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Notebook: Setting the stage for the second round

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Notes from around West Virginia as the quarterfinal round is set to kickoff Friday evening:

Spring Mills, Frankfort and East Hardy look to knock off top seeds

The No. 1 seeds in all three classes bring 11-0 records into the quarterfinal rounds and visiting teams have upsets on their minds. Only one of these contests features a regular season rematch. In Class AAA, Spring Mills (7-4) looks to avenge a 77-0 against Martinsburg from week seven. Cardinals’ head coach Chad Williams says that game marked a turning point in their season, and they have won four of five games since.

“What we were doing wasn’t working,” Williams said. “We got together as a coaching staff and pretty much changed everything we were doing. The results speak for themselves. We are not the same team that played there five weeks ago. Hopefully what we are doing now and how much better we are now as a team — we can put on a better show.”

With a 28-27 win at Greenbrier East last Friday, the Cardinals claimed their first playoff victory in the seven-year history of the program.

“We’re a young program. We don’t really have a community or an alumni base being a newer school,” Williams said. “But people are starting to pay attention to us. I am hearing things out in the community that people want to get involved in the program. The students and the teachers, I have never seen them get excited about football the way they are right now.”

While Spring Mills looks to end Martinsburg’s 53-game win streak, Frankfort gets a chance to halt the state’s second-longest win streak. The Falcons (9-2) visit a Fairmont Senior team Friday night that has won 25 consecutive games. Their last loss came in the 2017 state championship game against Bluefield.

“Apparently according to everyone we are the underdog,” said Frankfort head coach Kevin Whiteman. “But we will go down there and play the game. We’ll just prepare the best we can and give our best effort. I have no doubt my boys are going to do that.”

Frankfort won their first postseason game since the 2014 semifinals last week, defeating Nicholas County 58-12.

Joe Brocato/

Frankfort takes on Fairmont Senior in the Class AA quarterfinals

In Class A, East Hardy (8-3) will trek across the state to face top-seeded Doddridge County. The Cougars are just two years removed from a spot in the Super Six. East Hardy has won eight of their last nine games, including a 12-7 opening round win over Midland Trail. The Cougars have made a six-win improvement this fall and second-year head coach Devon Orndorff is not surprised his team is still standing.

“This is the standard. Coach Will (Chad Williams) built the program and I was lucky enough to be a part of it when it was being built and these boys were as well. Winning is all we know,” Orndorff said. “The guys were motivated by that 2-8 season in the offseason.”

Scouting trip pays off double for Musselman

With a bye week to close out their regular season, Musselman (9-2) coaches hit the road to scout potential playoff opponents in week eleven. As it turns out, they scouted their first two postseason foes when Parkersburg faced Parkersburg South. The Applemen knocked off the Big Reds 48-29 last Friday and they will visit the Patriots Saturday.

“We crunched the numbers and it looked like they (PSHS) was going to be the four-seed and we were going to be the five, barring a crazy upset,” said Musselman head coach Brian Thomas. “I have a lot of respect for Parkersburg South and think they are a really good ball club. They play tough and are coached very well.”

Photo by Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy

Musselman’s Brian Thomas and Caleb Hardy

Golden Bears migrate south seeking program-best 12th win

After a 55-13 opening-round win over Wyoming East, Oak Glen (11-0) will visit fellow unbeaten Poca Saturday afternoon. The Golden Bear offense is well-balanced. They average 180 passing yards per game and rush for 259 yards. Head coach Ted Arneault, Jr. says an improved offensive line has led the way.

“We were more pass-heavy last year and we wanted to run the ball more this year,” Arneault, Jr. said. “We knew our offensive line would jell. Our offensive line has really worked together in tandem. We have six kids that work into the rotation and are just outstanding.”

Greg Carey/

Oak Glen quarterback Nick Chaney leads a balanced Golden Bears’ offense.

