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Mountaineer Connect aims to outfit West Virginia students with career resources — and it has plans to expand in 2021

DAVIS – Mountaineer Connect is working hard to give West Virginia students – both those in high school and college – the tools to obtain their dreams.

Creator Daniel Mason said he started the mentor and guidance program to give back to students in West Virginia – especially those in Upshur County where he attended school.

Mason said Mountaineer Connect is a concept he came up with this past fall.

“It is something I have been working on for the last few years,” Mason said. “I put it into action about three months ago, and the idea is, there are lots of smart, resourceful students in West Virginia that sometimes do not have connections for career opportunities and education opportunities to learn what they want to do with their lives.”

He said many of his ideas for Mountaineer Connect came from his life growing up in Buckhannon.

“I went to Buckhannon-Upshur Middle and High schools and I think, since then, I have met a lot of different people and learned about careers and wanted to bring this experience together and provide resources for local kids across West Virginia so they could access these opportunities and mentorships that can be beneficial for schooling and careers,” Mason said. “In the early stages, most of the mentors working with me were from Buckhannon, but that has expanded.”

Mason said recently a student was interested in a few different colleges.

“They were interested in a few ivy league colleges and a few colleges located out of state,” he said. “This student did not know anyone who had attended any of those colleges, so we are setting him up with people who graduated from those colleges so he can learn more about the campus and learn about life there. He can ask questions and become more comfortable while he is making his decision regarding where to apply and where to attend school.”

Other ways Mountaineer Connect helps is allowing students to speak with people in their intended career paths to learn more about what majors they may want to choose or pursue.

“One student who is a senior in high school is interested in a career in computer science and computer engineering,” Mason said. “Some of the mentors I set the students up with are helping guide them on whether they want to study computer science or mathematics and decide which will help them get to their desired career.”

Mason said the assistance provided by Mountaineer Connect runs the gamut.

“Some students want to learn what it means to be a prosecutor or what a corporate lawyer does every day. They also discover folks who will help them choose their major or help sophomores, juniors and seniors learn more about colleges by meeting mentors who have attended those schools,” Mason said. “It covers the spectrum of all of those choices.”

Students who feel they could benefit from Mountaineer Connect can contact them, and their services are free of charge to students. Mountaineer Connect is a nonprofit organization. Mason said there is a form on their website to complete in order to receive help and the website is www.mountaineerconnect.com.

He said once students complete the form, they will be contacted and an introductory phone call will be set up to get information and design a program for each student. Information about Mountaineer Connect is also available on Facebook.

In fact, one Mountaineer Connect event is already slated for 2021. The nonprofit is sponsoring a career fair online on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

“I am planning on getting nine mentors from nine different careers to speak for 10 minutes,” Mason said. “It will be an hour-and-a-half session and students can log on and hear things like a doctor talking about what it was like to attend medical school. They can hear a lawyer talk about what it was like in law school. They can hear folks talking about their careers in construction or engineering, so students can get information in a lot of different careers as they think about their upcoming career path.”

“We are going to focus on careers students probably do not know as much about and careers where there are not as many people in the community students can reach out to,” he added.

Mason said the career fair will be a webinar where students can log on and following the presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. He said the session will be recorded and available to view following the session for those who cannot attend the live webinar.

Mason said he started Mountaineer Connect because he believes in students in West Virginia.

“I really just wanted to give back and use the resources I have gained in my career,” Mason said. “I wanted to build something that will be impactful for students here and really give back to the state and the people I grew up with. I think this can really help anyone who participates.”

Although Mountaineer Connect is starting with career fairs and mentoring, Mason wants everyone to know that he plans to grow the program.

“We want to work with students all over the state,” he said. “Our hope is to have physical locations across the state, post-coronavirus, at some point where we can do in-person mentoring and tutoring services. One program we hope to offer, maybe as early as spring, is an internship with companies – either virtual or in-person – where we go to big companies so students can get their foot in the door and get them to have dedicated internships through Mountaineer Connect.

“We have big plans for the future, so stay tuned for some of our upcoming programs,” Mason said.

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