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Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV


Smart senior class graduates from GW

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — George Washington High School has graduated another impressive class of seniors.

There’s so much to be proud of as students, parents, or faculty of the high school. The class of 2024 had their graduation ceremony at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center on Wednesday.

GW Principal Jim Crawford Jr. said this graduating class is not just one of the best academically in the Kanawha Valley, but is at the top for the entire state.

“This class has continued the lineage of keeping George Washington High School listed as the number one school in the state of West Virginia by US News and World Report,” Crawford said.

The ’24 class accomplished a lot in the classroom and in athletics this school year. The GW senior class won numerous championships in band and art competitions, both at the county and state level. A total of 17 state championships were earned in various sports in the past four year. The school also won their first ever state championship in boys lacrosse this year.

Seniors on the quiz bowl team won the inaugural academic showdown for the state this school year. There are also five National Merit scholar finalists, 20 AP scholars and 107 PROMISE scholars in this year’s class.

“They have learned to be accountable for the work that they do,” Crawford said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege.”

One of the class speakers, Vice-President Ireland Wiley, encouraged her fellow classmates to try and live in the moment more as they all enter into a new chapter of their lives.

“Stop looking at what’s next and live in the moment,” she said. “Stop rushing and slow down.”

President of the class Alaina Potters congratulated the class on making through a not-so-easy stretch at times with experiencing a global pandemic and online learning.

“Our bumpy start to high school was not ideal but made us all appreciate each others presence,” said Potters.

“You have been and will forever be great Patriots,” said Crawford.

The rest of the graduation ceremonies at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center this week are as followed:

Thursday, May 23: Herbert Hoover: 1 p.m., Capital: 7 p.m.

Friday, May 24: Sissonville: 1 p.m., St. Albans: 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 25: South Charleston: 1 p.m., Riverside: 7 p.m.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Bikers roll through Nitro on way to D.C. in “Run for the Wall”

NITRO, W.Va. — The thousands of bikers who run for the wall in Washington D.C. every year say they ride for those who can’t.

Around 325 of them rolled through the City of Nitro Wednesday afternoon for a ceremony at the Living Memorial Park. That morning, they were in Corydon, Indiana. On Monday, Memorial Day, riders will be in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall.

Three of the four total routes run by bikers start in Ontario, California. The fourth “sandbox” route leaves D.C. and heads to Marseilles, Ilinois on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. All other routes, the central route, the midway route and the southern route, start in California and end up at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Day eight of their 10 day mission brought them through West Virginia. On Thursday, riders part of the central route will be at the Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Grounds in Charleston before traveling to Rainelle in Greenbrier County and then spending Thursday night in Lewisburg.

Not all riders are veterans but that doesn’t matter to the rest of the crew. Todd Taylor, West Virginia Coordinator of Run for the Wall, says he’d describe the rest of the riders as patriots.

“We’re honoring our military and fallen soldiers,” he said. “Some of us are veterans and some of us are patriots.”

Taylor said the support and American spirit they’ve seen from folks in all the different towns and cities along the way has truly been unforgettable.

“It’s almost like a tunnel of flags at almost every evening stop we go to,” he said. “The whole community comes out to support us and cheer us on.”

Almost every overpass that the riders go through has people packed above with their American flags and firetrucks standing by.

Rider Suzan Streed hails from Loveland, Colorado. It’s her first year taking part in the Run for the Wall. A rich history of veterans in her family were enough of a reason for her to make the cross-country trip.

“It’s a journey and an awesome ride,” she said.

Streed said she’s excited to get to D.C. but the past few days have been a remarkable experience for her. She’s made plenty of friends along the way, both who are also riders and people who stop in town to see them come through.

“It’s heartwarming,” said Streed. “There’s a lot of friends and then you make more friends.”

Robert Thornton is a veteran himself. After 10 years of riding across the country in the Run for the Wall, the 76-year-old said time is catching up to him and this year will be his last.

Thornton has battled many demons. He said he has severe combat-related PTSD, but he called the ride with over 300 of his fellow bikers “a lifesaver.”

“Coming to the wall every year for the last 10 years has really cleansed my soul,” he said. “I’m clean and sober almost two years now. God has blessed me.”

It’s an emotional 10 days in May for so many bikers across the country, Thornton included. He said every year he goes to see two very special people at the wall.

“It can’t be explained how you feel inside but when I get to the wall, it’s a real psalm feeling,” said Thornton.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

PSC launches task force for outage messages coming from utility companies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Service Commission says a task force has been created that will develop procedures for notifications from utility and cable companies in the event of an outage.

