When there is a good
idea, a truly viable option to move our state forward, we should work
together to transform that idea into a tangible opportunity. The road to
progress has fewer bumps when we travel in the same direction. As State
Agriculture Commissioner and State Treasurer, we agree that “road to
progress” begins with education.
traveled to Roscoe, Texas with other state and local officials to learn more
about P-20, a cutting-edge public-school program that should and will be
replicated in the Mountain State.
What is P-20? It is
a unique, early college, STEM academy where high school students can earn a
two-year associate degree upon graduation. The name derives from the concept
of educating children with focused curriculum that starts in preschool and is
completed in early adulthood.
Why look to Roscoe,
Texas? Rural Texas and rural West Virginia face many of the same challenges,
and this program has proven successful. In Roscoe, students are granted
automatic membership to their local 4-H program. If you have attended one of
West Virginia’s rural schools, you are probably familiar with 4-H. If not,
4-H is a national program based on four pillars, head, heart, hands, and
health, with the mission to engage youth in the hopes they reach their
fullest potential while advancing their field of study. Most of these
programs focus on agriculture, forestry and natural resources. The goal is to
teach young people about the sciences that drive those industries.
enthralled in the principles of 4-H, and maybe later on FFA, students in
Roscoe’s high schools are given the opportunity to graduate from 12th grade
with both a high school diploma and a two-year associate degree. These
students, from a town of a little more than 1,300, are earning valuable life
skills and training opportunities while still in the public education system.
The focus is not only on technical skills, but also on instilling positive
attitudes of success within the students. Most importantly, it gives hope to
a community and its residents that their children will be ready for the
workforce and the challenges of adulthood.
During our trip, we
learned Roscoe ISD offers a drone class where students are able to obtain
their drone pilot license. A team of seniors presented a project where they
studied ultrasounds of dog hearts to see the differences size and sex had on
the animals. A fourth-grade team presented their experiment on
photosynthesis. They focused on how they learned about sunlight effects
growth in plants. Each and every one of these students show tremendous
passion and advance skills necessary for successful lives.
We believe West
Virginia is ready for change, but it takes innovation and cooperation to make
it happen. The good news is partnerships are starting to develop to bring
concepts and lessons learned in Roscoe to West Virginia. Under the direction
of West Virginia University, WVU Extension Service and State Superintendent
of Schools Dr. Steve Paine, a pilot project is underway at Boone County’s Van
Elementary and Van Junior/Senior High School.
The long-range goal
of this project is to replicate the model we saw in Texas throughout the
state. The program does not have to be limited to just agriculture, forestry
or natural resources; it has application to all sciences and job skill needs.
If we desire a well-trained workforce to bolster our economy, let’s provide
tools for success as early as possible.
This program has
promise for our state, but it will take more collaboration. School personnel
in Boone County will be vital to the success of this pilot project and, as we
speak, are going through extensive training. This project would not be
possible without support from the Boone County School Board, State
Superintendent Paine, WV School Board Vice President Miller Hall, State
Senator Ron Stollings, Delegate Rodney Miller, Southern Community and
Technical College, and, of course, Dr. Gordon Gee and all the great folks at
WVU. We all agree we can do more for our students, and it all starts with
programs and partnerships like this. For more information about the WV P-20
program, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Treasurer of
Kent A. Leonhardt
Commissioner of Agriculture