Member of 11th Fluvanna generation vows to stay in county

Member of 11th Fluvanna generation vows to stay in county

By Page H. Gifford

Charles Haden Parrish, or Haden as he is known, is a member of the 11thgeneration dating back to the 1690s in Fluvanna, and is related to the Hadens, Parrishes and E.W. Thomas – families who helped build businesses, farms and the community. While many young people shun rural areas to explore college, career options and opportunities, Parrish, 23, has returned to his roots. Centuries of family history and his admiration for his ancestors, their stories, hard work and traditions, have drawn him back home to stay and raise his own family.

A recent University of Virginia graduate with a double major in sociology and African American studies, Parrish is currently a college adviser at Fluvanna County High School through AmeriCorps, a nonprofit program that aims to help communities meet critical needs. This is Parrish’s second and final year, then he plans to go to graduate school for a degree in school counseling and return to Fluvanna.

He brims with enthusiasm about his job at the high school, where he helps students figure out their future. Fluvanna County High School was one of the original high schools participating in the program; now there are 46.

“Students come to me with some idea of what they want to do and we discuss the best path, whether it be two years or four years of college or trade school,” Parrish said. “It is scary to look toward the future, but it is what I help my students do.” Not much older than those he counsels, he says this as he looks toward his own future with uncertainty about where life will take him, yet he keeps his eye fixed on his goals.

He pointed out that Fluvanna’s career and technical education (CTE) program is strong, including nursing, culinary, EMT, agriculture, carpentry and engineering. This program helps both those who want to explore a particular career and those who are certain of their career goals and want to build a basic foundation with technical and employable skills.

Aside from the CTE program, he praised electives like business, law, journalism and sociology.

“Our clubs are also expanding. We have book clubs, business, alliances, service, and others that are invaluable to the students,” Parrish said. “This gives them more opportunities and resources in addition to the ones they can Google themselves,” he said.

The biggest event of the year for Parrish is Decision Day, when students declare what college they are planning to attend and perhaps their major. He admitted with a grin that the event is challenging but rewarding.

Parrish volunteers with the Fluvanna Historical Society and has also enrolled in the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program for a second time.

“The first time I did it in high school but I didn’t feel I had the appropriate mindset to absorb it all and wanted to go through the program again,” Parrish said. He’s especially interested in the schools, having attended School Board meetings and expressed interest in the role of the board in determining the future of Fluvanna students.

“I am not necessarily looking for a formalized leadership role, but I wanted to continue living here and giving back to the community. My goal is to return to Fluvanna and make it the best it can be,” he said. “I have viewed Fluvanna through different lenses. Everyone wants to see growth, but it takes time and planning.”

Recent changes, including the EMS towers, broadband coming to the more rural parts of the county, and the use of new technology, has broadened the county’s horizons for the better, Parrish said. He acknowledged that supporting all of Fluvanna’s residents while maintaining the county’s rural image and balancing that with economic reality is a hard line to walk.

“I would like to make sure schools are adequately funded. We do incredibly with the funding we have,” Parrish said. He also wants the county to “continue to support our area history and our strong sense of agriculture and make sure that all Fluvanna residents have access to resources.”

He expressed mixed feelings on Fluvanna’s current direction.

“I think we are growing too fast residentially and I am nervous but excited at the same time. But we need to expand the infrastructure, maintain our roads and agriculture, and I hope we can keep up economically.” He hopes his second round of the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program will yield more understanding of the county for which he has such a deep passion.

“We’re fortunate to live between Charlottesville and Richmond,” Parrish said. “It is a nice, rural oasis.”


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