Students and staff gather for HSTA's 2016 Forensics Summer Institute at West Virginia State University in Institute, WV
HSTA’s accomplishments in West Virginia are exceptional. This far-reaching mentoring infrastructure gives hundreds of community leaders the opportunity to improve STEM education, college graduation rates, and health and wellness across the state. And thousands of young West Virginians now have the tools they need to continue their education and make a better life for themselves, their families, and their home communities.
Here are just some of the impacts our program has on the members of our HSTA family.
West Virginia Communities
The sweep of HSTA's impact begins in our very own communities. Our students help their neighborhoods, towns, and cities address health and wellness issues that are common in many rural areas of the United States. They go on to earn college degrees in a wide range of science, engineering, technology, and math fields, and after graduation, more than 80 percent stay in West Virginia to live and work in the communities that supported them. HSTA also brings more than a half million federal grant dollars into the state each year, and the livlihoods our former students earn translate into a 2 to 1 return on state funds invested in the program.
HSTA's greatest and most critical impact is on our students. Participants blossom in a rich environment of mentoring, social support, academic challenge, and community involvement, and they gain the confidence and capabilities they need to succeed in higher education. HSTA students work hard. They support each other. They give back to their communities. And they make the most of the opportunity the program provides: to leave high school academically, socially, and financially prepared to earn an advanced degree and pursue a STEM career.
Teachers are the members of the HSTA family that most directly affect the lives of our students. In doing so, they reap the rewards of seeing their kids make profound changes in themselves. And HSTA teachers change, too. They develop as professionals. They work with real-world researchers. They learn to use new instructional technologies, approaches, and techniques. And they gain a unique insight into the wants and needs of their communities. HSTA teachers work together to make this program a success, and together they make a difference for themselves and their students.
Colleges and Universities
The West Virginia colleges and universities that support HSTA benefit in myriad ways. They play a pivotal role in improving STEM education across the state. They bring in students that are highly likely to complete one or more STEM degrees. They increase diversity on their campuses. They form closer relationships with the West Virginia communities. They work with a wide range of researchers examining the unique needs of our state. They receive diversified grant funding. And they help West Virginia students access and succeed in health, allied health, and other important STEM workforce pipelines.
Researchers may be an unusual group for an education program to impact, but the one-of-a-kind structure of the HSTA program does so. It is notoriously difficult for researchers to gain the trust of rural communities, and they often have a poor understanding of the challenges those communities face. The projects developed by HSTA students, however, directly address local issues—and they are themselves trusted by community members. By partnering with them, researchers gain access to important data and the entrance they need to share health and wellness information with the people that need it most.