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Schools in Rural W.Va. Aim to Improve Students’ Prospects

Day and night, coal trains still rumble through McDowell County, West Virginia. The mines in this southernmost part of the state once employed some 20,000 workers. And back then, the county seat of Welch was called Little New York. Today, most of those jobs and most of those people are gone. McDowell County is the poorest in the state, with the highest rates of heart disease, suicide and drug overdose in all of West Virginia. For public schools here, finding a way to keep the county’s roughly 3,500 students from becoming any one of those statistics is the number one priority.