“The Commission will create a Utility and Cable Service Notification Task Force to discuss and recommend best practices and universal procedures for notifying customers of utility and cable service outages,” said Wednesday’s Commission order.

On April 8, the Commission decided to open a general investigation into notifications from utilities and cable companies about outages.

The companies named in the order include: Mountaineer Gas Co.; Hope Gas Inc.; Consumers Gas Utility Co.; Union Oil & Gas, Inc.; Cardinal Natural Gas Co.; West Virginia-American Water Co.; Beckley Water Co.; Appalachian Power Co.; Wheeling Power Co.; Monongahela Power/Potomac Edison Power Co.; Morgantown Utility Board; Frontier West Virginia Inc.; and Optimum.

By late April, each company had sent a report to the on how they notify their customers about outages and how they would improve those systems.

The first meeting for the task force is set for June 14. They must make final recommendations to the PSC within the next 60 days. Commission staff will lead the task force and the companies are required to participate.

For more information, visit www.psc.state.wv.us.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Man guilty of murder in Fayette County will be sentenced next week

FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. — Fayette County man Kayce Simms is scheduled to be sentenced later this month for the crime of first-degree murder.

Prosecuting Attorney Anthony Ciliberti, Jr. announced on Wednesday that Simms will be sentenced Thursday, May 30, at 9:00 a.m. before Circuit Judge Thomas H. Ewing.

Simms was found guilty of first-degree murder and use or presentment of a firearm during the commission of a felony at the end of a six-day trial on March 26.

On November 21, 2022, police responded to a shooting in the 90 block of Teng Lane in Glen Jean. There, officers found Ashtin Owens with gunshot wounds. Owens later died from his injuries at a Charleston hospital.

According to investigators, Owens had gotten into an argument with Simms’ grandmother that day. Simms then obtained a gun from a friend and went to confront Owens at his residence. The two then got into an argument leading to Simms shooting Owens twice before he fled the scene.

Simms faces up to life in prison for the murder charge and as much as 10 years for the firearm conviction. He will be eligible for parole after 15 years.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Yeager Airport approves next year’s budget, looks ahead to various projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia International Yeager Airport is setting aside the funds for ongoing projects and developments that’s continuing to move them into the future.

Wednesday, CRW board members approved the budget for the Fiscal Year 2025 at just over $13 million which starts July 1.

Yeager Airport Director and CEO Dominque Ranieri said this puts them ahead of the game with all of the plans they have in store moving forward.

Dominque Ranieri

“The board has worked very closely with our finance department to do a good job putting together a very attractive Fiscal Year 2025 budget that really puts the airport in the position moving forward with future development and projects,” Ranieri said.

Ranieri said they have now entered the summer construction season and having a solid budget to work with is crucial in helping to manage everything they are trying to do.

She said they have a few projects that are currently out for bid now as well as determining what other construction projects will be forthcoming.

A major and ongoing project in the works at CRW which Ranieri said is going out for bid this week is the GA Apron Expansion project. It will provide additional pavement at the General Aviation Area of the airport for more parking for aircraft carriers.

She said getting this project underway will be a huge advantage for them in the creation of more space at the airport.

“We’re very fortunate, our General Aviation Area is very busy with corporate aircraft as well as the Bill Noe Flight School and other tenants of the airport, so they need additional space, especially when the military is here doing exercises, it gets a little cramped,” she said.

A congressionally directed spending grant is helping to make the over $5 million project happen. Raneiri said they hope to have construction underway on the project by late summer or early fall.

She said they also continue to focus their efforts on the major Airfield, Safety and Terminal Improvement Project.

However, while work on the airfield portion of the project was paused in March to allow for additional planning, Ranieri said their focus has majorly shifted to modernizing the airport’s 77-year-old terminal building.

She said they are currently looking into competing for federally available terminal improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Airport Terminal Program to help fund the project.

Ranieri said while they receive support on a federal level to make such projects at the airport possible, she said nearly everything they do is centered around fostering a sufficient budget.

“We have to always be thinking about the next ten years at CRW, so everything that we do with regard to budgeting puts us in a position that we can utilize the federal funds that becomes available for airports and really think to the future of operation at the airport,” she said.

Ranieri said they are also making progress on a property claim on their insurance to replace and repair some of the buildings at CRW that had received damage from the severe storms that hit Kanawha County on April 2.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Eligible students can receive financial assistance through new program at West Virginia State

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — West Virginia State University (WVSU) has introduced a new tuition assistance program.

