For the past three years, Eastern West Virginia Community & Technical College (Eastern) and AmeriCorps have teamed up to further engagement between the college and community while providing AmeriCorps members valuable experiences that strengthen the world around them.
In May 2017, AmeriCorps’ Ethan Serr assumed the position of regional tourism coordinator at Eastern with the goal of facilitating the discussion between the eight Potomac Highlands region counties to focus on building and developing tourism-centered industries as well as market the area as a tourist destination.
Serr began by meeting and speaking with community members interested in tourism. Serr then began developing a detailed database of all businesses in or impacted by tourism throughout the participating counties. This project furthered the promotion of the local economy by creating new opportunities for local entrepreneurs and business owners, and developed partnerships with chambers of commerce, visitors bureaus, businesses and non-profits that will mutually benefit all areas of the Potomac Highlands region.
Serr planned the first regional tourism summit in August 2017, an event bringing together surrounding communities to brainstorm the best way to promote the region to visitors plus experts and leaders in tourism.
Recently Serr, has identified trails throughout the eight county participants to create the Potomac Highlands Regional Outdoor Adventure Recreation (ROAR) campaign with many of the counties working together.
“He had a standing ovation at the tourism summit in August 2018,” said Eastern’s President Dr. Charles Terrell. “He just brought people together. He’s an excellent communicator and he’s an excellent listener, and that was an important skillset to deliver regional efforts and it put the college in a respectable position. He not only represented AmeriCorps but he represented Eastern and was seen as the voice of regional tourism.”
The tourism summits, meetings, training opportunities, and networking events that have been organized by Serr throughout his tenure have prepared Eastern to continue taking the lead in solidifying the region as a vacation destination and have set the college up for future success. And, although Eastern’s next regional tourism coordinator has large shoes to fill, possible potential ideas have already been created and the groundwork has been laid.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on foundational work to make sure that the initiative can keep growing beyond my time, and I’m confident that we’ve identified the right partners, including other AmeriCorps members, to keep everything moving in a positive direction,” said Serr, whose term ends on September 14.
Some of the goals for the next regional tourism coordinator, which will be provided through AmeriCorps, have been identified including creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to open or expand tourism-related businesses, inventory and asset mapping, developing a comprehensive inventory of regional tourism assets and additional business coaching, workshops and trainings.
“We love AmeriCorps,” said Terrell. “They’ve been amazing. We’ve been very blessed with candidates. Ethan made a really significant impact. He was a great ambassador for AmeriCorps and a great ambassador for the college.”
Eastern is also currently capitalizing on the outcomes achieved through the summits to develop a registered apprenticeship program to provide industry credentials and a certificate of completion to students, and create a vetted program developed by employers for hiring students.