By Kaitlin Smith, EKU Class of 2018                                  

Most people that grow up in a small-town dream of the day they will be able to leave and make their mark in a big city. Geoff Marietta knew he could make just as large of an impact in a small community. Marietta grew up in small mining town in Minnesota, but he now calls Harlan home.

Marietta is the executive director at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County—a 102-year-old nonprofit organization. Pine Mountain serves as a National Historic Landmark and specializes in environmental education programs for grades K-12, summer camps, those with disabilities, and preschoolers. He is passionate about Pine Mountain and the region. “Pine Mountain represents the future economic development of Eastern Kentucky and the United States,” said Marietta.

Pine Mountain Settlement School offers various courses in environmental education, ranging anywhere from forest ecology to groundwater protection. Environmental education is a topic that is especially important today. With pollutant and energy crises on the rise, many Americans believe environmental education is crucial. A 2005 study by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation revealed that over 95 percent of American adults believed environmental sciences should be taught in K-12 schools.

Marietta handles all the legal, financial and human capital aspects of the school. He is certain that Pine Mountain Settlement School will continue to expand, because of their expertise in new economics. Not only is Marietta confident in Pine Mountain, he is confident in all Eastern Kentucky. Marietta believes that the people, beautiful scenery, and rich culture are among the main reasons for investing in Eastern Kentucky.

“One thing that sticks out in my mind is that he tries to bring others up…he wants the best for the people and the region” said Preston Jones, Sustainability Program Director at Pine Mountain Settlement School.

Marietta’s contagious spirit and uplifting nature is not only shaping Pine Mountain Settlement School, but the future of our region.