The most recent Census showed that West Virginia has the highest rate of population decline in the country—we lost 3.2% of our population from 2010–2020. West Virginia is the only state in the nation with a declining population. In confronting this reality, one thing is very clear: the state’s future depends on its ability to become an ideal destination for young talent. We work each day toward a vision of West Virginia where young people don’t feel like they have to choose between their home state and the life they want and deserve.
Generation West Virginia (GWV) is the statewide organization dedicated to attracting, retaining, and advancing young people in the Mountain State. We achieve this by:
We are working toward a vision of West Virginia where challenges are seen as opportunities, young people are drivers in our state’s future, and the Mountain State is a destination for young talent to live, work, and thrive.
Natalie Roper has been the Executive Director of Generation West Virginia (GWV) since October 2014, leading the organization’s efforts to attract, retain, and advance young talent in the Mountain State.
Under her leadership, Generation West Virginia’s work has been highlighted in Fast Company, US News and World Reports, and Southern Living. Natalie received her undergraduate degree and Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Natalie is a 2019 West Virginia Executive Magazine “Young Gun,” 2017 Southern Living “Southerner of the Year,” 2016 WV Living “Wonder Woman,” and a proud alumna of the 2015 Leadership WV Class.
A West Virginian by choice, Natalie is motivated each day to help make the state a place where more of the next generation can choose to stay.
Brittany Javins joined the Generation WV team in 2019 as Operations Director, bringing her past experience as an Executive Director, educator, and artist to the role. From 2015-2019, Brittany served as Executive Director of the city-wide, multi-arts festival FestivALL in Charleston, WV. She began her work with FestivALL as an intern in 2012 while studying for her Master’s in Arts Administration at Florida State University. She also held an internship at the Tallahassee Council on Culture and Arts, and worked as the Program Director for DanceChance at the Tallahassee Ballet. Prior to that, Brittany taught middle school English for Kanawha County Schools from 2008-2011. Brittany is a native West Virginian with a passion for arts and education and seeing her home state flourish through mindful, people-centered strategic growth. She is excited to join the statewide mission of Generation WV to attract and retain young people in the Mountain State.
Kayla Wright has been the Assistant Operations Director since June 2021. She previously worked as GWV’s Network Engagement Director starting in March 2019, where she led our statewide Generations network, connecting young people to their communities and to one another.
A West Virginia native, Kayla graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2016 with her bachelor’s in International Business and her MBA with a Non-Profit Management concentration.
Relationship and Network Development have played a key role in Kayla’s career, ranging in focus from retail to nonprofit management. She brings her leadership development mindset to the work, encouraging each local Generation to bring their own ideas to improve quality of place in their community.
Kayla is a 2018 West Virginia Wesleyan College “Young Alumni Achievement Awardee,” a 2016 West Virginia Wesleyan College, “Outstanding Senior,” and a 2014 American Lung Association, Breath of Life – “Young Woman of Distinction.”
Brittany Hicks has been the Regional Manager for Region 2 of Generation West Virginia since July 2019, supporting local Generations in central West Virginia.
Growing up in Hampshire County inspired in Brittany a powerful sense of place, and a deep connection to the mountains and people of West Virginia. From a young age, she has been determined to make her life’s work in the Mountain State. She believes in community, creativity, and collaboration.
Brittany earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Appalachian Studies from Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, WV, and a Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Her previous work includes environmental and arts education programming, event coordination and promotion, and nonprofit management.
Brittany also pursues her artistic interests, including naturally dyed fiber art, under the name Sassafras Workshop.
Olivia Morris has been the Regional Manager for Region 1 of Generation West Virginia since July 2019, supporting and empowering local Generations in southern West Virginia in their community development efforts.
As a West Virginia native, Olivia developed a passion for connecting young talent throughout the state with each other and with stakeholders to help eliminate employment and quality of place obstacles.
She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education K-6 from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and taught in Kanawha County for five years. During her career, Olivia has developed her skills in strategic planning, data analysis, and problem solving.
