CHARLESTON, W.V.—An AT&T contribution will allow scores of McDowell County, W.V., high school students, who are at risk of dropping out, to explore a world beyond their community through mentors, college campus visits and job shadowing programs in Charleston and Washington, D.C., AT&T officials, Reconnecting McDowell leaders and other state officials announced today.
The three-year, $300,000 AT&T Aspire contribution will enable about 20 McDowell County high school students each year to participate in this inaugural Reconnecting McDowell program called Broader Horizons. Students are selected by their principals based primarily on their motivation to overcome personal or academic difficulties and to prepare for a productive future. AT&T is one of 125 partners of Reconnecting McDowell, which launched in December 2011 to revitalize the county's educational, economic and social services opportunities.
"Through AT&T Aspire, we're working to connect the dots between what students learn in the classroom and their potential future careers," said J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid-Atlantic. "We are thrilled to support this program that shows McDowell students that hard work and a high school diploma can lead to an exciting future that they may never have thought about before."
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Reconnecting McDowell's mission is to help connect residents with sustainable services and programs to improve their lives and their community.
"This program provides a unique opportunity to widen students' horizons and introduce them to the world of higher education and career possibilities. Seeing a world within their reach beyond McDowell is an extraordinary motivator to dream their dreams and work hard to achieve them," Weingarten said.
Each student will be assigned to a mentor and will meet regularly to discuss school, life issues and choices and future possibilities. This week, the students were in Charleston, visiting West Virginia State University, the state Capitol and various job sites, including MATRIC (Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center); two law firms; Frontier Communications; a construction site and a job apprenticeship program. In June, the students will spend a week in Washington, D.C., and plan to visit the University of Maryland at College Park, NBC's Washington bureau, the Capitol Hill offices of West Virginia's congressional representatives, among other places.
Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell and president of the West Virginia State Board of Education added: "This program fulfills a very important goal of Reconnecting McDowell—to give young people positive choices and opportunities that can put them on the road to success."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said this and other Reconnecting McDowell projects are providing new opportunities for students and their families in McDowell.
"Through the Reconnecting McDowell project, we have come together to revitalize educational, economic and social opportunities for our children, and we are making a difference," Tomblin said. "The Broader Horizons program will empower students with the confidence they need to find their passion and introduce them to the real-world opportunities available to those who further their education."
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