image description

West Virginia begins taking applications for first-ever Governor’s School for Tourism

January 28th, 2024 by WCBC Radio

Gov. Jim Justice announced applications are now available for freshman and sophomore high school students wishing to attend West Virginia’s inaugural Governor’s School for Tourism.

Although the popular summer educational camps have existed since 1984, Governor Justice is the first governor to host a school focused on tourism.

“I am just thrilled to launch the first-ever Governor’s School for Tourism," Gov. Justice said. "With tourism exploding in West Virginia, it’s time to start working with our students to showcase all good-paying jobs available in this industry. The growth has been off the chart, and our research shows this is quickly becoming a high-demand field in our state. I can’t wait to meet with our talented students this summer as they explore the wide array of tourism attractions and jobs across this great state.”

Hosted by West Virginia University and supported by the West Virginia Department of Education's Division of Instruction and Career Engagement, the Governor's School for Tourism will provide students a 10-day, hands-on learning tour of the Mountain State. Additionally, these budding industry ambassadors will visit many of the state's travel regions and meet with dozens of industry professionals who will offer a glimpse into the variety of sectors within tourism. This includes outdoor recreation, arts and culture, hospitality and lodging, and culinary arts. This program is provided at no cost to students or families. 

The Governor’s School for Tourism will accept one freshman or sophomore student from each county, as well as one student from each of the state’s five charter schools and a student from the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. The Governor’s Schools of West Virginia programs undergo a stringent application process to secure a spot in programs taught by esteemed college faculty. State funds provide tuition, room, board, activities, and instructional materials for each student.

“I want to thank the Governor for his leadership and for allowing us to provide this incredible opportunity to our students. Tourism is among the cornerstones of our economy, and this School is a phenomenal addition to our summer residential learning offerings,” State Superintendent of Schools Michele L. Blatt said. “The format of the Governor’s School for Tourism turns our state into a learning laboratory because industry professionals and academic leaders across the state engage students with experiential learning. Students selected will never forget this experience, and I can't wait to get out and see them on our Country Roads.”

While on the tour, students will have the opportunity to experience their home state as visitors and help the Tourism Department develop new promotional strategies to be used in the following year. After completing the program, students will serve as the Governor’s official tourism ambassadors for the year following their participation in the School. As ambassadors, they will work throughout the year with the Department of Tourism as local content creators and liaisons to the Department’s marketing team. 

“I can never thank Governor Justice enough for this incredible opportunity. With West Virginia tourism growing at a record-breaking pace, it’s vital that we start making sure students are aware of the amazing opportunities available to them right here at home. The first-ever Governor’s School for Tourism is the perfect opportunity,” West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said. “We’ve discovered that so many students haven’t been able to explore West Virginia and aren’t aware of the employment opportunities that await them. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase this firsthand to students from across the state, while also giving them an opportunity to become official tourism ambassadors.”

The curriculum and educational components will be led by West Virginia University’s esteemed Hardy Family Hospitality and Tourism Management program within the John Chambers College of Business. Academic professionals from the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative will also be integral in planning, development of curriculum, and hands-on learning. 

“Tourism is a significant and growing part of our state economy,” Josh Hall, Milan Puskar Dean of WVU’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, said. “West Virginia University is proud to partner with the Governor’s Office on a program that will expose students to the unique opportunities in the tourism industry in our state and open their minds to the possibilities of how they can contribute to it.”