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Advancing SAS

It is our goal to serve every sixth grader in WV and beyond, and we can't do it without you.

Please see our video, some FAQs, and check out our Resource Library. You will find information about history of the program, evidence of our impacts, and plans for the future.

A Brief History of SAS

Watch and listen to a brief history of the SAS program and hear from the students, families, and teachers who have been impacted.

Find program research, presentations, and other detailed information in our Resources Library.

Resources Library

Frequently Asked Questions about our design and history:

Where did the idea for SAS come from?

WVU and the Summit Bechtel Reserve put their heads together to form the original concept of SAS. The Summit approached WVU in 2016 looking for ways to serve more students in WV, and WVU responded with a plan and program that addresses the needs of our youth. Together, they launched the program in 2018 as a pilot with local students from Beckley Stratton Middle School in Raleigh County. 

What is different or unique about SAS?

SAS is built entirely on research and data. The length of program, age of students, pedagogical strategies, sites selected, behavior management practices, lesson topics, training units - it's all based on real outcomes. Further, all of these strategies have been adapted for our students here in Appalachia, consider our unique issues, needs, and barriers, and are age-specific to sixth grade. 

How have you been deciding what counties will attend?

In 2019 when we launched our first full-scale program with 460 students, we focused on Nicholas, Fayette, and Raleigh Counties based solely on their proximity to the Summit. However, by the end of the 2019 season, we had also served Mercer, Harrison, and Monongalia because those counties were able to mobilize quickly when spaces opened due to registration withdrawals. Since then, we have opened our doors completely - we are excited to work with any county who is excited to work with us! We are actively looking for contacts in each of our 55 counties, so please let us know if you have connections.

Why do you insist on calling SAS a "school" and not a "camp" ? 

You'll never hear our team use the "C" word above because we are not a place where students simply come to get away, play games, and camp out. We use the outdoors as a laboratory for outcomes. We may play games, but each game is curated for the needs of that individual group at that particular moment in their group and individual development. We believe the word "school" better represents the intentionality behind everything the students do while with us.

How are individual students chosen to attend SAS? 

In the event that a whole 6th grade class is unable to attend SAS, schools are responsible for selecting students to attend. From talking with our schools, there are many methods they use to do this. Some will take the first students to return their paperwork, while others use surveys to gauge interest. SAS encourages methods that ensure random selection of students as this gives students from all backgrounds a chance to attend.

Why work only with 6th graders?

Research shows that by the age of 11 or 12, students have largely internally solidified their most defining characteristics. Questions like these are commonly becoming answered by a student's internal voice: "Am I good at school?," "Do I believe I can be successful?," "Am I a Math or English kid?," "Am I a cool kid?"

A huge part of our program's purpose is to build up our students - we focus on grit and perseverance, confidence, school- and community-belongingness, and other topics that fit into this early development. As such, we need to work with students while we can still help them realize their own worth and potential - before they've decided they can't do something. 

Why operate in the early fall?

For many schools in WV, this is a transition year from elementary to middle school. Students are meeting new classmates and teachers. Coming to SAS during this time means we can assist with building new relationships amongst students and between students and teachers without biases and stereotypes, and we can give direction and structure to an otherwise very difficult and chaotic social time for students. In this engineered environment, students are more free to express their most true self and learn to hear and accept their classmates' true selves. As with everything else, greater impacts of fall operation are supported by research. 

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