One Ashe native was recently awarded for her efforts. NC State student Carrie Banks, daughter of John and Jane Banks of West Jefferson, was presented the North Carolina Tourism Education Foundation’s Tourism Student of the Year award. It was presented at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism recently in Winston-Salem.
Carrie Banks is studying Parks, Recreation Management and Tourism at NC State in Raleigh, expecting to graduate in May 2009. She has traveled to other parts of the world during her studies and plans to put her knowledge and experience to use to help a small community in its tourism development efforts, maybe even her home community.
“Growing up in Ashe County I saw the tourism here,” she said. “I worked at the cheese plant one summer and talked to the tourists coming through. Then I moved away for college. I am interested in tourism, increasing the positive impacts and decreasing the negative impacts.” She especially wants to help small rural areas preserve their authenticity and avoid commercialization of their resources.
Carrie traveled to Ghana in West Africa with a study abroad class, led by NC State Extension Agent Carol Kline, whom she calls a mentor. The trip offered students an opportunity to learn about keeping the cultural integrity of a village that has seen a great deal of westernization. While there she visited Kakun National Park and studied the cultural and eco tourism of the area. She plans to visit Ecuador this summer for a similar study program.
“I think tourism in any small town needs to be viable in order to last, and when local people are involved it instills community pride,” Carrie said. “My interest is in rural, sustainable and eco tourism.” She explained the rural aspect as development of tourism opportunities, sustainable as focusing on economic development as related to tourism, and eco tourism as raising the standard of living for the people of a community and protecting its natural resources in the wake of tourism. Her class has also been working on a tourism development plan for Edgecombe County.
Her studies and efforts earned Carrie the Tourism Student of the Year award which is accompanied by a $5,000 scholarship and attendance at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
Carrie said she enjoyed the conference and attending the various workshops and breakout sessions with tourism experts and keynote speakers. It was a great opportunity to meet people in the industry and network for future connections.
“I was excited,” she said of the conference and award. “It is a pretty big honor, and I was told they like to give it to someone who plans to stay in North Carolina. There were people offering me jobs. I think my professors at NC State are proud. And I was proud to stand up and say I was from West Jefferson. There was a little