Educational group visits Winston County on success of higher education program

From press and staff reports

More than 60 education professionals from around the Appalachian region visited Winston County and Louisville High School to learn more about the school’s success in preparing students for college.

They were part of the Appalachian Higher Education Network’s annual bus tour, a three-day trip to schools in Alabama and Mississippi with a spotlight on college access programs. Participants of the bus tour were from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The Winston Economic Development Partnership and the Louisville Municipal School District teamed up to receive an Appalachian Regional Commission grant and used it to set up it’s “Getch Your Head in the Game” program. The program used the small grant to help promote college attendance through visit to campuses and through college promotions at the schools in the county.

The District earned MAPE Governor’s Award for the partnering with ECCC, Boys and Girls Club, Mississippi Scholars, Winston County Economic Development Partnership, the city of Louisville, and Winston County Library to improve the rates and encourage students to attend college. The LMSD rate in 2009 was 44 percent and in 2011 after 2 years of the “Getch Your Head in the Game” program the rate was 84 percent.

The bus tour visitors visited 13 schools in for the first time and were eager to see how the schools and communities banded together to encourage college achievement for most students.

“(Three years ago) 13 schools had an average college going rate of about 61 percent. This past year the average college going rate in those schools was a little over 80percent,” said Phil Hardwick, state director of Appalachian Higher Education Network.

The bus made a stop at Lake Tiak O?Khata prior to the school visits, where Louisville Mayor Will Hill and Economic Development Director Gerald Mills welcomed the group and highlighted the successes so far.

“The most effective things was taking students on college visits, ACT preparation, community partnership and helping them (students) find funding to attend college,” Hardwick said.

Mills added that an educated and skilled workforce is one of the best selling points in economic development for a community.

The bus tour after the welcoming visited LHS, the Winston Vocational Center and ECCC training center to see first hand the work being done with the students.

The Appalachian Higher Education Network offers funding, training and educational awareness to schools. Each school within those areas can apply for grant money to be used to fund programs that will foster higher education. LMSD and the WCEDP has received the grant for two years.