‘Southerners of the Year’ include West Virginians


CHARLESTON — Southern Living magazine recently announced that Natalie Roper, executive director of Generation West Virginia, has been chosen as one of the 2017 “Southerners of the Year.”

From the Mississippi delta to the Appalachian mountains, 60 southerners working in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors were chosen from across the region for their efforts to tackle some of the toughest issues facing their community, state and region. Roper was one of two West Virginians highlighted for her work.

Also included is Larry Groce, host and founder of Mountain Stage, a radio program broadcast to more than 150 public radio stations across the country.

“It is such an honor to be recognized by Southern Living,” Roper said in a news release. “Since becoming the executive director of Generation West Virginia, I have had the privilege of working alongside the most talented and driven young people, who care deeply about creating the kind of economic and social change that West Virginia needs to continue to grow.

“And it’s from examples of fellow young entrepreneurs and community leaders that I am inspired daily to continue my work to attract and retain young talent by accelerating the creation of new jobs, strengthening quality of place and sharing lessons learned with decision makers across sectors to inform state- and local-level policies and programs.”

Since 2014, Roper has led Generation West Virginia, the statewide organization dedicated to attracting, retaining and advancing young talent in the Mountain State.

Among Southern Living’s list of reasons for choosing Roper, it highlighted her work to launch a new fellowship program, Impact WV, the first of its kind in West Virginia. Impact WV launched in September with nearly 200 people applying to fill the program’s seven positions with five innovative West Virginia-based companies. Fellows work four days a week with top employers and volunteer in their community every Friday. Already, Generation WV is expecting the number of fellowship positions to more than double by year two.

“Impact WV is working to directly combat the state’s declining population trends by expanding the talent pipeline for in-state employers and connecting young people with quality jobs that make it possible for them to stay in West Virginia, come home after having moved away or experience all the state has to offer for the first time,” Roper said.

Southern Living also highlighted Roper’s work in policy. During the 2017 West Virginia Legislative Session, Roper helped to lead a successful campaign informing the passage of historic broadband legislation that will expand access to high-speed internet in West Virginia.

She also works to connect, engage and provide a voice to young West Virginians in their communities through a statewide network of Generation Chapters.

Anyone interested in learning more about Roper and her work at Generation WV can visit GenerationWV.org or weimpactwv.org.