Lauren Cunningham is a junior at Ohio Valley University, majoring in energy management and production engineering. Lauren, a local student from Appalachia, is passionate about the coal industry, the environment, and finding ways to use coal in an environmentally friendly way. Lauren is concerned about the economy of West Virginia, and sees great potential to come from the emerging clean coal industry. Seeing the economically depressed area that is Appalachia, Lauren believes that through education, the people of these areas can reach their full potential. Lauren is an advocate for education as much as she is clean coal, and has worked with underprivileged middle school students, peers in her major, and international students to help them accomplish their academic goals as she has.
I am the result of four generations of Appalachians who have contributed to the Mid-Ohio Valley culture. Mostly uneducated, hardworking, and fiercely loyal to family and nation, my heritage is rooted in the coal mines and industrial plants along the Ohio River. My great-grandfather and grandfather were such men of character who influenced my life. As a daughter of these men, I've seen what it takes to work without an education. As a young woman who has been given an opportunity to pursue an education, I have gained a perspective of what life can be when one's focus is not just on profits, but on the calculus of sustainability which promotes human flourishing. I have developed a growing desire to make a difference in the lives of my fellow Appalachians and our American society. Because of the support of my grandmother (a single mom) and my dad (first generation college graduate), I have the opportunity to pursue my passion of promoting sustainability. I am pursuing a life of collaborating with like-minded millennials who will lead this planet, with its diverse individuals, in pursuit of a prosperous society where all humans flourish with clean air, clean water, and clean energy.