The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 3, 2014

Rockefeller’s 50 years of public service recognized

BECKLEY — When Sabrina Shrader, Upward Bound program assistant for Concord University, was a small child, there were no books in her house.

Life for her in her MacDowell County home was one she now describes as offering “limited opportunities.”

Her first love for reading came when she went to Head Start — a federal program that provides educational and health care opportunities for children in low-income families.

“When I got to Head Start, they had books, and that’s where I gained a love of learning,” said Shrader.

In high school, she said, the federal Upward Bound program helped provide support for her as she worked toward a goal of attending college.

The federal programs changed her life, she said.

Shrader was the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

After high school, she received Pell Grants and became the first college graduate in her family.

“If these programs didn’t exist, I just really don’t know what else I would know about the world, besides living in poverty and coming from a home that was filled with domestic violence,” she said.

Shrader, a leader with the Our Children, Our Future campaign to end child poverty, was one of several state leaders who attended a roundtable discussion Friday in Charleston with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Meeting with advocates who are on the frontlines in supporting West Virginia families, Rockefeller said Friday that a lot has been accomplished in his 50 years of public service — but “there is more work to do, if we are to give all families in the state every possible chance to succeed.”

“Moms, dads and grandparents all want to do the best they can to provide for their families,” Rockefeller said. “In West Virginia, this is what drives our men and women to work hard, day in and day out, and sometimes at more than one job, just so they can afford groceries, a roof overhead and a solid education for their children.

“Despite working long hours or tough jobs, sometimes the world seems to close in, and families get tripped up by challenges that are thrust upon them by chance. When that happens, we must pull our resources together — as neighbors, as a community, as a government — so we can give our hardest-working families a hand up.”

Rockefeller hosted the discussion with leaders of state organizations that focus on reducing child poverty and supporting working families Friday in Charleston.

The senator, who is not seeking re-election when his term expires, has served the public for 50 years.

“We’ve accomplished so much over the past 50 years, but history will judge us on what we do for the next 50 years. We have more work to do. This year, before I leave the United States Senate, I want to be absolutely sure that we are on a path to do all we can to keep our families strong,” Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller championed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has provided health care for more than 8 million children nationwide; the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which he spearheaded while serving as chairman of the National Commission on Children; Head Start, a program which provides early childhood education and health care for 7,500 low-income children in the state; Medicaid and Pell Grant and other programs that aim at making college affordable for students.

Rockefeller recently announced plans to introduce legislation expanding CHIP and said he is a “stalwart supporter” of the 24 Head Start programs that exist in the state.

“I have been so proud and honored to work with all of these people, for so many years, to create an environment where families can access critical resources that help in giving them a place to live and nutritious food to eat, where educational opportunities exist from early childhood through college and into the workforce, and where health care is viewed as a right for all, and not just the benefit of a privileged few,” said Rockefeller.

Shrader said she plans to support Rockefeller’s vision as the state faces budget cuts for the early childhood development and education programs.

“These programs are really important for people like me and other people who were struggling to try to better themselves,” said Shrader.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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