Fairmont State University presents Middle College program to state school board

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fairmont State University, in partnership with KVC West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Education, presented its one-of-a-kind program to the West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday morning.

Dianna Phillips

The new program, named Middle College, is a no cost program that aids teenagers ages 16 and older in foster care looking to continue their education.

Middle College is in the process of enrolling the first cohort of students, which will be 50 16-year-old students that would be entering the 11th grade. These 50 students will enroll in courses and be on the Fairmont State campus in early August.

Upon completion of the two-year program, students will graduate with their high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and 60 credit hours.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for these young people,” KVC West Virginia President Brent Lemon said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for the state of West Virginia as well to be the first provider of this service.”

In addition to the courses available, students will live on the Fairmont State campus 12 months out of the year in a residence hall specifically for the Middle College, which will be staffed with counselors and mental health services.

According to Fairmont State University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dianna Phillips, the students that come through the Middle College program will be put in an environment that will allow them to focus on academics.

“Students will be in a safe, stable environment. Their basic needs will be taken care of, and they’ll be able to focus on their education, which we know is the most important thing,” Phillips said in a presentation Wednesday morning.

Among the nearly 6,000 youth in foster care in West Virginia, almost 2,000 of those are teenagers. Sixty-two percent of those in foster care graduate high school opposed to the nearly 91 percent of youth that have no affiliation with foster care.

“You know the foster care numbers, you’ve seen them, I’ve seen them. They’re not good. They’re scary,” West Virginia Schools of Diversion & Transition Superintendent Jacob Green said Wednesday morning. “We have kids out there that don’t have that school stability, and we know, if we don’t get that school stability, we’re not going to get academic progress, we’re not going to get success from students,” Green continued.

Marion County Superintendent Donna Heston says the students she has met with bring a level of potential to the new program in Fairmont.

Paul Hardesty

“Our experience in these interview processes with these students, the stories are challenging that these students bring to the table in the foster care program,” Heston said. “They are advocating for themselves. They are bringing strong potential to this program.”

Once representatives from Fairmont State University, KVC West Virginia, and the West Virginia Department of Education finished presenting, West Virginia State Board of Education President Paul Hardesty had some fond comments for the new program.

“This is encouraging. This is the good part of what we do and what education is all about,” Hardesty said on Wednesday morning. “We hear about the bad all the time, but this has tremendous potential, and we’re touching a very vulnerable population.

The deadline for applications to Middle College is this Friday.

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