She never heard people bad-mouth Appalachia until she left. Now she's making a film in response.

"Where ya from?" is a question Tijah Bumgarner got a lot after she left her home state.

"West Virginia," she'd reply, when she was waiting tables in Los Angeles and folks noticed her accent. And she knew the follow-up before it was asked. "They'd joke around like look down to see if I was wearing shoes and of course ask me if I'd married my cousin."

"They'd joke around like look down to see if I was wearing shoes and of course ask me if I'd married my cousin."

After a while, the 20-year-old started to respond with a prepackaged quip. When asked where she's from, she'd say, "West Virginia, but I have all my teeth and I'm wearing shoes, so don't bother asking about that."


It was an understandable defense mechanism — making fun of herself before anyone else could — but looking back, Tijah says she never "recognized what that really meant or that I was really just perpetuating this stereotype in a way."


Tijah moved to California in her 20s to attend film school. Image courtesy of Tijah Bumgarner.

Stereotypes of Appalachians as "helpless hillbillies" are pretty common — and they've been around for centuries.

What are the dominant stories that come out of West Virginia and other parts of central Appalachia these days?

On the one hand, you've got plenty of movies and shows about ignorant, backward, and "other" mountain people. Like the "Wrong Turn" series of six (yeah, SIX) movies about inbred, cannibalistic hillbillies in West Virginia.

Those types of stories can be traced back to the late 1800s, when travel writers from the North would come to the mountains to write what was essentially fiction about the isolated people there who were oh-so-against progress.

Poor, white sharecroppers in Appalachia, circa 1936. Image by Walker Evans.

This narrative took the fact that folks were living off the land and twisted it around against them — because surely anyone who doesn't want their land stripped away from them for resource extraction must be against progress, right? Right.

And then, of course, you've got news stories heavy with tragedy: chemical spills, poverty, drug use, mine disasters.

"Of course it's sorrowful. Of course we're losing a lot. Of course they're blowing up mountains. But there are other things happening too."

Appalachia is certainly known for its stories about coal mining. Photos by Mario Tama/Getty Images, altered.

"Of course [the stories of devastation] are important," Tijah stresses. "But they're not the only stories. Not everything has to be just about devastation, about sorrow for our land. Of course it's sorrowful. Of course we're losing a lot. Of course they're blowing up mountains. But there are other things happening too. So even that's pushing this narrative of helplessness in a way."

This summer, Tijah's working on a new kind of story: one that's simply about growing up.

Her story is a simple one, a relatable one, and maybe even a cute one, about a 14-year-old girl growing up in Tijah's hometown of Meadow Bridge, West Virginia.

A road sign coming into Meadow Bridge. Image courtesy of Tijah Bumgarner.

"People can definitely relate to it. It's a universal coming of age story," says Tijah. "You have this awkward 14-year-old girl who's made fun of at school. So what I'm adding [to the narrative] is like, hey, kids that grow up here, we go through the same things as [everywhere else]. Sure, we may think we're a little different, but really, we all kind of go through these things. Y'know, we all have a crush, we all have a first kiss. I'm hoping that people can relate to that."

Tijah as a kid growing up in Meadow Bridge. Images courtesy of Tijah Bumgarner.

Tijah knows that there's no way "Meadow Bridge" could single-handedly reverse all the stereotypes people have about central Appalachia. No one story could do that.

But she hopes that adding to the discourse may help create something different. "At least," she hopes, "it's a drop in the bucket."

"Sometimes telling a simple story is a revolutionary act."

Help make sure "Meadow Bridge" comes to life! Support the Kickstarter campaign here:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."