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KVC West Virginia

Middle College at Fairmont State University: Driving Success for Youth in West Virginia Foster Care

Here at KVC West Virginia, we’re celebrating the launch of Middle College at Fairmont State University and the groundbreaking partnership we’ve created with Fairmont State and the West Virginia Department of Education. Middle College is an exciting opportunity for teens in foster care 16 and older to get a jumpstart on college. Here, teens access freedom and stability unlike anything they’ve experienced before. In this article, you’ll find the answers to many frequently asked questions about Middle College.

Learn more about what Middle College is, and how it’s designed to support and empower teens in foster care.

What is Middle College?

Middle College at Fairmont State University studentMiddle College at Fairmont State University is a free, two-year program for teens 16 and older currently in foster care in West Virginia. This on-campus, dual-degree academic program combines the last two years of high school with some college education, all while giving participating students the full college experience. Middle College students live in a dedicated residence hall together, right in the heart of Fairmont State. This allows them to enjoy college life in a stable and supportive environment!

Are you a driven teen interested in exploring college or finding supportive tools to equip you for a successful future? This program may be for you!

Is Middle College a Placement?

No, Middle College is NOT a placement. Middle College is an opportunity for youth in foster care to experience a different kind of freedom and independence than they’ve had before. We hope to welcome students who are ready to take that next step toward adulthood.

Valerie Nichols headshot

Valerie Nichols

“We are looking for students who have the determination, motivation and resiliency that will support their success in Middle College,” says Valerie Nichols, KVC West Virginia’s Program Coordinator for Middle College. “This is their choice. We want them to want to come!”

What About My Current Caregiver or Foster Family?

Although you’ll live on campus as a Middle College student, you can still maintain relationships and connections with your current foster parents, caregiver or any other mentors in your community! A support system is extremely important for success in life and academics, so we encourage students to maintain healthy connections.

Why Should I Consider Middle College at Fairmont State University?

students studying outsideMiddle College was inspired by our desire to stop the cycle that makes foster care so prevalent in our state. As of November 2023, more than 6,000 West Virginia youth are in foster care. With only 62% of youth in foster care graduating high school and only 3% going on to graduate college, Middle College is your chance to change your story.

Nichols explained that one of the biggest obstacles to academic success for youth in foster care is a lack of support — and students will get all the resources they need to thrive at Middle College. 

“Middle College allows students to learn life skills that will support them in adulthood, like paying bills. All while getting an education that will give them a leg up on a four-year degree,” said Nichols.

See more benefits of attending Middle College at Fairmont State University here.

What’s Life Like at Middle College?

Fairmont students walking on campus

Regardless of your current situation, you may be wondering what makes Middle College different from (and better than) the high school where you are now. Middle College is more than just a replacement for high school education! You will graduate from Middle College after two years with a high school diploma. But you will also earn a completed associate degree and credits toward a bachelor’s degree or vocational program!

But there’s so much more beyond the course credits earned. Here are some other opportunities and supports you will receive through Middle College at Fairmont State University:

The Full On-Campus College Experience

Middle College at Fairmont State University students sitting around fireMiddle College is integrated into the Fairmont State University experience. As a Middle College student, you are a Fairmont State student! You’ll attend classes, eat in the dining hall, work out at the Falcon Center, join in on intramural sports, study in the library and enjoy all the amenities and on-campus events that Fairmont State students experience! 

Except for Greek life and joining official Fairmont State sports teams, you’ll have every opportunity that university students have. But if you’d like to join these groups or teams after you graduate from Middle College, you are completely free to do so if you enroll in Fairmont State’s bachelor’s degree program.

Check out this video tour of the Fairmont State University campus to get a glimpse of what you could enjoy as a Fairmont State student!

A Community of Peers with Shared Experiences

As a Middle College student, you will join a cohort of peers who will all live within the same residence hall. Middle College brings together other students your age who have experienced foster care and are working to overcome their past. Beyond campus-wide events, you’ll also enjoy many more activities and events together!

Classes Tailored to Your Interests and Needs

Your classes will go beyond the basic math, English, history or science classes required to earn a high school diploma. You can also take specialized college courses on areas of interest specific to you. So your day-to-day experience will vary based on what you want to get out of Middle College.

A Dedicated Residence Hall (with Your Own Room!)