Cabell Midland meets GW for first time since 2015

Mountain State Athletic Conference Champion Cabell Midland (11-0) hosts George Washington Friday evening. The Patriots (8-3) have won eight of their last nine games after an 0-2 start.

“It always starts up front and they have gotten a heck of a lot better over the years,” said Cabell Midland head coach Luke Salmons. “It is going to be a tough game but that’s what you want in round two. That’s why you play.”

If the Knights win, they will guarantee themselves a regular season rematch in Ona versus the winner of the Capital-Spring Valley quarterfinal.

Photo by Chuck Roberts

Cabell Midland’s Luke Salmons

Pendleton and Ritchie look to build off first home playoff victories

The No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in Class A each made school history last weekend by collecting their first postseason victories at home. Ritchie County defeated South Harrison 40-6 and Pendleton County knocked off Moorefield 26-7.

“It was a phenomenal feeling,” said Pendleton County head coach Zac Smith. “We had a great turnout and we’re expecting a good one this Saturday. It was a great win for not only our town and community but for our program. I think I enjoyed the weekend more than the kids did.”

“All season I have been impressed with how they have handled each game — in a win or in a loss,” said Ritchie County head coach Rick Haught. “Last week, since it was our first playoff home win, it seemed like that game was more of a hurdle to cross. This is the week there seems to be a lot of buzz.”

Pendleton (10-1) will host St. Marys Saturday while Ritchie County (10-1) will welcome Wheeling Central Catholic to Ellenboro. The Wildcats now own seven postseason victories in school history while the Rebels have collected four.

Greg Carey/

Ritchie County’s Tre Moss fights for yardage against Parkersburg Catholic.

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Kinsey, Bennett Herd handle Howard to snap three-game skid

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Sophomore Taevion Kinsey helped Marshall University break out of a slump in a big way Thursday night, scoring 14 points and dishing out 14 assists to lead the Thundering Herd past Howard, 91-63, at Cam Henderson Center.

This was the final game in the Men Against Breast Cancer Invitational.

Marshall finished with 29 assists Kinsey, who hit 7-of-8 shots, also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as the Herd enjoyed a 45-31 edge on the boards.

The Herd made it a good night for Mikel Beyers as this was the PurpleForPeyton night in memory of Beyers’ stepbrother Peyton Munger, who passed away on Friday. Attendance was 5,383 and Herd fans were asked to wear purple, Munger’s favorite color.

Marshall (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with the win. 

Howard dropped to 0-6. The Herd’s idle until Nov. 29 when its takes on SEC member Florida in Gainesville.

Iran Bennett hit for a career-best 17 points to lead Marshall in scoring. He made 7-of-12 shots from the field. Jannson Williams canned 6-of-8 and totaled 15 points and Jarrod West rounded out the double-figure scoring with 11.

Kyle Foster led Howard in points with 14, hitting three three-pointers. Charles Williams, who led the Bison in scoring with an 18.8 average starting the night, finished with 13. He struggled from the floor, making 2-of-13 shots. Howard’s starting five made just 11-of-38 attempts from the field.

Williams made two free throws with 13:07 left in the first half to get the Bison within two at 15-13. Darius George scored on a tip-in for the Herd and Williams added a three-pointer at 12:13 to hike the lead to seven and Marshall continued to roll from that point. 

The Conference USA squad’s lead at the half was 47-27. The biggest lead was 33 at 85-52 with 4:18 left. As for points in the paint, Marshall enjoyed at 64-15 edge.

Marshall is 2-0 all-time now against Howard, which belongs to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. 

This was the fourth of six straight away games for the Bison. 

The MABC is a non-profit that provides knowledge, tools, and support services for men that are helping wives and mothers battling breast cancer.

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The prosperous Eastern Panhandle

A new report by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) confirms what anecdotal evidence has told us—the Eastern Panhandle (Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan Counties) continues to be the strongest economic region of the state.