As the previous Generation New River Gorge’s president, Olivia has experience organizing meetings, social media promotion, managing and organizing networking events, highlighting volunteer opportunities and community programs, as well as facilitating short and long term goal setting.
Casey Gilbert has been the Regional Manager for Region 3 of Generation West Virginia since July 2019, supporting local Generations in northern WV, and the Eastern Panhandle.
Casey grew up in Mason County, WV, and graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in Business Management and her MBA with a Non-Profit Management concentration.
Working with volunteers, such as those comprising the local generations, has played a key role in Casey’s career. While at Wesleyan, she was heavily involved in the college’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership Development, where she held leadership roles in several programs as a work-study student. Post-graduation, Casey was hired as the Coordinator for two newly established Volunteer Centers. In this position, Casey helped connect volunteers with nonprofit and community organizations, promoted volunteer work, and acted as a volunteer herself.
Having spent the bulk of my career in theatre education, I learned a few things: every person is individually extraordinary, bravery comes in all forms, and I am most satisfied when I’m helping people find their strongest self. Here at NewForce, I am dedicated to helping students develop their interpersonal skills to not only further their careers in technology but also make their experiences in the program as fully transformative and positive as possible.
Before I discovered programming, I managed a family-owned store in Asheville, NC. I started teaching myself to code because the store’s database management system couldn’t give me the numbers I needed, so I jerry-rigged it with custom scripts. It was a slippery slope: before long, I was having a lot more fun building hacking software for the business than I was managing it. I attended Nashville Software School for full-stack web development and stayed on as a teaching assistant after I graduated. I love working in a field where there’s always something new to learn. I’m excited to help NewForce students embrace the learning curve and take their first steps into the new frontier of the tech industry.
What really sparked my interest in becoming a developer is the opportunity to create content for others to use and enjoy. My first experience with development was trying to teach myself html for fun. I chose to be a developer because I enjoy creating new content. I get excited learning new things and being able to implement them in a project.
After working with The Walt Disney Company for over a decade to improve customer and employee experiences, Sarah decided that she wanted to dig deeper into the data behind-the-scenes. This led her to join NewForce Cohort 3 in the spring of 2020. She’s always loved sprinkling a little magic to transform mundane processes into something better, and, through coding, she’s found that she’s able to do that even more. As Junior Instructor with NewForce, she’s excited to help other West Virginians develop the skills they need to pursue careers in the tech industry and make their own dreams a reality.
Amy Fauber became the Fellowship Director for Generation WV in January 2020. She joined the team ready to take her skills as a relationship-builder, mentor, and organizer to help take on GWV’s overall mission.
Prior to embarking on this journey, Amy was a local middle school teacher for seven years. As a former educator, Amy felt called to carry on her passion for guidance and love of West Virginia. As a native West Virginian, Amy understands the struggles the state faces daily, but also just how much West Virginia has to offer to its current occupants, those homesick for their native home, as well as those hoping for new opportunities.
She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Berea College and a Master’s Degree from the University of Southern California.
Samantha Nygaard became the Assistant Fellowship Director for Generation WV in March 2021. Sam previously served as the Destination Sales Manager for the West Virginia Tourism Office.
Growing up in a military family, Sam lived in the Pacific Northwest, Florida and Japan. Her experience moving to new places shaped her passion for community development and dedication to volunteer service.
Proud to call the Mountain State her home, Sam moved to West Virginia in 2018 from Jacksonville, Florida after falling in love with the beauty of the mountains and the kindness of the people.
She earned a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in media/communication studies from Florida State University and currently serves as the Community Engagement Chair on the board of Generation Charleston.
VP Human Resources at Pendleton Community Bank
President of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
Associate at Babst Calland
Attorneys at Law
Vice President for Business and Finance at West Virginia State University
Sales Manager at the Cabell Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau
Operations Manager at Ranson Urgent Care Valley Health
Director of Business Development
Education and Outreach Director for the WVU Center for Resilient Communities
Financial Strategist at McKinley Carter Wealth Services
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First2 Network Program Coordinator for the West Virginia Science & Research Higher Education Policy Commission