CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – More than 1,500 middle school students from 11 different counties across the Mountain State learned about the importance of higher education on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 27, 2022.

The auditorium at the Clay Center was full of high energy as students got to learn about all of the opportunities they have once they graduate high school.

It was all made possible through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commissions ‘Gear Up Grant.’ The $24 million grant is from the U.S. Department of Education to provide college planning and readiness to more than 17,000 students over the course of 10 years. There was also a college mascot competition to get the students really engaged.

Education leaders say its important for students to learn early about their options when it comes to higher education. “I want students to know that there are wonderful opportunities here within the state of West Virginia, but they cannot just walk into them after high school. They need to go somewhere, whether that is college, trade school or vocational work,” said Dr. Sarah Tucker, the Chancellor for West Virginia Higher Education.

Through the gear up program students will also have an opportunity next summer to stay on a college campus for a week. West Virginia was one of only 4 states to receive the gear up grant in 2021.