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Courts excited for opportunities with program

Submitted photo Dr. Amelia Courts talks with Sally Barton, vice president of The Education Alliance.

CHARLESTON — A four-day orientation recently kicked off a nine-month program for the Appalachian Leadership Institute’s 2021-2022 Class.

Class member Dr. Amelia Courts, president and CEO of The Education Alliance in Charleston, said the orientation was intense and fast-paced. The class members have already been placed on teams. The first project is developing a vision for a community that will be excelling and moving forward by 2050.

As a part of the Leadership Institute, the Fellows participate in a series of skill-building seminars featuring regional experts, peer-to-peer learning, and case study analysis.

Courts said the Fellows will also be doing site visits that showcase communities. She was excited to learn that Huntington, W.Va., will be hosting one of the visits.

“This is just a fantastic opportunity for our organization, the Education Alliance, but also West Virginia as whole, to learn from the successes and innovative best practices that are happening across the ARC region,” Courts said.

More than 100 people applied for the Fellowships. Courts said she was motivated to apply because the program focuses on “a sweet spot that has always been a passion of mine: The intersection of education and economic development…. That is really the heartbeat of The Education Alliance. … We are excited and passionate to help our young people create a future that does involve a strong economy in West Virginia.”

Among its many activities in 2021, The Education Alliance was active with schools and businesses across the state. The Education Alliance cultivated 285 school-business partnerships aimed at creating opportunities for students across West Virginia; partnered with schools to serve 37,700 students through a variety of programs including mentoring and internships; and provided digital resources to 2,800 students to enhance remote learning during the pandemic.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced the 40 Fellows participating in the third class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute in late September. The class represents Appalachia’s 13 states and includes professionals who live and/or work in the region in a variety of sectors including education, healthcare, economic development, tourism, and others.

“I’m proud to be one of 40 Fellows selected for the Appalachian Leadership Institute. I’ll spend the next nine months working with other Appalachian leaders to exchange ideas and expand leadership skills to drive our Appalachian communities forward,” Courts said.

Courts is one of six West Virginians in the class:

Amelia Courts, President/CEO, The Education Alliance, Charleston

Sara Payne Scarbro, Associate Vice President for External Engagement, Marshall University Research Corporation, Huntington

Jennifer Hause, Program Coordinator, WVU Energy Institute, Morgantown

Jessica McDonald, Director of Operations, West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation, Morgantown

David Michael, Executive Director/CEO, Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State, Huntington

Stacy Thomas, Community Coaching Program Associate, WV Community Development Hub, Richwood

Courts knows Scarbro well and has worked with her often. She is looking forward to meeting the other four West Virginians, along with the other members of the class.

Courts also knows ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “I was absolutely thrilled that Gayle is the first female and first West Virginian ARC co-chair. I think that both of those things are just a home run for our state and the ARC…. That is going to bring not only focus and attention but resources to our state. That is exciting. It will help us continue our forward momentum and really propel us toward the future.

Moving West Virginia forward is the goal of The Education Alliance.

Christina Brumley, chair of the Board of Directors of The Education Alliance, gave one of the three required recommendations for Courts.

“I believe Dr. Courts will be an outstanding fellow in the ARC Appalachian Leadership Institute. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I extend my congratulations to her and the other fellows. I am confident that Amelia will contribute to exchanging innovative ideas, expanding leadership skills, and making connections to move West Virginia forward,” Brumley said.

ARC officials said participation in this program will empower Fellows to positively impact the future of Appalachia with collaborative solutions to the Region’s greatest challenges. Fellows will learn to:

• Identify and implement best practices and strategies to inspire positive change in their communities;

• Build a robust network of leaders across the region;

• Integrate community assets into long-lasting economic development strategies; and

• Appreciate the diversity and commonalities of the 13 states in the Appalachian Region

ARC Co-Chair Manchin said, “I am honored to congratulate the 2021-2022 class of Appalachian Leadership Institute fellows. These phenomenal Appalachians are the driving force of change in their communities. Their perseverance and dedication to the region is evident, and I have no doubt that this program will aid them in continuing to help their communities grow and thrive. The work of this class of fellows–and the ones who came before–gives me hope for the future of our Region and is a testament to all that can be accomplished when Appalachians work together.”

The Appalachian Leadership Institute is a comprehensive regional leadership training program developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact, LLC.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

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