How We Work
Students have fun with science at HSTA's 2015 summer institute
HSTA combines proven approaches to educational outreach into a unique structure that promotes academic learning and the development of social skills, both of which kids need to succeed in college. HSTA's governance structure puts the power to mold the program into the hands of the communities it serves. The program elements immerse students in a supportive environment that helps them better understand how to function in the world as much as it teaches science and math. And the evaluation process lets us track our students' success throughout the program, into college, and beyond and tease out what about the program makes a difference in their lives.
HSTA is governed by the communities it serves, which currently encompass 26 of West Virginia’s 55 counties in 14 HSTA regions.
The HSTA Joint Governing Board (JGB) manages the program by setting policy, developing program and procedural elements, and executing the legislative action that grants tuition waivers to HSTA graduates. The JGB includes representatives from HSTA’s local governing boards, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the West Virginia Board of Education, various STEM professions, and state colleges and universities. A minimum 51% of JGB members must be volunteers from the HSTA regions.
Our 14 regions are managed by local governing boards (LGBs) that oversee programming and enforce HSTA policies and procedures. LGBs consist wholly of volunteers that represent local communities, schools, STEM professions, and HSTA students and parents.
West Virginia University serves as HSTA’s fiscal, legal, and administrative home. University staff conduct day-to-day operations. Other state institutions provide substantial support by hosting Summer Institutes, Science Symposium, professional development workshops, and other events: Bluefield State College, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Marshall University, and West Virginia State University.
Every year, HSTA hosts four Summer Institutes: Fun with Science for freshmen, Forensics for sophomores, Biomed for juniors, and Senior Camp for seniors. Students attend core classes and labs based on each camp's STEM focus, and academic rigor builds year by year. Students also learn the “soft” skills needed for college, like time management, communication, and social interaction. And they have fun together, too.
During the school year, students join an after-school club led by a HSTA-trained teacher. They do hands-on projects, learn leadership, communication, and resourcing skills, and serve the community.
They also undertake year-long research projects focused on health and wellness issues endemic to their local communities. These form the core of each student's HSTA experience and drive the academic learning the program promotes. The year culminates in HSTA’s annual Science Symposium, where students deliver their research results to teachers, mentors, peers, families, and community members. They must pass this judged presentation to continue in the program.
For the two decades HSTA has been in operation, we have taken a research-based approach to tracking student success. Current participants take annual surveys through which they share their aspirations, concerns, and future plans and provide feedback on after-school clubs, research projects, Summer Institutes, and other program elements. HSTA alumni provide yearly updates on their educational achievements, professional status, and place of residence. The data HSTA collects from both groups is used to continuously improve the program and quantify the impact we are having on the young West Virginians who go through it.
In addition to this standard operation, HSTA is currently collaborating with the West Virginia University School of Public Health to conduct a deeper evaluation of our program model. Through a two-year study funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we are collecting longitudinal data from three groups—current HSTA students, a comparison group of non-HSTA students, and HSTA alumni—and qualitative data from our Joint Governing Board. The results of the study will pinpoint elements that make our program successful and allow us to further build on our strengths, more precisely gauge progress toward our long-term goals, and understand more clearly the impact we are having on our students.