function without it here at the Chamber.  I’m trying to decide to buy a CD right now and the math skills I have are helping me right now.  That idea on math class for seniors sure isn’t a bad idea; I mean I know it couldn’t hurt.”

As I soak in what Mr. President tells me and continue to listen to his predictions for the future I’m beginning to feel badly.  Mr. President could never leave the situation in a bad state and quickly lifts the conversation.

“The Chamber is working on getting some ATV trails established and really has the potential to help us make a come back.  Without the tourists we’ll never make it.  Right now our Chamber depends on the fundraisers we do.  We’re planning on feeding over 1200 people at the Ramp Festival.”

The time has been more of a reflection period instead of an interview for me.  Mr. President can relate well with others and he communicates the real situation, but with the positive spirit that remains in his voice. 

As I walk out the door of the Chamber and think about Mr. President I feel extremely positive and respectful.  To many in Padua, the town seems to be dying. This is one man in town that’s able to keep such a positive outlook and he deserves all the respect in the world. I walk away from this interview with respect for the man and for this community. I won’t count them dead just yet.