Reconnecting McDowell Project 'Vital' to Community - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Reconnecting McDowell Project 'Vital' to Community


A visit to McDowell County from a top federal official reinforces the need to invest in and support rural education.

That's the sentiment of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who on Sept. 20 praised U.S. Education secretary Arne Duncan for visiting the impoverished county. Rockefeller strongly supports the Reconnecting McDowell initiative, which aims to address some of the challenges the school district faces. Duncan met with other state, national and federal education leaders to learn more about the project and see how it has so far affected the community.

"McDowell County is a special place that deserves the work and compassion of Reconnecting McDowell, and I have long worked with the community to improve education and opportunities in the area," Rockefeller said in a statement. "I'm hopeful that Secretary Duncan's visit brings to light the needs of this community and residents so they soon see some improvements for the future."

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., represents McDowell County in the U.S. House of Representatives. He spoke Sept. 20 at the Reconnecting McDowell Fall Partner Meeting and emphasized the need to organize resources to pursue competitive grants and encouraged educators to fully market their programs to families in the area.

"In a Congress that has banned members from earmarking federal investments to meet specific needs in specific areas, like McDowell County, we must redouble our efforts and readjust our focus to go after every penny of competitive funding in both the public and private sectors," Rahall said in his remarks.

"Bringing all of our educational resources to bear in Reconnecting McDowell is essential," he added. "This is especially true of our higher education anchors – Bluefield State College, Concord, Marshall and West Virginia University. Technology is a key ingredient of a winning formula to put educational resources at the doorstep of all those in McDowell County who want a brighter tomorrow for themselves and their families." 

The Reconnecting McDowell initiative is a long-term, comprehensive effort to make educational improvements in the county. Partners from businesses, foundations, government, non profit agencies and labor have committed to seeking solutions to the numerous problems the county faces – including high poverty, substance abuse, limited medical services, inadequate access to transportation and technology, unemployment and underperforming schools. Each partner provides services, money, products or expertise to help the school system.

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