Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA)

Travis York, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

Program Description

The Health Sciences & Technology Academy (HSTA) increases the number of African American and other underrepresented students in West Virginia who pursue degrees in health sciences and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors, thereby increasing the number of health practitioners and advocates in the medically underserved communities of West Virginia.

HSTA helps West Virginia high school students succeed in health care and other STEM-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs. We marshal the efforts of hundreds of mentors―teachers, community members, and higher-education faculty, staff, and students―to create a framework that supports children facing social and financial challenges in obtaining a diploma and furthering their education.

Program Goals

Implemented through West Virginia University, HSTA's main goals are to:

  • Increase college attendance in Appalachia
  • Improve STEM education in public schools
  • Empower communities through youth leadership
  • Increase the number of health care providers and STEM educators in underserved communities

Program Activities

To realize these goals, HSTA created a mentorship structure that supports student success and addresses individual educational and social needs. The program puts rigorous academic expectations into place that connect learning to students' personal experiences. It rewards participants and teachers with generous incentives that recognize their accomplishments. It also offers, through the support of the West Virginia Legislature and state colleges and universities, substantial tuition waivers to successful participants who go on to attend an in-state institution for an undergraduate or STEM-based graduate degree.

Every year, HSTA hosts four Summer Institutes: Fun with Science for freshmen, Forensics for sophomores, Biomed for juniors, and Senior Camp for seniors. Students attend core classes and labs based on each camp's STEM focus, and academic rigor builds year by year. Students also learn the "soft" skills needed for college, like time management, communication, and social interaction. And they have fun together, too.

During the school year, students join an after-school club led by a HSTA-trained teacher. They do hands-on projects, learn leadership, communication, and resourcing skills, and serve the community.

They also undertake year-long research projects focused on health and wellness issues endemic to their local communities. These form the core of each student's HSTA experience and drive the academic learning the program promotes. The year culminates in HSTA's annual Science Symposium, where students deliver their research results to teachers, mentors, peers, families, and community members. They must pass this judged presentation to continue in the program.

Each year HSTA focuses more of our student community research and projects, teacher training, and summer institutes on issues that STEM topics and skills can address. We also seek out STEM partners from the community who can mentor our teachers and students as they conduct their research.

HSTA has received an Anna E. Casey grant to replicate the program in other states and is currently partnered with Clemson University to create a similar initiative. The replication effort has led to a business plan to connect with other institutions and create HSTA offshoots. It is also developing a book about the HSTA program and the keys to its success.

Necessary Resources

Cooperation with local high schools and West Virginia University is needed. This includes professors and administrators working with local teachers in STEM fields and principals to identify students who would benefit from the HSTA program.

Notes and Tips

  • Mentoring and support levels the playing field of at-risk students and allows them to rise above expectations and succeed at higher rates.
  • Our population wants to live and work in the state.
  • The financial gain of colleges from our students is 3 to 1 for every dollar waived.
  • Our students remain working West Virginia citizens who make on average $30,000 more than their highest-earning parent.

Evidence of Success

  • 99% of HSTA graduates go to college as opposed to the West Virginia state average of 55%
  • 90% of HSTA graduates have graduated from college or are currently attending
  • 87% graduate college with a 4-year degree or higher
  • 33% go onto graduate or professional school

Program Costs and ROI

  • Cost of this initiative in its first year (including start-up costs): $150,000 for five years
  • Average yearly costs to maintain this initiative: $2,500,000 per year
  • Average number of individuals served per year by this initiative: 751-1000
  • Average annual rate of success for individuals meeting this initiative's goals: 90-100%

References and Accessory Materials

What is HSTA? (Acrobat (PDF) 988kB Apr23 19)

Health Sciences & Technology Academy Website

The Health Sciences and Technology Academy: An Educational Pipeline to Address Health Care Disparities in West Virginia

Taking a Look at the Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA): Student-Research Partnership Increases Survey Size, Hands-On STEM Learning, and Research-Community Connections

Demonstrating the Efficacy of the Health Sciences and Technology Academy: Using Archival Standardized Test Scores to Analyze an OST College-Preparatory Program for Underserved Youth