Carey Sadowski, state director for West Virginia Scholars program, from left, James Monroe principal Christy Parker, Holly Harvey, president of the Monroe County Education Foundation, and Superintendent Lyn Guy gather Tuesday at James Monroe High School to announce the school’s participation in a federally-funded nationwide program to encourage students to take harder classes to prepare for life.

James Monroe High school educators kicked off a federally funded program Tuesday with the school the being designated as a pilot project for a national program intending to better prepare students for college and life by increasing their workload and bringing business leaders into the classrooms to motivate students.

More than $300,000 in federal funds will be pumped into four schools in Monroe, Braxton, Ohio and Wood counties, according to Carey Sadowski, state director for the West Virginia Scholars program.

“Monroe County is part of the State Scholars Initiative and will participate in a nationwide effort by the federal government to teach kids the importance of a rigorous curriculum of four classes of math, science, English, social studies and two years of a foreign language,” Sadowski said. “Research shows the harder the courses are, even if you make C’s, then the better off you are than compared to your classmates who took easier courses and got A’s.”

In West Virginia, the program will be instituted by The Education Alliance, the state’s public education fund, through money provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Additional schools are expected to be added later next year.

Monroe Superintendent Lyn Guy said this program will help many students see how their futures can be built after high school. She said the program is not just for kids who are expected to matriculate.

“This program will provide a really strong foundation for whatever path they should choose, even if you decide not to go to college,” she said. “What we hope to do is channel more students into this curriculum because many of them don’t realize the opportunities that are out there until they complete high school.”

Guy said the school will create “graduation honors” to go along with the program. Also, the Monroe County Education Foundation will partner with the school and have volunteers with various business backgrounds speak to students on the importance of a good education, said its president, Holly Harvey.

James Monroe principal Christy Parker praised the program for “encouraging kids to prepare for a world of work which goes past secondary education.”

Sadowski said the program was instituted nationwide in 2002 by President Bush and the Department of Education. The program is designed for local business and community leaders to work in conjunction with educators to motivate students.

The school has improved its college-bound rate from 30 to 58 percent in recent years, according to Guy.

“This is the path to success and we know it from the research,” she said. “Taking the hard classes is the way to go.”

West Virginia joins 21 other states involved in the program.

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