McDowell students look to broader horizons

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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