CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Reconnecting McDowell is teaming up with AT&T to sponsor a mentor-internship program called Broader Horizons.

The program is aimed at at-risk high school students who have the potential to go to college and make a difference in their communities. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin introduced the program during a ceremony at the state capitol on Wednesday.

“This (program) will provide these juniors the opportunity to explore a world beyond their community through mentorships, college campus visits and job shadowing programs, in our Capitol City here in Charleston and in Washington, D.C.,” explained the governor.

AT&T is providing $300,000 over the next three years. That money will go towards20 students, from McDowell County each year to take part in the Broader Horizons program. J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Mid-Atlantic, said the impetus for the program happened several years ago when the company wanted to hire West Virginians to fill jobs.

“We talked about bringing jobs back to the United States and creating jobs here. And we made a commitment to do that,” stressed Schweder. “And what we learned over that period of time is that we had trouble filling those positions.”

Schweder said if the program can train McDowell County students for the jobs of tomorrow that won’t be a problem anymore. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, agreed. According to the union president, the Broader Horizons program will give students who might otherwise fall through the cracks a chance to succeed.

“They offer a way to help really moor and anchor these skills. To broaden your horizons, to be introduced to college campuses and career possibilities, to see that that world is within your reach,” she said to the six Broader Horizons students in the room.

One of those students is Mount View High School junior Emily Hicks. She told those gathered that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for young people in McDowell County. However, she has big dreams and wants to make them come true.

“People have come from where we’ve come from and gone on and made a difference. I hope to do the same thing because as I told them the other day describing myself, I’m bigger than my home town,” Hicks said with tears in her eyes.

Over the past few days, the first Broader Horizons class has been in Charleston and met with education and business leaders, toured college campuses and shadowed professionals in careers they’re interested in. Hicks said the adults involved in the program wanted to know what the students had to say.

“Everybody has tried their best. Everybody has actually listened to us. We don’t get that a lot,” according to Hicks.

This summer the Broader Horizons students will travel to Washington, D.C. for more mentoring and interaction with state and national leaders.

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  • george

    you can still go back and blame our Democratic run State for no jobs and ranking next to last in every good category. When are we going to vote for change ???? roads are terrible , no jobs, infrastructure failing, worst health in nation, shall I continue? These poor kids in McDowell have a real challenge living in WV but , hey, we do have a rainy day fund........but for what I do not know....

  • Larry

  • DWL

    Instructional classes on how to scam the system, obtain all the entitlements available and only register as a democrat. Optional classes available for how to rig elections, purchasing votes for booze, pot and meth, and the proper method to register and use a deceased person's ID at election time. Saving their heritage.

    • Jim Slade

      Hey DWL --- where do you reside in WV? Have you ever been to McDowell County? Are you trying to say every person in McDowell is only out to scam systems and programs? Tell the readers a little more about you and your views:

      • DWL

        @ Jim Slade - Yep been there a few times, and all I wanted to do was leave soon there after. I guess if you want to change the outside folks opinion of the crime and corruption that is and has been prevalent in southern WV counties for DECADES, you start by throwing the liberals, leftists, socialists, democrats, UMWA, unions and every other bad seed out of the counties. Your reputation was earned and as for all bad habits - you have to completely disavow & run away from it. Let the rest of the world know when you've fully accomplished it. Right now - you haven't even started.

      • jt

        Unfortunately even if you ask residents there, I have, many will get emotional talking about the current state of their area.

        There are some great people there, and they are seeing the effects of poverty and drugs hit their area worse every single day.

  • jt

    I would love to have the money spent to "Save McDowell County". I think they have spent enough money that every resident could be a millionaire by now had they just given them the money.

    I appreciate the area, and how important home is. I also understand how sometimes it feels like the world is against you trying to leave a depressed area. However, every week there seems to be another large monetary donation going there. Unfortunately there is no major highway, and the coal mines have slowed and no longer need as many employees because of technology. What else is there for jobs? Can we pay to help people relocate?

    • Jim Slade

      Enough money for every resident to be a millionaire ? Wow -- that is a bold statement.

      I do agree with the concept of paying relocation expenses. The state of California launched such a program several years ago for residents of a farming region of the state.

      • jt

        It may be an exaggeration, but in the last 10 years. How much money do you think has been focused on such a small area with a limited number of residents.

        I travel for work, and drive through the area often enough. It saddens me to do so. To see the area, the history and know what it was. Then to see what it is today is sad, but unfortunately I cant see it getting any better.