Thumbs up ... to reports that fewer U.S. adults are smoking. Health officials are analyzing the 2012 findings and have not yet concluded why the rate dropped, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The nation’s smoking rate generally has been falling for decades, but had seemed to stall at around 20 to 21 percent for about seven years. In 2011, the rate fell to 19 percent, but that might have been a statistical blip.
Thumbs up ... to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Family Assistance, for continuing the School Clothing Vouchers program. Each eligible child will receive a $200 voucher that may be used toward the purchase of appropriate school clothing or piece goods for families who sew clothing for their children.
Thumbs up ... to Greenbrier West wrestling coach Jeremy Tincher, recognized as the Wrestling Coach of the Year by the West Virginia Coaches Association during a half-time ceremony at the recent North-South All-Star Football Classic in Charleston. This is his second coach of the year award in four months. After Greenbrier West won the state’s Class AA-A wrestling championship in February, crowning three individual title winners in the process, Tincher was named the Dix Manning Class AA/A Coach of the Year.
Thumbs up … to University of Charleston President Ed Welch, who was presented with the Francis Asbury Award from the United Methodist Church at its recent West Virginia Annual Conference. The award recognizes outstanding leadership in supporting, strengthening and promoting the church’s higher education ministries. Dr. Welch led UC’s efforts over the last year in replacing Mountain State University and providing a teach-out opportunity for more than 500 students who faced uncertain and bleak futures. He was also recognized for the strong leadership he has provided for higher education as a whole in West Virginia during the last 24 years.
Thumbs up … to the Raleigh County Firefighters Association, which has established a “duty crew” three days a week to provide better assistance countywide. Members from each department across the county assist the duty crew when they are available, from 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The duty crew will serve as a support function. They will assist other departments on calls throughout the county.
Thumbs down … to West Virginia’s educational system ranking fourth-worst in the nation for the second straight year. Child-welfare advocates say lack of quality pre-kindergarten programs for 3-year-olds is partly to blame. The annual KIDS COUNT report says nearly two-thirds of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds weren’t enrolled in preschool programs in 2011. It also says that 73 percent of fourth-graders weren’t proficient in reading, while 79 percent of eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math. And 22 percent of students didn’t graduate from high school on time in the 2009-10 school year.
Thumbs up … to Summers County getting $345,000 from the Department of Agriculture Rural Development to complete the Wiggins and Browning water extension project. The funding being provided to the Big Bend Public Service District is to help provide water to about 74 more households and businesses along W.Va. 3. The grant comes in addition to $1.8 million in rural development funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The overall project cost $2.8 million. For now, customers in that area of Summers County are dependent on wells and springs, which often run dry in times of drought and, at times, are vulnerable to contamination when the Greenbrier River floods.