Incoming freshman or transfer students who are also West Virginia residents will have the opportunity to apply for the “Free for Eight” program starting in the Fall 2024 semester. The program will make the cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree free for those who meet the requirements.

“We understand that cost is a considerable factor when deciding whether to pursue a college degree,” said WVSU President Ericke S. Cage. “Through the Free for Eight program, we want to remove the financial barrier that students face and make a world class education at West Virginia State University affordable and accessible.”

The program will cover up to the total cost of tuition, mandatory fees and approved academic program fees that are not covered by other federal, state, institutional, or outside resources.

For first-time, first-year students, “Free for Eight” is renewable for four consecutive years (eight semesters). The program is available for two consecutive years (four semesters) for transfer students.

The eligibility requirements are:

· Undergraduate, degree-seeking student

· Working toward a first bachelor’s degree

· West Virginia resident

· FAFSA completed by the published West Virginia deadline

· Federal Pell Grant and West Virginia Grant or Scholarship eligible

· Enrolled full time (12 or more credit hours) in WVSU courses

· Complete a “Free for Eight” Application

The deadline to apply is June 30, 2024. Eligible students who submit all requirements by the deadline will be awarded while funding remains available.

More information can be found online at www.wvstateu.edu/freeforeight or by contacting the WVSU Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at (304) 204-4369 or [email protected].

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

First of five USA Cycling events held in Charleston was a success

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston officials say it was a successful first ride for the around 500 cyclists that took the city by storm over the course of last week.

The USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships wrapped up Sunday for its inaugural year of a five-year stint in the Capital City.

Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Tim Brady told MetroNews that the six-day event, which was held May 14-19 brought in hundreds of athletes and fans from around the country, a projected hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact, and two winning cyclists who are now bound for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games.

Brady said eight months of planning and logistics went into hosting the event and the success it brought is only encouragement for next year.

Tim Brady

“You saw tons of community enthusiasm, you saw people really embracing this event, which is great for us because we have it for five years and I think as we look forward to year two, all of this enthusiasm from the community now we have a year to build it and grow it and make it even bigger and better next year.”

Brady said with the chance for some small modifications here and there, ultimately all of the race routes should remain the same for next year, which inluded the focal point being the Kanawha Boulevard, the downtown area, as well as the last two of days of the event being from the Bridge Road area to Greenbrier Street and Oakridge Drive areas.

He said while the road closures had been a main concern for many residents leading up to the event, they found with clear communication and direction, they were not problematic.

“It took a lot of effort by a lot of people but we made it work and I think that people now understand that yes, there’s a lot of street closure when this race is taking place, however, the majority of the time it’s a rolling closure and you can still get to and from just about anywhere in Charleston,” he said.

Brady said while it will still take a couple more weeks to figure up the numbers the race brought in, he said the economic impact it had on the city should be significant.

He said they look into a lot of different data when calculating it including cell phone data and zip codes from credit card transactions, which gives them information on exactly where everyone was coming in from.

He said but by the way the event looked, it had quite the impact.

“Hotels were full, restaurants were running out of food, we estimate a significant economic impact, I’m hesitant to put a number on it until we get all of the data, but you know, you saw big crowds, you saw a lot of people in from out of town,” Brady said.

He said this event was successful due to a collaborative effort from the city and all of its departments, along with Charleston Area Medical Center who covered all of the medical needs of the athletes.

Brady said however, they were a little light on the number of volunteers for the event, and he said next year they hope to be able to recruit more.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

West Virginia Department of Education launches new online resource to assist students in mental health needs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education is leading the way in bringing more mental health assistance to students and their families.

The WVDE announced the launch of its new resource, ParentGuidence.org as part of National Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a 24/7 online platform that assists families, educators, and caregivers with mental health wellness and self-care.

WVDE Federal Programs and Support Assistant Superintendent Melanie Purkey said West Virginia is the first to offer the tool statewide which is designed to enhance school communities and human connections.

She said one aspect when looking at students’ mental health the department noticed was the vital role parents, families, and caregivers play in helping support their childs’ mental health. Purkey said this resource will give caregivers the tools they need to fully help their children.

“As much as we try to do for students at school, they are at home two-thirds of the day, and so we wanted to provide a resource for their caregivers that would help them in being able to help students in mental health issues,” Purkey said.

The online resource was provided to WVDE through a three-year contract with the national nonprofit The Cook Center for Human Connection.

Purkey said a grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called an Aware grant also helped get the resource off the ground in the state when it was being utilized by six counties. She said after it was found to be successful in those counties, they decided to take the platform statewide.

