Former WVU Tech campus to help youths exiting foster care system

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

MONTGOMERY, W.Va.  — Wednesday morning, workers on the former WVU Tech campus were painting over the part of the welcome sign that listed the campus’s former name.

They did that as the campus’ new occupants were in the former Vining Library talking about how the campus will soon be a residential and educational center for young people who have aged out of the foster care system.

The partnership will be headed by KVC West Virginia, which operates in 26 counties. It has nine office locations and 120 case managers, therapists and office staff. Other partners are BridgeValley Community and Technical College, the YMCA of the Kanawha Valley and the town of Montgomery.

“When a young person ages out of foster care, there are many resources and programs available to them, and those are all very effective when used. What we found in five years of developing this project is that many don’t use those resources,” said Tommy Bailey, director of strategic initiatives for KVC.

“Our thought and concept is, if we take a campus and we bring in an educational partner, we bring in community partners and we wrap all those partners and services around the young person, we can effect a better transition for them as they exit foster care.”

KVC’s plan is to create a college campus for them to enjoy, Bailey said. Youths normally age out of foster care at 18, although some may stay in longer, he said.

“We’re talking about young people that often don’t go home for Christmas or don’t go home for summer, so we’ll provide a 24/7/365 fully supportive campus to help them reach their educational goals, to help them hone in some life skills that often are missing as they go through the foster care system and help them reach a much greater potential,” he said.

BridgeValley will come onto KVC campus and provide some college prep programs, and KVC will provide some instruction, Bailey said. KVC will participate in classes on the KVC campus and on the BridgeValley campus next door, Bailey said.

BridgeValley students will have access to KVC’s student center and cafeteria, he said.

Bailey said resources exist for former foster care youths from age 18 until 21. Many of those help with education, life skills, transportation and other needs, he said.

“Our goal is to bring those under one umbrella and help provide the support that they ultimately need to make the transition,” he said.

Bailey said KVC won’t bring students in until buildings and programs are made ready. There is no firm date for that to happen, he said.

“Hopefully within the next year we’ll see our first cohort of students,” he said.

The WVU Board of Governors approved the lease-purchase agreement for the Tech campus earlier this year. KVC took control of the campus on July 1.

Under terms of the agreement, KVC will lease the campus for 25 years, but KVC may purchase the campus before the end of that time with all rental payments applied to the purchase price. If KVC buys the campus before June 30, 2020, the purchase price will be $8.3 million.

As part of the agreement, the HiRise residence hall was razed before KVC took control of the campus.

Parts of the Tech campus were not leased to KVC. WVU transferred ownership of the Tech Marina and the Alumni Center to the town of Montgomery.

The YMCA will provide services to KVC students and to the community at large on the former Tech campus, said Monty Warner, president and CEO. KVC students will do some of their intern work at the Y, such as being fitness attendants, personal trainers or lifeguards, he said.

“It’s a place for them to come to work and for the community to interact with these kids and really start to appreciate who they are,” Warner said.

The new operation in Montgomery will anchor the Y’s services in the eastern end of its territory, Warner said.

“We have a number of people right now from Montgomery that drive to the YMCA in Charleston every day. This is going to allow us to provide similar-type facilities and programs to everybody in this entire region,” he said.

Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram said the town provided $15,000 in startup money to the Y. Other than that, it will provide in-kind services such as police protection, he said.

“It’s an opportunity for Montgomery to raise another college,” Ingram said. “Our industry here is education. We don’t produce anything here but smart people. I look forward to working with KVC.”

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