WVU education program helps nearly 2,000 high school students
The Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) at West Virginia University has wrapped up its 20th annual camp, a summer institution at WVU. HSTA serves high school students throughout the state by easing the transition into college and encouraging them to explore careers in science and health.
“Twenty summers is such an incredible achievement for this WVU community partnership,” Ann Chester, Ph.D., HSTA program director and vice-president for education partnerships at the WVU Health Sciences Center, said. “HSTA has helped nearly 2,000 of the best high school students in West Virginia be successful in college and their careers.”
HSTA encourages rural 9th through 12th graders to pursue higher education. The program not only helps educate underserved populations but also serves to recruit more scientists and healthcare providers in West Virginia’s medically underserved communities. HSTA students who complete the program earn tuition waivers for West Virginia state-run colleges. These waivers may be used from undergraduate work through professional school in certain majors. More than half the time, HSTA students choose to pursue health-related careers.
The camp offers participants a chance to learn the research process in a way that’s meaningful to them. Students choose a health or science research project they find interesting that is also relevant to their communities. After completing the project, HSTA students present their findings to their home communities, teaching as they learn.
“I keep hearing how these students surpass all expectations from academics to compassion and resilience and dedication to West Virginia,” Dr. Chester said.
Impressively, 92 percent of HSTA students go on to graduate from college, where one-third of non-HSTA students discontinue studies in their first year. While still in high school, HSTA students have been shown to have better grades overall and routinely score better on annual standardized tests.
“HSTA students are ‘knowledge brokers’ for better healthier lifestyles, taking what they learn in the program and acting as role models for their families and friends,” Chester said. “Their research projects on health issues help them make decisions about what they eat and drink, how they exercise, how much sleep they need and what behaviors will help them stay out of trouble. As they grow through the HSTA program, these students become true leaders in their communities.”
Last year, HSTA received a renewed pledge of major funding made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The five-year, $1.3 million NIH grant, “Teaching to Learn,” supports HSTA’s mission while encouraging health promotion in rural areas.
For more information about HSTA, visit www.wv-hsta.org.