Gains cited in McDowell’s student performance, access to health-social-emotional services
Launched six years ago by Gayle Manchin and the American Federation of Teachers to help revive an Appalachian county struggling with decades-long academic challenges and socio-economic devastation, the Reconnecting McDowell public-private partnership today is celebrating tangible improvements and looking forward to more years of efforts to lift people’s well-being in McDowell County, W.Va.
On January 9, in an acknowledgment of genuine success, AT&T—one of more than 125 partners—announced it is making a second substantial contribution to Reconnecting McDowell’s Broader Horizons high school mentoring program. The company has contributed $200,000 to support Broader Horizons for the next two years. The latest contribution builds on a previous $300,000 contribution that enabled 57 at-risk high school students to participate in Broader Horizons; all of them have graduated and enrolled in college or entered the military.
Reconnecting McDowell is an unprecedented effort spearheaded by the AFT to strengthen education outcomes by addressing the elephant in the room—poverty—and its consequences for students and their families. For decades, there had been a lack of access to healthcare, social and emotional services, role models for students, modern technology in schools and at home, jobs and other economic development opportunities.
“Over the past six years, we’ve demonstrated that when the broader community comes together and takes on seemingly intransigent issues facing a poverty-stricken area, we can make a difference in people’s lives,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Reconnecting McDowell has found a way to try to break the cycle of chronic poverty and give today’s kids and families a path to a brighter future.”
Weingarten said one of the new focuses for 2018 will be career and technical education programs, which provide high school students with real-world training for jobs that need to be filled.
Gayle Manchin, chair of Reconnecting McDowell and West Virginia’s secretary of education and the arts, said: “Reconnecting McDowell is working because of the commitment of our partners—Fortune 500 corporations and labor unions; national, state and local nonprofits and agencies; parents and pastors; school personnel and students; and local residents who had all but given up hope that anyone cared about them for the long haul. Reconnecting McDowell has given them hope and real signs of improvement, but we know we are nowhere near declaring mission accomplished.”
One of the most successful programs over the past six years has been Broader Horizons, which provides mentors to high school students at risk of dropping out or who are dealing with serious personal difficulties. The program also takes the students to Charleston and Washington, D.C., during the school year to introduce them to a world of higher education and career possibilities. Since 2014, AT&T has contributed $500,000 to support the Broader Horizons program—part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature philanthropic initiative to drive student success in school and beyond.
“We saw a group of students who transformed before our eyes and became motivated to get a high school diploma and continue their education, thanks to caring mentors who became strong role models and helped the students see what they could offer the world if they worked hard,” said J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid-Atlantic. “Broader Horizons helps students make the connection between the classroom and the workplace and prepares them with the skills and experiences they will need to excel in whatever they choose to do.”
Read more at https://www.aft.org/press.