ParentGuidence.org will provide free access to a variety of tools including:

. Regular one-on-one parent coaching with cognitive behavioral health coaches

. On-demand parenting sessions taught by licensed therapists

. “Ask a Therapist,” a frequently updated question-and-answer forum

Over 6,000 schools use the platform across the country, offering more than 3.3 million families in 46 states access to the services.

Purkey said it will be a tool educators in the counties can use as well.

“We see this as a tool that we can use to help not only parents and family members but also teachers,” she said.

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency regarding the shape of children’s’ mental health in the country. 

They noted that child and adolescent healthcare providers are quote, “caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities.”

Purkey said West Virginia is certainly not immune to these mental health issues within young people.

She said while the WVDE has been working with school-based mental health for years, they had never seen quite a negative impact a universal circumstance had on students until the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Following the lockdowns that were enforced for two years amid the pandemic, Purkey said students had much more anxiety when they returned to in-person learning, and she said these mental health issues have opened up the door to other problems as well.

“We get a lot of issues with attendance, and parents will say, ‘well, my student says they have anxiety about coming to school and I don’t know how to deal with my student and make them get up and come to school,” she said.

And like the rest of the country, Purkey said the state also faces a shortage of traditional mental health services.

“In West Virginia we have a shortage of mental health providers,” she said. “Many times if you try to get a child in to seek a counselor or to receive mental health services the wait can be months.”

According to the WVDE, over 700,000 people in the state live in communities that do not have enough mental health professionals.

The online resource is expected to reach the states’ underserved communities and will provide a direct line of mental health support, regardless of their financial means.

Purkey said she thinks the resource will be very well-received and impactful for parents and caregivers in addressing and assisting their children’s’ mental health.

“These coaches can help with any kind of situation, if you have issues with small children, teenagers, I think regardless of what kind of relationship you have with a child, as long as you’re some kind of caregiver or family member and you want to help that child, you can participate in the coaching process,” said Purkey.

In addition, counties may customize professional development sessions with The Cook Center to meet individual needs, as well as access nationally recognized programs that feature help with bullying, isolation, and absenteeism at reduced costs.

You can learn more wvde.us or ParentGuidance.org.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Kanawha County to beef up security at Shawnee Sports Complex following nearby shooting

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission will be reviewing safety protocols in the event of an active shooter situation following Sunday’s shooting near the Shawnee Sports Complex.

Ben Salango

Commissioner Ben Salango said he wants to beef up security with new emergency lock gates at the complex after the shooting at an apartment complex on Smoot Avenue sent athletes, coaches and families into a panic.

“We need to install more of those emergency gates along the back of the park, even over on the grass side towards the railroad tracks and toward the back of West Virginia State to have some additional emergency exits,” Salango said on Tuesday “580 Live” with Dave Allen heard on 580-WCHS.

Hundreds of families were on hand watching children participate in the West Virginia Soccer Association’s Open Cup event at the complex Sunday when shots rang out two blocks away, but nobody knew where the shots were coming from at the time. No body was hurt.

“The shots were loud,” Salango said. “The people on the baseball side thought there was an active shooter. It wasn’t on the complex, but they heard it and it was incredibly loud.”

The commission released a statement Monday and said while they cannot comment on the ongoing investigation, they will be holding a debrief with emergency management and law enforcement officials to improve security at Shawnee.

“Upon review of the incident so far, 2 of the 26 gates at the facility were locked for security reasons. We will be reviewing this process and coming up with a solution to better protect participants, including reviewing whether a new gate system is necessary,” the statement read.

Salango commended county officials for their quick response.

“Our staff did everything that they could possibly do directing people out, but there’s room for improvement,” he said. “We’re going to make those necessary changes. I want this facility to be safe and I want everybody to feel safe.”

Active shooter drills are held every six months at Shawnee, Salango said.

Three men were arrested shortly after the shooting Sunday, according to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office. Antonio Jacobs III, 18, of St. Albans, Kaden Bowman, 24, of Dunbar, and Zion Clark, 23, of Dunbar, were each charged with wanton endangerment. Clark was also arrested on an outstanding and unrelated burglary warrant.

All three men are being held at the South Central Regional Jail.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Water rescue made for two teens along Kanawha River near Malden

Two teenage girls were successfully rescued along the Kanawha River near Malden Monday.

According to the Charleston Fire Department, the two girls lost control of their raft and were hanging onto a barge until a rescue team got to them.

First responders brought the two safely to shore. They were then taken to a local hospital to be evaluated.

Source: Local News – WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV