Attorney, Teacher & Student Say Reconnecting McDowell is Working

Jul 14, 2014

Emily Hicks also spoke during a press conference in West Virginia earlier this year.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A West Virginia corporate attorney, a McDowell County teacher and a high school student traveled across the country to share the good they see coming from the Reconnecting McDowell project.

The three traveled to Los Angeles to speak at the American Federation of Teachers convention about the program they say has changed lives and given the community a new sense of optimism.

The project launched in December 2011 as a public-private, long-term endeavor. It’s goal is to improve educational outcomes, provide better access to health and social services, and boost economic development in McDowell County. Once a bustling coal area, the county is now extremely poor and deals with some of the lowest health and wellness statistics in the country.

Some of the Reconnecting McDowell projects include turning schools into community hubs, creating a teacher village, and Broader Horizons, which provides mentors and job shadowing experiences to some high school students at risk of dropping out. 

Emily Hicks is a senior at Mount View High Schools that spoke at the AFT national convention.  Hicks was selected for her principals to participate in a Reconnecting McDowell program that could become a turning point in her life.

According to a release Hicks told AFT delegates that the program has inspired her to pursue dreams outside of McDowell.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said Reconnecting McDowell is important “to help reclaim the promise of a community like McDowell, just as much as we do a struggling urban district.”