Planting roots at Phil Campbell High School

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PHIL CAMPBELL, Ala. (WHNT) - The New Phil Campbell High School is standing strong. And on Wednesday, they were reminded of their hard work since the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

The reconstructed high school opened its doors just last month, after an EF-5 tornado swept through the town of Phil Campbell killing several and destroying everything in it’s path in 2011.

The Appalachian Regional Commission held their conference in Florence this year. They chose recognizing recovered tornado-hit areas as their service project.

Representatives from the 13 ARC member states participated in special tree-planting ceremonies to recognize tornado recovery progress and the work that continues in both Phil Campbell and Hackleburg.

Kara Barton, a Phil Campbell 8th grader and member of the FFA program helped plant the trees.

"People do care for us," Barton said when asked what the trees meant to her. "We have more life here growing."

Earl Gohl is the Federal ARC Co-Chairman. He's proud of the relationship the group has with Alabama.

"Our trees are really a symbol of interest and our commitment to this part of Alabama," Said Gohl.  "We're looking forward to seeing them grow strong and healthy over the next generation."

Planting roots is also the underlying theme of the 2014 ARC Conference in Florence. They are working to invest in Alabama's youth.

"We're hoping to keep young folks engaged in the community and interested in being able to live long, strong, healthy lives in the communities where they grew up," Gohl said.

They hope students will come back in their futures to develop and improve the region. It's a challenge made easy for some.

"I'd like to stay here and plant my roots in Phil Campbell Alabama," said Barton.

The 13 trees at both Phil Campbell and Hackleburg high schools are legacy projects for the ARC. They help show the progress made in the community in the last four years. They help remember the lives lost during the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. They're also a reminder of ARC's investment in recovering communities.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency created by Congress in 1965 to improve living standards and economic conditions in the region.