Clay WV student wins scholarship for community improvement idea - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Clay WV student wins scholarship for community improvement idea

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From one Clay County High School student's point of view, kids just aren't motivated anymore.

Cayla Black, a sophomore at Clay, told members of Charleston's business community at a May 1 event that she would like to see parents be more involved in their children's education and for kids to have more options if they aren't excelling in the classroom.

Black presented her idea as part of the inaugural Kanawha Valley Speaks, sponsored by the Charleston Area Alliance. Students from other schools—Thomas Bowels and Cameron Jarrell from Sherman High in Boone County, Madeline Register from Herbert Hoover in Kanawha County and Morgan Baker, also from Herbert Hoover – also participated in the event and shared their ideas on how to make the community a better place.

"My mom is a teacher and I'm a student so I see this every day," Black said. "Education—there's a problem here. I want to make a difference. I want to change what I can."

Part of Black's plan includes setting up a fund that would rely on public donations to secure after-school help for low-income students. Often, these students don't do well in the classroom, causing them to fail and repeat a grade. Black said that is detrimental to those students.

"I want to make the program for people to donate money to so I can get those low-income families some help with their students," she said. "I want them to be able to get that no matter what income they may have."

Allowing the public to donate would cause them to become more involved in the school system, she said.

"Everyone should want to be involved in the school system in their community."

One way to do that is through career days. Black surveyed students across all grade levels at Clay County High and found the majority of students support increasing the number of career days and making those more available to freshmen and sophomores. She also said increasing job shadowing opportunities would get the community more involved in education.

"Showing students what is possible at an earlier time gives them time to think and decide what is best for them," Black said.

Although students also told Black they were fine with the current level of parental involvement, she said increasing parental involvement could motivate students to do better in the classroom and increase test scores.

"The basis of lost motivation could be traced back to many things," Black said. "One, it starts at home. If students don't have a positive influence in their lives, how can we expect them to want to do more than just get by?"

Parents who are not involved don't hold students accountable for their low test scores or low grades, Black said. She surveyed her classmates and asked how important WESTEST results are to students and found many reported they think it is somewhat important. However, she also found that juniors and seniors said they don't try their best on the statewide standardized test.

"If no one holds students accountable for what they do and instills a proper way of thinking into their minds, then education is doomed to continue to plummet," Black said. "Someone needs to step up and say hey, something is wrong here and something needs to be done."

Black won a $4,000 scholarship to use at either West Virginia State University, West Virginia University Institute of Technology or the University of Charleston. Black said she had planned to attend Marshall University, but was willing to enroll at any of the three schools that would accept her scholarship.

While she's not quite sure what she wants to do, Black said she's leaning toward a degree program that would lead her to law school.

Other ideas presented include:

n A River Run 5k that would benefit the cleanup of the Coal River in Boone County. Bowles and Jarrell, who both participate on Sherman High's cross country team, said similar runs across the country are gaining popularity. Their idea has a dual purpose—to promote healthy lifestyles while using proceeds to clean up litter along the Coal River.

n Register wants to see the arts promoted more in Charleston, so she presented an idea that would gain a lot of attention. Using the murals painted on the piers under I-64 in Charleston as inspiration, Register said she would like to see the community get involved in painting bear statues, similar to the painted horses found throughout Lexington, Ky. The bears would then be auctioned to residents or businesses who could display the creations throughout the city.

n Baker said she would like to see schools take a more holistic approach to measuring student well-being. According to her presentation, schools pay too much attention to athletics and don't provide adequate lunches. She encouraged the school system to take a look at how the school system helps develop students' minds, bodies and souls.