West Virginia University’s Health Sciences and Technology Academy is expanding its reach thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The funding will enable WVU to assist other states in replicating its successful Health Sciences and Technology (HSTA) model.

“The Health Sciences and Technology Academy, under the guidance of its founder and director, Dr. Ann Chester, has pioneered approaches to helping West Virginia high school students access higher education,” said WVU President Gordon Gee. “They have achieved unprecedented success. The Annie E. Casey Foundation recognized that HSTA makes us national leaders in STEM education.”

“I have been privileged to devote my career to helping young women and men see higher education as an option, and I’ve been gifted with an amazing team that provides these students with the tools they need to succeed,” said Dr. Chester. “Many in our HSTA family are the first in their own families to go to college. Their HSTA teachers and mentors prepare them socially as well as academically so they can succeed in a very different culture from the one in which they grew up.”

In 2004, ninth-grader Heather Heaster joined the HSTA group at Greenbrier West High School.

“I had always been drawn to science and healthcare as far back as I can remember,” Heaster said recently. “In our group, we learned a lot about the problems that we faced locally and statewide. We did projects that helped better our community. After seeing the positive impact that this made on people, it only gave me more motivation to continue on the path of furthering my education.”

A dozen years later – now she’s Dr. Heaster – Heather is settling into her new dental practice in Rainelle, just four miles down U.S. 60 from her high school.

For Dr. Heaster, who graduated from the WVU School of Dentistry in 2015, the transformative power of the program had as much to do with self-confidence as science. “I was very shy and public speaking wasn’t always my strongest attribute,” she recalls. “Being with this program helped me overcome some of the fears I had toward this. It was nice to see myself change as the years passed in the program. I have always been very proud to say I was a HSTA graduate.”

It’s a coup for a rural area like western Greenbrier County to land a new dentist right out of school. But it’s no surprise to participants in HSTA – a twenty-year home-grown West Virginia effort, based at West Virginia University, to nurture promising students from middle school onward who show interest in the health sciences and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

HSTA’s network of 14 regional community programs offer a rigorous health-sciences curriculum through after-school clubs and summer camps. The program not only enhances student development, but also reaches out to West Virginia communities to directly address health-related issues through annual, student-run research projects.

HSTA students realize remarkable success: 99 percent of HSTA graduates go on to attend college; of those students, 89 percent earn a four-year degree or higher; more than 90 percent of HSTA students remain in West Virginia after graduation to serve their communities through a wide range of healthcare and other professions.

Graduates on average earn $30,000 more per year on average than their parents.

For Tanise Montgomery, HSTA was a more than a path out of poverty. It changed her view of herself and the world.

“I became a single mother at a young age, and I was pretty sure that my chances for succeeding were pretty slim,” she said. At Mount View High School in McDowell County, she joined HSTA as a freshman.

“I honestly don’t know what I would have done or where I would be if it wasn’t for HSTA. Not only did HSTA help me to recognize and take possession of my abilities, it also gave me motivation; the motivation that I needed to succeed.”

She’s added three diplomas to her walls since high school: an associate’s degree in lab science from Bluefield Regional Medical Center; a bachelor’s degree from Bluefield State College, and most recently a master’s in health promotion from Concord College. She’s the night supervisor and a medical laboratory scientist at Princeton Community Hospital, not far from where she grew up.

For more information about HSTA, visit the program’s webpage at wv-HSTA.org.

HSTA is supported by a $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award was renewed for five years in 2012. The West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) also provides support to HSTA. In August 2012, the WVCTSI was awarded a $19.6 million IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences titled “West Virginia IDeA CTR” [Institutional Development Award for Clinical and Translational Research, 1U54RR033567-02; Hodder (Principal Investigator)] to support WVCTSI’s mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.



CONTACT: Dr. Ann Chester, Assistant Vice President for Education Partnerships
WVU Health Sciences Center
304.293.1651 or achester@hsc.wvu.edu

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