JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced a $51,000 gift to fund scholarships for college tuition and textbooks for the Middle College High School program at West Virginia Northern Community College on Tuesday at the college's Wheeling campus.
WVNCC President Martin J. Olshinsky said that as the program has grown on the Wheeling and Weirton campuses, so has the number of students in the Middle College program who want to take college courses while they complete their high school graduation requirements. He said since the state does not permit WVNCC to waive tuition for students in high school, all scholarships given must be funded from outside sources.
"This generous commitment by Chase will benefit many of our Middle College High School students who have demonstrated they can successfully complete college courses," Olshinsky said.
The Middle College program at WVNCC assists at-risk high school students who are bright, but who struggle for various reasons to earn a high school diploma. The program provides a "mentor-based high school experience" with smaller classes and individualized lessons on a college campus at no cost to the students. Middle College currently serves qualified students from high schools in Brooke, Ohio, Hancock and Marshall counties.
"Middle College is for students that for various reasons do not function as well as they could in a school district. This is an environment that is more mentor-based, has smaller classes and they begin to discover themselves. They really blossom," Olshinsky said.
Olshinsky said since the program's beginning, the students' grade point averages have increased consistently and their test scores on college placement exams have improved.
"Students that come out of the Middle College are phenomenal," said Brad Blair, vice president and business banker for Chase in Wheeling. "They're giving us qualified high school graduates to go into the work force or the military. It's a viable part of the community, so this is a program JPMorgan Chase really likes to support."
Maia Goddard, a senior set to graduate from John Marshall High School in the spring, is in her second year of the Middle College program and said she enjoys the more mature college environment the program provides.
"I've taken all college classes and passed them all. I thought it would be a little difficult, but all Middle College teachers were helping me every step of the way and I think it was better that way. Instead of going through a tutor, it's people that you know," Goddard said.
The program has been in place since 2009 and has since expanded to the Weirton campus this academic year with plans to establish a program at the New Martinsville campus in the fall.