College Readiness in Ohio Appalachia Schools< < Back to
High schools in the Ohio Appalachian region are working to make sure their students who want to go to college can, and will succeed once they are there.
According to the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative, only one third of Ohio Appalachia students go to college, less than half of the national average. In addition, only half of Ohio Appalachian students who attend college, actually graduate.
With low school district budgets, it is important the community steps in to help make sure schools have the resources they need to prepare students for college.
Jackson High School to Ohio University: A Success Story
Dillon Wyant graduated from Jackson High School in 2014. Now, he is only two months away from another cap and gown walk at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
Jackson is a small, rural town with a population of 6,320 people. Wyant says there is really only one way out.
“With being in the small town I grew up in, there’s kind of a mentality that you either stay there for your entire life, or you get out, there’s kind of no in between ” Wyant said. “Really the catalyst to either getting out or getting away from that, is an education.”
Wyant had the opportunity to work for his grandfather’s construction business when he was young. This kind of work became a big motivating factor that led him to higher education.
“My grandpa also had a construction business and I would help out on that. I don’t want to do blue collar work my whole life,” Wyant said. “That was kind of the basis of it.”
Although internal motivation drove him toward going to college, he also believes Jackson High School had the right tools to prepare him, but he lacked the confidence to take advantage of those tools.
“If I would have taken like an English AP, I feel like it would have prepared me more,” Wyant said. “At the time I wasn’t as confident in myself.”
Meigs High School to Hocking College: The Motivation From a Teacher
Meigs High School is just one of many schools in the Ohio Appalachian region that is working to prepare its students for college. Meigs has several opportunities for its students to succeed, and according to the students, they’re paying off.
MHS senior Sydney Kennedy said she did not think college was for her, but was encouraged to apply anyway. Kennedy is now planning to go to Hocking College in the fall, for a two year business degree. She says her teacher and a college readiness course offered to MHS seniors made it possible for her to apply.
“This year I just really had to face the facts that college is important to get anywhere in life. I mean I don’t know what I want to do really, so I’d have to get a job eventually and I didn’t want to work at a McDonalds my whole life,” Kennedy said. “My teacher, my English teacher Mrs. Meds, she really like preaches college to us all the time like just look into your options, even if you just go to a small school it’s fine. I was like, she’s probably right.”
MHS Guidance Counselor Abby Harris says one of the most difficult parts of preparing students for college is when students don’t decide until the last minute they want to go. So, she provides multiple different avenues for students who are hoping to attend college.
One class, is just for college seniors, and throughout the school year they work on everything needed to get into, and succeed in
“They work on their admissions essays, filling out applications, what their goals are, researching different colleges,” Harris said. “They utilize different resources on the internet as well as going to talk to different college reps.”
For students who are not quite ready for college, but want to work on a technical degree, MHS offers courses they can take during their normal school day, in the same building.
“We have several different programs here in our building that our students can become licensed, or gain college credit for taking the classes,” Harris said. “There’s cosmetology, auto mechanics, nursing” to name a few.
MHS Senior Gregory Sheets says he is ready for college, and the courses offered at MHS really helped.
“I see high school as like a tool, for those that know how to use it, if that makes sense,” Sheets said. “Cause, I came in taken all the college preparatory classes I could, taken all the preparations I can to get the basis in networking and stuff like that for my career. I applied and interviewed for scholarships and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s definitely been a positive experience.”
Sheets will attend Ohio University in the fall, and will complete his technical degree in Networking when he finishes high school.
Ohio University to the High School Classroom: College Students Work to Prepare Future Students
It takes more than motivation within the high school setting to make change happen. This year, the Scripps Innovation Challenge (SIC) will allow Ohio University students to create innovative ways to help encourage Appalachian youth.
Regional native Clay Carey found his way out of Appalachia through education, he is now a university professor. Carey kicked off the challenge by laying out the struggles of poverty and lack of college preparation in Appalachian high schools.
“Schools in rural areas often do less than their urban or suburban counterparts to prepare people for higher education,” Carey says.
Executive Coordinator for the SIC, Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell, says this competition will make an impact on local school districts.
“Several sponsors have told us, hey, you know now that we’ve seen this challenge, we’ve seen this idea, we’re going to go ahead and incorporate some of those aspects in how we go forward,” Cakcowski-Campbell says.
How Appalachian Schools are Coming Together for Strength in Numbers
The Ohio Appalachian Collaborative, organized by Battelle for Kids helps Ohio Appalachian students that are college bound. The main focus is to encourage districts to collaborate with one another.
Senior Director of Battelle for Kids, Paul Hopkins says districts that join together have a lot of power. When school districts with the same issues join together, state legislators and the Ohio Education Department are more likely to listen to their concerns.
Hopkins believes one of the best ways to prepare students is to have prepared teachers.
“Start with professional development, a lot of our work here at Battelle for Kids is to provide professional learning opportunities for these teachers. That is one of the goals of the OAC has always been to expose students to college opportunities but also take the next step to be successful in college so that they remain in college.”
Hopkins says many high schools near Athens county will be joining the collaborative soon