School, Upward Bound team up
HUNTINGTON -- Kevin Yingling was a kid from West Virginia who grew up in the state's education system and said he knew very little about what career opportunities awaited him.
Now, as dean of Marshall University's newly formed School of Pharmacy, Yingling said he is making it his goal to let kids know there can be a bright future in front of them.
"Kids need to understand what's possible and why they need to stay focused on their education," Yingling said. "They need someone to encourage them to overcome obstacles to reach their goals and give them insight into what is available to them."
Yingling has guided the School of Pharmacy into a partnership with the Upward Bound Math and Science program hosted at West Virginia State University. Upward Bound is a federally funded TRiO program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education that assists first generation, income-eligible students with college preparation and skills development for post-secondary education.
"This has been an awesome opportunity for me personally, as well as the university, to reach out and encourage young men and women about opportunities in higher education," Yingling said.
During a recent visit, students were exposed to scientific concepts, information about a recent Nobel Prize winner, hands-on sessions with faculty members and some learning through game play -- staff used a "Jeopardy!" format to engage the group. More than 70 students -- most high school juniors and seniors -- attended the Saturday session. One, Sissonville High School senior Austin Conner, 18, said the visit was a good opportunity for him to get a feel for the medical field.
"I plan to major in business, but I've thought about specializing in health care management, so it was a good opportunity for me," Conner said. "The technology was interesting, and the people seemed excited to share their field with us.
"Upward Bound has helped me immensely in preparing for college," continued Conner, who has been involved in the program since the eighth grade. "Out here where I live, there's really not a lot of diversity, and it's given me a broader view of what's out there."
Barbara Cary, director of TRiO programs at West Virginia State University, said the visit -- and others like it -- give students an opportunity to prepare academically now rather than later.
"Many of our students will be the first in their families to go to college, and they may have not thought about the fields of science, technology or math. The more exposure they have to what's available for them, the better position they'll be in, in terms of deciding what field they would like to pursue," Cary said. Students in Cary's program represent high schools across the region, including Logan, St. Albans, Nitro, Kanawha County, South Charleston and more.
"We have an older population in this state, and everybody is working very diligently to prepare young people to start thinking about replacing us," Cary said. "We need to prepare our kids."
It is a win-win partnership for Marshall University as well, added Dr. Shelvy Campbell, director of diversity programs for Marshall's Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy.
"This particular program gives students exposure to programs that Marshall offers that West Virginia State University doesn't," Campbell said. "They check out the facilities, view the technology, tour the campus, eat in the dining halls, generally just get a taste of college life.
"The main thing is, it's a very important partnership because Marshall and WVSU are not far away from each other, and it's good for us to reach out to another local institution."
For the kids, Campbell said the collaboration presents opportunities in career fields that are experiencing student shortages nationwide.
"I know we have a shortage nationwide of African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in medicine, health, pharmacy and science," Campbell continued. "With this pipeline, this partnership that will grow deeper, we're hoping it's an easy bridge for students to move from the area where they are to the school of pharmacy or the school of medicine.
"These are students who sometime fall through the cracks, and Upward Bound gives them the resources the need to become successful," Campbell said. "On our side, we're doing what we need to do and should be doing by reaching out to them."
Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.