HURRICANE, W.Va.– On Monday, three well-known West Virginia women spoke about the education issues facing the state. The three were in agreement that STEM courses need to be promoted to elementary schools, middle schools and, especially, girls.
The Education Alliance held its 9th “EDTalks” speaker series. This was the first series to contain all women speakers and all three spoke on issues regarding education.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia Leah Curry and Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader spoke at the event. The three women are working to help fix education problems the state is facing.
Dr. Amelia Courts, president and CEO of The Education Alliance, helps to promote innovative discussions about linking education, jobs and the future of West Virginia.
“Obviously, we know that education is really the foundation for our state’s success,” she said. “Education is what develops our young people and provides them with high quality knowledge and skills and all of the things that they need for success.”
The “EDTalk” focused a lot on the opioid crisis ravaging the state and the issues for education that it is causing. Many school-aged children live with parents who are addicts and that can greatly affect their schooling.
“One of the things that our state is facing is the opioid-addiction crisis, and so, we have Jan Rader who is recently recognized for her work there with the Huntington Fire Department in really battling that,” Courts said.
Rader is the Chief of the Huntington Fire Department and was recently featured in the Oscar-nominated short documentary “Heroin(e)”.
“I think it’s instrument to share information with the business community about struggles that we have surrounding education for all ages, because education is key for us thriving, so it’s a big part of our future,” Rader said.
She and her department deal with the affects of the opioid crisis on a daily basis, and according to her, children are the ones who can be most affected.
“They’re (children) seeing more trauma than ever and without enough support they cannot thrive,” she said.
Rader said she thinks that The Education Alliance plays a big role in bridging the gap between businesses and education “so we can all work together”.
Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito was in from Washington, D.C. and is working to promote better education in the state.
“I think what we need is an education system that is working towards making sure the jobs of tomorrow are filled by our students,” she said.
Capito said she would really like to see more STEM and robotics-focused courses in elementary and middle schools throughout the state, as well as more women working in STEM fields.
“If we can teach robotics in the elementary school, at WVU they’re developing a robotics program to be able to remotely repair satellites in conjunction with NASA. So, there’s all kinds of really cool things that are going on all the way up through our higher education,” she said.
Curry works to promote getting more students, especially girls, involved in STEM. Through applied learning and “starting your impossible”, she is trying to get girls into more non-traditional roles.
All three women are working to give West Virginia’s children the best educational opportunities possible, and The Education Alliance is helping to make that possible.
Story by Jordyn Johnson