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Raleigh, Mercer and Summer counties

June 26

“How How” is all I can say after an energetic visit with the 4-H crew in Raleigh County.

I met one young woman who was planning to come to West Virginia University and major in engineering; another was going to Harvard. I told him it was not too late to change his mind.

The group sang “Country Roads” to me, which was a real delight. Plus, I could not get “how how” out of my head all morning.

Our next stop was Hinton Area Elementary School. There I met Nicole Grybeal, a senior psychology major at West Virginia University, who is assisting with the Energy Express and other summer Extension programs in the county.

Nicole wants to eventually attend law school. I was impressed with the many volunteers and workers who spend so much time with the youngsters there—feeding their hearts, their minds and their appetites.

I am especially proud of Extension’s role in the Energy Express program. I got to see the benefits firsthand and vindication of why it is an award-winning program that reaches out to our rural and low-income communities.

I then had a great lunch with local Summers County leaders. I reconnected with Cleo Matthews, who is on our Hospital Board and whose daughter, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, is President Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

While in Hinton, I ran into Ronda Dortch Sherman and other Women in Agriculture participants. Ronda is part of an initiative to empower and support women in farming. She raises goats, rabbits and other farm animals and crops for a living. When I asked her what she does with the goat milk, she told me about a special soap she makes and sells at Tamarack. When I ended up at Tamarack later that day, a colleague found it—and bought it. It smelled—well interesting.

In Princeton (Mercer County), I met a medical student on a rotation with Dr. Pamela Faulkner. His name was Steven Stefancic, who is in his second year of med school. He has a very bright future.

A visit with President Marsha Krotseng at Bluefield State College was part of our next stop. She was delightful, and we talked about ways we could partner with her college by offering pathways for professional and graduate school, international travel and other opportunities.

Samantha Perry and Bill Archer grilled me next at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph — just kidding – and we talked about the transformation of WVU and its purpose and responsibility to serve the 1.8 million citizens of our state.

A great turnout of alumni, friends, parents and local leaders greeted me at Black Knight Country Club, convincing me even more how much pride and passion West Virginians have for their university.

On our way home to Morgantown, I stopped by my good friend Gaston Caperton’s house—well, the house that Gat built—Tamarack. What a showcase for West Virginia art and artisans. I was impressed with the pottery, wood products, glass and so much more. We truly live in—and create—a place of beauty known as West Virginia.

And thanks to my wingman, Mountaineer Michael Garcia, who was a huge hit with the kids (and adults) on our travels. And thanks to faculty members Ken Blemings and Lisa DiBartolomeo for their insight on student recruitment and development, international exchanges and other areas where we can partner and enhance West Virginia University’s presence in the state.