SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two dozen West Virginia high schools have been recognized for their college readiness services offered to students.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission awarded leadership from 24 schools at its board meeting Friday at BridgeValley Community and Technical College as part of the commission’s inaugural “Champion of College Access and Success” awards.

For high schools to be considered a Champion of College Access and Success, they must participate in three college-planning milestone events during the school year: College Application and Exploration Week, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Campaign and the College Decision Day Event.

“This is a way for us to encourage them, to fill out their FAFSA, to make sure they know there is financial aid available to them,” Tucker told MetroNews on Friday.

“It’s an opportunity for them to have someone help them fill a college application so they know that they can apply to college and fill out the application. They get that application in and then they get accepted.”

The high schools receiving the first Champion recognition are Bridgeport, Cabell Midland, Fairmont Senior, Hannah, Huntington, Liberty, Martinsburg, Mingo Central, Moorefield, Paw Paw, Poca, Ravenswood, Richwood, Scott, Tug Valley, Tyler Consolidated, Valley Fayette, Van, Wahama, Webster County, Westside, Winfield, Wirt County, and Wyoming County.

Keith Stewart, the Westside High School principal told MetroNews the College Application and Exploration Week is an exciting period at his school. Students go on college visits, college speakers come into the school, school spirit takes place for favorite colleges, and announcements happen throughout. He said there has to be a plan for students in Wyoming County.

“Coal mining is not the best option for a plan after high school now like it used to be years ago,” Stewart said. “We have to have students going out to make a plan to get an education beyond high school.

“Many of them we see are coming back as professionals. They like to stay in their home area so with that education they get an opportunity to come back and still live in their communities.”

Tucker said this is part of the state’s goal of a 60-percent post-secondary education attainment rate by the year 2030 in high schools. Dr. Steven L. Paine, state superintendent of schools spoke at the meeting and said he looks forward to the continued collaboration in reaching this lofty goal.