Two months after partnering with Glenville State University in the Grow Your Own program which helps students get a degree in education, Pocahontas County Schools superintendent Terrence Beam is enthusiastic about the progress of the program.
After holding several planning meetings with GSU, Beam said it is time to present the program to the public and help students learn more about how they can begin their college career in high school if they want to become a teacher.
On Thursday, May 5, at 5 p.m., GSU representatives Jeffrey Hunter and Rachel Clutter will be on hand to provide information and answer questions for parents and students.
“We really want to encourage parents of high school students – even if the kids have no idea what they want to do – to attend this meeting, because if they decide to go into education, this avenue will get them through college quicker and a whole lot cheaper than going through the normal college routine.”
Grow Your Own has come at an integral time for West Virginia schools. Three years ago, the state had 600 vacancies in teaching positions. That number has risen to 1,200. There is a dire need for teachers and now, with this program, students interested in becoming teachers can get a head start on their education.
“They can get some of their credits as high school juniors and seniors and by the time they would regularly be a senior in college, they would already have a job working in our school system if they finish the program,” Beam said.
With Grow Your Own, there are four courses offered to high school students who enter the program. Beam said a student can take two as a junior and two as a senior, but eventually, the plan is to open the program to all high school grade levels and students can take one class a year for four years.
One of the many benefits of entering the program is the students – and parents – will save money on college courses. For a three-hour course, a student can expect to pay up to $900, but with Grow Your Own, the courses will be $75 each, and those course hours count toward their college degree.
While Pocahontas County has partnered with GSU to offer the courses, Beam explained that students in the program are not required to attend GSU once they graduate from high school.
“Most of those credits transfer to all the colleges in the state,” he said. “There’s an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] coming out real soon with the colleges of West Virginia, including Marshall and WVU, so the courses these kids will be taking – both at our high school and at the college level – would transfer.”
Along with being a benefit for the students, Grow Your Own is a benefit to the school system.
“We just don’t have a lot of luck in hiring teachers for our county because they’re not from here,” Beam said. “They come, some of them really like it, but financially, they need to go somewhere else or their husband or wife gets a job transfer, and they don’t stay.
“The homegrown kids are more apt to stay here, so if we could get them interested in becoming teachers – and we’ve hired some teachers here in our county in just the last few years from our school system – and we want more of them,” he added.
Beam said he is looking forward to the May 5 event and hopes parents and students will come to see what Grow Your Own can offer them.
“I hate for kids to miss an opportunity,” he said. “They can go to the high school for an hour and find out what they need to find out. They may walk out and say, ‘this is not for us,’ or they may walk out and say, ‘I can’t believe we’ve got a chance at going to college now for very little money.’
“If kids are looking for job security and insurances and benefits and retirement, it’s a great way to go,” he continued. “You can’t beat it. There are a lot of benefits to it.”