Whitney Kimball Coe: Going Big in Small Places

The following interview was done with the National Rural Assembly’s Whitney Kimball Coe in advance of her being a guest on the upcoming November 14 Heart & Soul Talk: Going Big in Small Places: Millennials Make Their Mark in America’s Towns.

Orton Family Foundation: Where did you grow up?

Whitney Kimball Coe: I am a daughter of Athens, Tennessee, which is a town of about 14,000 in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee.

Orton: When did you leave and when did you return to your hometown?

I left for undergrad at Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2002 and attended Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, for my masters. I made my way back to Athens in 2013.

Orton: Why did you decide to return?

WC: I decided I wanted to return to Athens in the midst of my first year at college back in 2002, and every step I made afterward was in service to returning home. I value my small town existence. Our family precept is, “These are precious times.” I see my parents and my brother’s family everyday. I act in community theater, serve on multiple boards, participate in school programs and teach fitness classes at the YMCA. It is a rich life, full of intricate, precious connection and relationship.

Here is the the fuller story.

Orton: What can your town do to draw more Millennials like you?

WC: I’m an ambassador for “homecoming.” I think my contemporaries are looking for purpose and meaning, and there is room in rural America for you to have that/create that if you choose it.

Register now for the upcoming Heart & Soul Talk: Going Big in Small Places: Millennials Make Their Mark in America’s Towns, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 1-2 p.m. Eastern. Free!


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