Health science program at Berkeley Springs High School offers free college tuition
Rising ninth graders at Berkeley Springs High School have a chance to invest in their college careers early through a school program that can earn them free in-state college tuition.
The program — Health Sciences & Technology Academy (HSTA) – has six slots open for the next school year and is a great opportunity for students willing to make a commitment, said local coordinator and teacher Susan McBee.
Sponsored by West Virginia University, the program is one of the college's effort to attract rural and minority students to the healthcare and science fields. WVU also hopes to attract and prepare kids who will be the first in their family to attend college.
While HSTA requires a big commitment from students – they must sign up as freshmen and stay in the program for all four years of high school – the payoff is just as big. Graduates are given a four-year tuition waiver to any state university in West Virginia. That waiver can be worth up to $100,000, said McBee.
In order to join the Health Sciences and Technology Academy, families of rising ninth graders should contact McBee at Berkeley Springs High School and get an application before the start of the next school year.
Activities and requirements
Once accepted, a student must complete 75 hours of community service over their four years of high school, attend bi-monthly meetings of the HSTA club at the school, and enroll in two free week-long summer camps over their four years. Academy students are expected to maintain at least a B average in their classes, and show good behavior in school.
McBee said she sees her job as coordinator of the program as a way to motivate and guide students toward long-term success.
"I'm really motivated to show these students what an opportunity this is," she said.
Planning for the state's future
According to West Virginia University, the high school program has long-reaching goals: to foster an interest in the field of science, especially healthcare.
The hope is that students will ultimately return to their home communities as future health care professionals. State lawmakers have funded a large part of the program, which was meant to address serious shortages of healthcare workers in West Virginia. Twenty-six counties have HSTA clubs in their high schools.
Field trips and freebies
While the program has serious aims, McBee and her students pursue them through plenty of hands-on activities and exploratory field trips.
During the four years that HSTA has been organized at Berkeley Springs High School, academy students have traveled to museums in Washington, D.C.; to tour the radio telescope in Greenbank, W.Va.; and see the electric generating plant at Mount Storm.
After school club meetings often have guest speakers, sometimes have pizza, and are generally a lot of fun, said McBee.
Another requirement for HSTA students is a yearly project and presentation. McBee said some of last year's projects included a health awareness/education campaign about rheumatoid arthritis, a comparison of Berkeley Springs and Hancock municipal water quality, and a look at the nutrition of school lunch trays.
As a sponsor of the program, West Virginia University gives kids a lot of support during their four years in HSTA. From flash drives to field trips, there are a lot of freebies for students, said McBee.
"They give the kids ideas, equipment, whatever they need to be successful," McBee said.
Off to college
Even though the focus is on health sciences and technology, students who complete the HSTA program don't necessarily have to major in those areas when they use their tuition waivers. That free tuition also has no time limit, so that students who choose to work or join the military after high school can get attend college for free later.
Students who also qualify for the Promise Scholarship can use their HSTA waiver for graduate studies or special training in the health fields.
In May, six members of the Health Sciences and Technology Academy graduated from Berkeley Springs High School. They'll attend West Virginia University, Shepherd University and Marshall University, all having earned their tuition before the first class even begins.
For more information or to apply for the Health Sciences & Technology Academy at Berkeley Springs High School, contact Susan McBee at 304-258-2871, extension 151. Applications should be completed before the start of the next school year. McBee can also be reached by email at email@example.com.
Parents and students can also read more about the program at www.wv-hsta.org.