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Health Sciences & Technology Academy, Bridge Initiative at WVU partner to provide new opportunities for high school students

The Health Sciences & Technology Academy and Bridge Initiative for Science and Technology Policy, Leadership and Communications at West Virginia University are partnering to provide new experiential learning opportunities for high school students in West Virginia through a Network Challenge Grant from the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN).

The $90,000 grant will support a new partnership program between the two organizations, PIT-UN Empowering Underrepresented Talent through Public Interest Technology Policy.

The program provides learning opportunities for West Virginia’s underrepresented and underserved high school students participating in HSTA by encouraging them to persist in public interest technology education and showing them how community-based participatory research can have positive impacts. The program also centers the needs of West Virginia communities and promotes evidence-based approaches to enhance public interest technology policies and related economic development.

Public interest technology relates to the assessment and response of technology’s implications for society. It is interdisciplinary and involves a variety of fields from sciences and humanities.

“This grant allows us to grow student skills beyond reporting and sharing their research,” Cathy Morton, HSTA director, said. “Students will gain vital knowledge in how to move their research findings into actionable results. This is a new and much needed component that truly enhances and expands our students’ research and leadership skills.”

HSTA, a program implemented through WVU Health Sciences, supports high school students in rural, underserved and economically disadvantaged communities throughout West Virginia, and connects them to the resources and opportunities needed to succeed in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine or STEM+M-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students who successfully complete the HSTA program are eligible for tuition waivers to any state funded college in West Virginia.

Bridge’s public interest technology activities serve as a connection between the science and technology expertise of WVU faculty and staff, West Virginia’s communities and West Virginia’s national, state and local policymakers by identifying and developing policy responses to the state’s societal challenges and opportunities.

The partnership will utilize Bridge’s expertise to engage with HSTA students and provide core public interest technology policy training and a career workshop. Students will participate in a five-day, in-person summer workshop to develop a policy brief and present it to experts in the field. The program will assist students in becoming advocates who address social issues with policymakers in their home communities. HSTA will recruit and enroll rising 12th grade students from across the state to participate.

The PIT-UN Network Challenge is a grant program that supports initiatives to grow public interest technology by encouraging new ideas, fostering collaborations and incentivizing resources and information among 63 network members.