The just-released report lists a number of facts about economic performance in the region. Among them:

—Local employers have added 10,000 new jobs since 2010, by far more than any other area of the state.

—The opening of Proctor & Gamble’s $500 million manufacturing facility and Macy’s fulfillment center have driven broad-based growth in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing sectors.

—The unemployment rate, which peaked above eight percent there during the Great Recession, has dropped to just above three percent, the lowest of any West Virginia region.

—The size of the Eastern Panhandle’s labor force, a key factor in economic growth, has increased by 11,000 since 2010.  Nearly two-thirds of the working-age adults in the counties are in the labor force, compared with only about half statewide.

—People are moving to the area. The Eastern Panhandle has added more than 64,000 residents over the last two decades. Statewide, the population has been stagnant or declining in most areas.

—The area has benefited significantly from its proximity to major metropolitan areas. “Earnings outside of the three-county area account for more than one-third of the region’s income.”  Roughly 40 percent of the panhandle’s workforce works in the greater Washington D.C. area.

The economic growth is reflected in wages and benefits. According to the report, the mean household income in 2017 was just under $78,000, nearly $20,000 higher that the state mean.

The BBER researchers expect the trend to continue.  They forecast growth in population, employment, wages and salaries to continue at least through 2024.

The Eastern Panhandle has many advantages that much of the rest of the state does not, including available flat land for development and easy proximity to population centers.  It also has a larger pool of available workers.

The Eastern Panhandle has always been somewhat of an outlier from the rest of West Virginia.  The Eastern Continental Divide has long been a physical and cultural barrier separating the eastern most counties from the Mountain State.

That has led to frequent complaints by residents there that Charleston doesn’t pay enough attention to them.  However, that has become less so now that Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan Counties make up the most dynamic region of the state.




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Kanawha commissioners want law addressing grease traps

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission is discussing how to prevent children from falling into grease traps in light of an incident earlier this month.

Commissioners want to see county health officials as well as a state law addressing such traps after a child fell into a grease trap at the Southridge Shopping Center on Nov. 11.

Five-year-old Kambria Cvechko fell into the grease trap outside of Las Trancas while playing; as she was running, she stepped on the plastic lid and fell inside.

Kambria’s mother, Kara, rescued her daughter with the assistance of two other children, who sat on the woman’s legs.

“She’s lucky and there are other kids that are lucky, but then there are kids that aren’t as lucky,” she said.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said the county health department should have the authority to address grease traps, including rigorous inspections.

“In the meantime, secure these very dangerous situations,” he said. “This is an unnecessary hazard that can cost a child their life.”

A 3-year-old child died in September after falling into a grease trap outside of a restaurant in Rochester, New York. Authorities tried to rescue the child but were unsuccessful.

“I actually called (the family) and sent my condolences,” Kara Cvechko said. “We have something in common, and I wanted her to know that this is not her fault. I know how easy it is for them to just go.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department has approved a new rule requiring trap covers to be secure.

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Manchin, Capito push lawmakers to fund miners’ pensions, health care

Editor’s note: Senator Manchin’s proposed amendment was not part of continuing resolution that passed the Senate Thursday night. There was also no such amendment considered by the House earlier this week.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s two U.S. senators have a message for Congress: fund the pensions and health care for thousands of coal miners before the year ends.

On the last voting day before December, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.a., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., spoke Thursday on the Senate floor about passing the Bipartisan American Miners Act, which will shore up health care and pension costs if passed.

“These gentlemen worked for these pensions. They paid into the pensions (and) they should receive them,” Capito said. “Pension benefits for mine workers planned went to individuals in all 55 of West Virginia counties, so this is truly an issue that impacts my entire state.”

Manchin, Capito and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the bill earlier this month; the measure would transfer excess money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 pension plan. It would also fund health care for coal miners whose employers went bankrupt in 2018 and 2019.

Manchin and Capito have said the bill will affect 105,000 miners nationwide, including 92,000 people receiving pensions.

