Small size hampers Calhoun from producing Promise recipients

Only nine county students earned scholarship last year

By Kelly L. Holleran
Daily Mail staff

Only nine Calhoun County High School students received the Promise scholarship last year, the lowest number in the state.

Small size hampers Calhoun from producing Promise recipients.

Only nine Calhoun County Middle/High School seniors received the Promise Scholarship, the lowest number in the state. That figure accounts for 12 percent of the school's graduating class... That means slightly more than 12 percent of students at the high school received the scholarship.

The percentage is not the lowest in the state, but it is lower than the state average. Eighteen percent of students across West Virginia receive the scholarship.

With free college tuition for qualifying seniors who choose to stay in West Virginia for college, the Promise Scholarship is a huge financial advantage for students and their families.

But Calhoun County's struggles to produce Promise Scholars are representative of many of West Virginia's rural counties, where there are limited educational resources.

For example, 27 seniors in Clay and Braxton counties received the award; 15 at Doddridge did, 14 at Gilmer, 31 at Tyler and 11 at Wirt. All the schools had a higher percentage of students who received the award than Calhoun.

A couple of counties similar to Calhoun had higher numbers of students receiving the scholarship but were lower in percentage.

In Ritchie County, 11 students received the scholarship. That's 10.3 percent of the seniors there. In Webster County, there were also only 11 Promise scholars. That's 10.4 percent.

Because Calhoun County High School is small and has a limited staff, it is difficult to offer Advanced Placement classes, said Jane Lynch, superintendent of Calhoun County Schools.

Only 71 students graduated last year from the high school, so that naturally translates into lower numbers of Promise Scholarship recipients, Lynch said.

"Proportionally, it's harder for us just because of population," Lynch said.

Of the 71 seniors last year, 39 applied for the scholarship, said Terri Goodnight, a counselor at Calhoun County Middle School and High School.

Goodnight said she encourages students to apply.

"I encourage any that are on the borderline to apply," she said. "In November, even if they haven't qualified, there's still a chance for them to take the ACT and the SAT again (and qualify)."

Lynch said the school district is trying various methods to help more students land the scholarship.

"We are working on all of our student achievement, particularly to target areas in which students are scoring lower on tests," she said.

And educators will continue to encourage most students to apply for the Promise and to hold ACT prep classes, something they have done for the past two and a half years.

New to Calhoun County Schools this year is a weekend targeted to juniors and seniors.

About seven juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to spend one weekend with college students at Glenville State College in January.

The activity is offered through the 21st Century Learning Center at the middle/high school and is intended to encourage those kids who are not sure of their future plans to go to college, said Jean Simers, coordinator of the learning center.

"A lot of kids have never even been to Charleston, so they're scared to go away to college," she said.

Matt Hill, Chad Hughes and Anthony Swisher, all juniors at Calhoun, gathered at the Y Restaurant in Grantsville one day recently. Prompted by a question about the scholarship, they talked about their educational goals.

They are not going to apply for the scholarship and don't plan on going to college. Instead, they want to get into plumbing.

"It's not really that important," Hill said, speaking about college.

Matt Houchin, a 17-year-old senior from Calhoun, plans on going to West Virginia University next year.

He said counselors and teachers hand out a lot of information about the Promise scholarship at school and encourage students to apply.

He, for one, has already applied.

Contact writer Kelly Holleran at or 348-1796.