Glynis Board Published

4th Annual Student Success Summit: Redefining College and More


The West Virginia Department of Education says high school graduation rate has been increasing and is up to 80 percent. But only 56 percent of students are college bound.  How to improve those rates, and defining what “college-bound” really means were among the discussions at the fourth annual Student Success Summit in Morgantown last week. 

The Summit’s theme was “Students soar when communities connect,” and over 60 workshops were scheduled to discuss a wide range of topics from dropout prevention to on-the-job learning experiences.

Redefining “College”

Just over three hundred people turned out to attend the fourth annual Student Success Summit:

  • People who work in K-12 education
  • People work in or to do with higher education
  • Students
  • Community partners
  • Military personnel  

Adam Green is the vice chancellor of student affairs for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, one of the sponsors of the event.  He says the summit is geared toward improving the likelihood the students will continue their education after high school.
“We know that 51 percent of jobs by 2020 are going to require some sort of credential after high school,” Green said. “Sadly, less than 30 percent in the state of West Virginia have some sort of credential beyond high school. We have a lot of ground to make up.”

Green says reframing the discussion of what “college” means is an important way to make progress. A bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution, he says, is only one definition.

Grade School Visits Post-Secondary Facilities

Another method of motivating students to excel in their educational careers discussed at the summit was conditioning kids at younger and younger ages to anticipate education after high school. One especially successful example school, Union Elementary School in Upshur County, presented their program.

The school’s principal Sara Stankus says their goal is to have students visit at least six post-secondary learning facilities by the time they’ve gone through elementary school.

The Youth Summit

The Youth Summit is a new addition to the Student Success Summit this year. Five high schools were selected to send a team of students to participate in a leadership academy and become Higher Education Readiness Officers (HEROs).

“They will go back to their communities and they will serve as the change agents that we know that they can be to help more students get into education and training beyond high school,” said Adam Green from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

During the Youth Summit kids are not only meeting and talking with teachers and professors and education specialists, they also got to meet and talk with each other to swap ideas:

  • Keaton Cooper, from Randolph County, wants to borrow Marshall County’s Back-To-School Fun Fair, a method of getting school supplies to kids who struggle to afford them.
  • Bethany Booth, from Marshall Country wants to encourage schools in her county to adopt a Randolph County practice of taking younger grades to visit colleges and fairs.

And the end of the summit students address the assembly discussing one of four topics:

  • Community
  • Resources
  • Respect
  • Challenge

Kyatt Bayley from Randolph County says she and her peers are taking the business of being a HERO to heart.
“My friend Kristine, we were lying in bed last night and she was so tired and she goes, ‘you know, I just feel so enlightened,” Bayley said. “I’m half-asleep and probably have no idea what I’m talking about but I have a warmness inside of me.’”

The two-day event is occurred in Morgantown and was sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.