Middle College at Fairmont State University, Prichard HallThe dedicated residence hall for Middle College students is a safe place where you can connect with friends in the lounge or head to your room when you want some privacy. Unlike a typical foster placement, your room really is YOURS for the duration of the two-year program! 

“You’ll have the same room, in the same place, with the same bed,” said Tiffany Dixon, KVC West Virginia Service Coordinator. “You’ll have the opportunity to collect dust in a space that you know is going to be yours!” This is a high priority because we want you to experience a level of security and stability that will further your academic and personal growth!

Built-in Support and Life Skills Services

In addition to all the support available to typical Fairmont State students, Middle College students will have many other supports and services available through KVC West Virginia, including:

  • Therapy services
  • Educational support specialists who can help you find tutoring, prepare for tests, etc.
  • Life skills and career development workshops
  • And a 24/7 team, including a live-in residential coordinator right in your residence hall!

We’re here to help you succeed at Middle College, and to support and cheer you on every step of the way!

How Do I Enroll in Middle College?

If you are eligible for the Middle College program, you can enroll by asking a supportive adult (like a foster parent, caregiver, teacher, therapist, mentor, etc.) to fill out this referral form. Within one business day, a member of the Middle College team will follow up with next steps in the application process. Here’s what to expect after that:

Phase One: Application

During our first meeting with you, we will collect some information, and you and the supportive adult helping you will complete some paperwork. At the next meeting, we will gauge where you are academically with a TABE Test. But don’t stress about the test: It’s just an assessment so we can see where you are currently. It won’t qualify or disqualify you!

Once the paperwork is complete, your packet is off to the intake panel, who will determine if you are eligible to move forward with the Candidacy phase.

Phase Two: Candidacy

Fairmont students watching a gameIf approved for the Candidacy phase, your next step is completing a Fairmont State University application (don’t worry, we’ll be here to help). Then, you’ll join a cohort and start regularly engaging with Middle College staff and peers through virtual meet-ups. In late June, you’ll experience an overnight stay on campus to get a taste of the program and start learning basic life skills you’ll need to live on campus — things like laundry, cooking meals or snacks in your residence hall and getting familiar with Fairmont State University!

In the weeks before you officially step on campus, you’ll participate in the Middle College Prep Program which includes a five-week course with a Fairmont State professor and a series of immersive life skills workshops aimed at helping you gain the skills you need as a student. Then you’ll take a final TABE Test to assess your readiness to move on to the Student phase.

Phase Three: Student

Congratulations! You are now officially a Middle College student! And it’s time to move into your residence hall. We’ll keep checking in virtually as the big day draws closer, and you’ll attend a Bridge program on campus for a smooth transition. You’ll participate in Fairmont State University’s Welcome Weekend alongside incoming freshmen, and you’ll start classes in late August!

What if I’m Not Ready for Middle College?

Not sure if your grades will qualify you? Or do you have gaps in your transcript? Don’t let that stop you. Middle College is designed for students in foster care to have a chance at success, not just those who are already acing classes!

That said, this may not be the right time for you to attend Middle College, and that’s okay! Here’s what you can do if you don’t think it’s the program for you, or if you are not accepted into the program:

I Don’t Think Middle College is Right for Me

First Star West Virginia

First Star students enjoy a campfire during an immersive camping field trip.

If you are too young to participate in Middle College or are looking for a different form of support that suits your situation better, we still have options! First Star Academy is a great program for youth in grades 8-12 that can help you experience what being in a cohort is like and receive educational support without fully moving onto a college campus. First Star can be a stepping stone toward Middle College or just the program of choice for you!

I Wasn’t Accepted to Middle College. Now What?

You may go through the application process or even the Candidacy phase for Middle College and discover it won’t work for you. If you are not accepted to the program, don’t give up! 

“We are in the business of helping these students succeed, so we want to support them regardless of whether Middle College is a right fit at this moment or not,” Dixon says. If you are not accepted to the Middle College program, we won’t leave you hanging. Instead, we’ll refer you to a different program like First Star where we believe you will be successful.

Join Us at Middle College This Summer!

Are you ready to take a chance and see what this Middle College program is all about? Ask a trusted adult to fill out a referral today and get the ball rolling! The application deadline is June 14, 2024. We can’t wait to meet you and see you on campus this fall for our first-ever Middle College class.

Have more questions? Please reach out to the Middle College team at middlecollege@fairmontstate.edu.

Middle College at Fairmont State University – Learn more.