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Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance on Poverty and the Opioid Epidemic

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Published on Jan 6, 2017

J.D. Vance, author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, rose from working-class Appalachia to Yale Law School. He spoke with Education Week about poverty, the opioid epidemic and education, and how those three issues intersect.

Donald Trump tapped into the worries and economic insecurities of the white working-class by promising to bring back jobs, and author J.D. Vance understands that appeal. Vance, author of the best seller Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, grew up in southeastern Ohio in a family battling addiction and violence but ultimately made it to Yale Law School.

He tells Education Week that families in the Rust Belt have had “the rug really pulled out from under them. They’ve seen what used to be a relatively promising stable working or middle class opportunity completely (disappear).” Vance says education holds the most promise for turning around the fortunes of people living in these regions, and that what’s needed is technical and vocational education to train people for the next generation of high quality jobs.

Vance says his life could have easily gone the other way, that a lot of “luck and really good people in my life” helped ensure he escaped the poverty and family crises that continue to define the lives of many of his peers. Now Vance is ready to help others. Currently living in San Francisco and working for a Silicon Valley investment firm, he and his wife are planning to move back to Ohio to start a small nonprofit to focus on improving education and combatting the opioid crisis.

For more on how schools are supporting students affected by the opioid epidemic, watch our NewsHour segment
( http://video.edweek.org/detail/video/... ) in which Lisa Stark visits schools in Jackson County, West Virginia. ____________________

Want more stories about schools across the nation, including the latest news and unique perspectives on education issues? Visit www.edweek.org.

About Education Week:
Education Week is America’s most trusted source of independent K-12 education news, analysis, and opinion. Our work serves to raise the level of understanding and discourse about education among school and district leaders, policymakers, researchers, teachers, and the public. Published by the nonprofit organization Editorial Projects in Education, Education Week has been providing award-winning coverage of the field for over 35 years.

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To license video footage from Editorial Projects in Education please contact the Education Week Library at library@epe.org.

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