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Pocahontas County Commission Commits Twenty-five Thousand Dollars To High Rocks Academy

Marlinton, WV – In the last year or so, Susan Burt, has seen the High Rocks Academy’s AmeriCorps program grow and spread its message of service throughout Pocahontas County via programs such as Use Your Noodle, Grow Appalachia and Read Aloud, WV. For the second year in a row, the Pocahontas County Commission has agreed to support those efforts, approving a $25,000.00 contribution to the organization during the County Commission’s regular meeting this week.

Burt, co-founder of the HRA, says she’s always been proud of what the HRA stands for. But she says with the addition of the AmeriCorps program, they’ve been able to do so much more.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been with what High Rocks is doing for the county since we first started; it’s really an exciting period of time” says Burt. “High Rocks is no longer a group of girls up on a mountain; through the extra help these bright young AmeriCorps have given us this year, we have helped over 500 kids in our county feel motivated, respected, have something to talk about that’s cool when they come home every day.”

The Commission provided $26,000.00 to High Rocks last year to get the AmeriCorps program started. That covered about 40% of the cost; the rest came from grants and private donations. Burt says they will have to raise about $20,000.00 this year in addition to the $25,000.00 contribution. This covers 10 AmeriCorps positions, six of which serve in Pocahontas.

High Rocks has had a profound influence on Lauren Garretson, a junior at Pocahontas County HS, who spoke to the Commission.

“When I first came into High Rocks, I was in eighth grade, I’ve been in for five years” says Garretson. “I was a completely different person, I was not confident in myself at all, and I was considered a high risk kid. Through the years, High Rocks has helped me to realize how important an education is for myself, has helped me to become more active in the community.”

“I do lots of community service, I’m a straight A student, I recently won second place in the Poetry Out Loud state competition; I’ve had monologues published in college newspaper articles. I’m just a really different person, and for the better; and it’s solely because of High Rocks.”

Likewise, Melody Wallace told the Commission she’s seen the influence of High Rocks at her child’s school.

“I am the parent volunteer coordinator of the Read Aloud West Virginia program in Hillsboro Elementary” says Wallace. “Use Your Noodle brought Read Aloud WV to Hillsboro Elementary and I happened to go to one of the meetings; and it set me on fire. I have, because of High Rocks and Use Your Noodle, been able to set a parent volunteer into every single classroom every single week to read to those children.”

The Commission has designated $75,000.00 for community contributions in the fiscal year that begins July 1st, or about $19,000.00 per quarter. They’ve already committed $10,000.00 to the Child and Youth Advocacy Center. Even so, Commission President David Fleming says he believes in the High Rocks program enough to commit a third of their discretionary budget.

“Since we gave out $10,000.00 at the last meeting, that leaves us with basically $9000.00 for the first quarter” he says. “Your request being $25,000.00, would basically consume the second quarter meetings $19,000.00; which is fine with me, because now that you’ve come and talked with us, I understand more of what you’re doing.”

Commissioner Jamie Walker agrees, saying he’s seen the progress of the High Rocks from the beginning when he worked as an outdoor activity volunteer for the group. A motion for the $25,000.00 contribution was passed unanimously. Two other contribution requests for CASA and Mountain Resource Conservation & Development were tabled until the August Commission meeting.

The Commission also took the following actions:

Approved up to $2000.00 for Pocahontas County Farmers market for fees associated with obtaining non-profit status and liability insurance
Agreed to write a letter of sponsorship for the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to serve beer at an upcoming event – Commissioner Walker opposed this motion
And approved the re-appointment of Janet Ghigo, Don McNeel, and Christine Rebinski to the EMS Authority board.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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