Being ‘Pike County Proud’

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 13, 2013

When my mom first told me we were moving down to Troy, Alabama eleven years ago, I was skeptical. I had never lived in the Deep South, and, even as a 10-year-old, my perception of Alabama had been colored by the typical stereotypes.

In my fourth grade class, we had read Christopher Paul Curtis’ novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham, which explores some of the issues around the 16th Street Church Bombing of 1963. I couldn’t imagine moving to a place where people had bombed a church. To be honest, I was a little scared of making the move.

On my first day living in Troy, my family and I went to the Walmart to pick up groceries. While we were shopping, another kid around my age began talking to me. I was taken aback for two reasons. First, back in Kentucky, nobody was friendly enough to start an uninvited conversation. Second, I could legitimately not understand his accent. To this day, I’m not sure what the kid was saying, but I’m sure it was nice.

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After my initial foray in to Troy’s culture, I had become even more discouraged. If I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me, how would I ever be able to make new friends at school? My mom told me to be patient and explained I would eventually be able to understand people’s accents. It would just take time to adjust.

My mom was right. It did take time to adjust, but, once I adjusted to my new locale, I discovered that Troy, Alabama is a pretty nice place to grow up.

Troy is almost the best of both worlds. It is small enough that everyone seems to know everyone else, but it is large enough to support both the university and a number of businesses and industries.

Troy is unique among Alabama’s Black Belt counties in that it has been largely spared from the effects of the recession. Pike County has the lowest unemployment rate of all Black Belt counties at 6.5 percent. This is largely due to the varied number of industries that call Pike County home. Troy University, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin, Walmart and CGI all help to provide jobs for the residents of Pike County.

Having such a robust economy provides a large tax base that the local government can draw upon in order to provide services to Pike County’s citizens. Both Troy and Brundidge own their own utility systems, and both municipalities are able to use the money raised by the utilities to best serve their citizens. When I see cities like Birmingham and Detroit default, it makes me proud to have competent elected officials in Pike County.

I personally rate both school systems in the county, Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools, as being top-rate for our area. I am a product of the Troy City Schools system, and, by taking advantage of AP classes and dual-enrollment at Troy University, I was able to complete a year of college before graduating high school. The school even paid for me to take the PSAT my junior year, which allowed me to receive a National Merit Scholarship that funded my college education. Without the administration at Charles Henderson High School and the Troy City Schools, I would not be in the position I am today.

Almost every other county in Alabama would welcome Troy University with open arms, but it is Pike County that Troy calls home. The University is one of the largest employers in the county, and the influx of students every semester allows for Pike County to support businesses that most other counties of Pike County’s size could not support. Troy University is one of the main economic engines that powers the county, and, by hosting scholars and events from around the world, the university helps to expand the horizons of Pike County’s citizens.

The longer I have stayed in Pike County, the more I have noticed that I have begun to take on the culture of the community in myself. Now, when I go to visit my old friends up North, they tell me that I have a Southern accent.