Chris Schulz Published

U.S. Secretary Of Education Visits WVU To Discuss Mental Health

U.S. Sec. Cardona Visits WVU

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona came to Morgantown Wednesday morning. He stopped at West Virginia University as part of the weeklong Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour.

“I really want to hear from you directly,” Cardona said. “I feel very strongly that if we’re going to improve education across the country, we have to listen to those we serve, and you are the students we serve.”

Cardona sat down with student leaders at the university to discuss the importance of students’ mental health and how schools should be reimagined as they reopen after COVID-19. He emphasized asking the students questions and hearing their feedback.

“We really pushed the American Rescue Plan dollars to be used for the mental health support of our students,” he said. “One of the things that I’m really impressed with here is that there’s a student advisory board. I’m pretty open about the fact that I believe across our country, our students are moving quicker in this than our systems.”

Shortly after the event, the U.S. Department of Education announced nearly $6 million for West Virginia to address youth mental health issues. The announced funds, part of the $2 billion bipartisan Safer Communities Act, will go towards creating healthier learning environments for K-12 students, including through increased school-based mental health support.

At WVU, Cardona emphasized the need for further investment at all levels, specifically in technology like telehealth to meet modern students where they are.

“The acknowledgment and the resources put toward mental health support through telehealth, like that’s critical,” he said. “Students are more likely to access or reach out through their phones now, and this university understands that and embraces that as an opportunity.”

Cardona said that for things to be better for future students, good mental health support must also extend to educators.

“I talk a lot about giving teachers better working conditions, and competitive salaries,” he said. “But the working condition means that when you’re going to work, you’re at your best, you have the support that you need for your students.”

Pareera Uqaily, vice president of the WVU Student Government Association, was one of the student leaders that sat down with Cardona.

“I think this was a great conversation, because we’re able to highlight our perspectives as students that sometimes even administrators aren’t able to do,” Uqaily said. “Especially just being the cohort that’s been through COVID. Obviously, things look so different.”

WVU Student Government Association President Chloe Hernandez said she was humbled by the opportunity to collaborate with Cardona, as well as her fellow student leaders on the issue of mental health.

“I definitely think it does help kind of highlight and dismantle the stigma, especially in a state with so many different backgrounds and different students who come from all these different places,” Hernandez said. “It’s really important to kind of recognize the resources on campus and improve on the accessibility.”

Cardona’s Bus Tour continued on to Pittsburgh from Morgantown, and will take him across Pennsylvania and into New Jersey to finish out the week.