Multiple lawmakers are co-sponsoring the measure, including Republican. Sen. Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, both of Ohio, Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey and Virginia Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

Manchin introduced an amendment on Thursday to have the bill attached to a continuing resolution funding the government through Dec. 20.

“Time is running out for our coal miners, and we need a fix now,” Manchin said. “Not in a few weeks and not in 2020, but now.”

The amendment was not included in House Resolution 3055, which provides funds for multiple agencies. The resolution passed the Senate. The House of Representatives passed the resolution on Tuesday to continue funding the government. President Donald Trump signed the measure following the Senate’s vote.

After the vote, Manchin expressed disappointment the Bipartisan American Miners Act was not included in the bill.

“I will do everything I can to get this fix into the spending bill we’ll need to pass in December,” he said. “I won’t allow hardworking miners and their families to lose the health care and pensions they have earned, they have paid for, and they deserve.”

In a video released Thursday afternoon, Capito said she stressed the importance of passing the measure during a lunch meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and several Republican senators. West Virginia’s junior senator added she and the president had an “extended conversation” regarding the issue.

“He’s concerned about it as well, and I was pleased to bring that to his attention today,” she said.

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Mountaineers beat Butler in NCAA Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The West Virginia men’s soccer team is onto the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.

Riding momentum from three consecutive wins in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Mountaineers beat Butler, 5-1, in Thursday’s first-round match at Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl.

Rodrigo Robles Grajera and Josh DiMatteo each scored two goals in the win.

“It was a great performance,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “Credit the players — they executed the game plan fantastically. Credit my entire staff for having this team prepared. We went out, we executed, and we had a great game plan for a very, very good Butler team that obviously deserved to be here, as well. But we were clicking tonight.”

Robles Grajera

With the win, West Virginia (10-8-2) advances to play at Marshall in a second-round match at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Against the Bulldogs, a goal from Andres Muriel Albino in the 36th minute broke a 1-all tie and sent West Virginia into halftime with the lead.

The score stayed that way until the 81st minute when DiMatteo doubled West Virginia’s advantage.

Robles Grajera and DiMatteo added insurance goals soon after to provide the final margin.

Robles Grajera gave the Mountaineers the lead less than 3 minutes into the match on a penalty kick, before Butler (11-7-2) got an equalizer from Rhys Myers.

Tsubasa Takada, Sebastian Garcia-Herreros and Luke Mccormick each had an assist in the win.

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Seven Class AA schools reclassified starting in 2020-2021 season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Seven schools currently competing in Class AA will be on the move starting with the next academic year (2020-2021). Oak Hill, Lincoln County and Bridgeport will be moving up to Class AAA. James Monroe, River View, Petersburg and Man will be moving down to Class A.

New enrollment numbers released by the WVSSAC place 32 teams in Class AAA, 37 in Class AA and 56 in Class A. 45 of those Class A school currently field football programs. These classifications will be in place until the conclusion of the 2023-2024 academic year.

These classifications are for all WVSSAC sponsored sports with the exception of basketball. The new 4-class basketball classifications will be released at a later date.

New WVSSAC Classifications

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Brown: Quarterback change won’t affect Oklahoma State explosiveness

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oklahoma State is without starting quarterback Spencer Sanders for the rest of the season, but West Virginia coach Neal Brown does not expect that to make matters any easier for the Mountaineers when the Cowboys visit on Saturday afternoon.

Sanders underwent thumb surgery this week, setting up Dru Brown as Oklahoma State’s presumptive starter against the Mountaineers.

When it comes to playing the position, Brown is the farthest thing from being green. Much like West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege, Brown has a host of experience playing the position for a Group of Five program.

Brown started 23 games in two seasons at Hawaii, passing for 5,496 yards with 40 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Also similarly to Doege, Brown is a mobile quarterback even though he’s not necessarily a speed demon. Brown has gained 326 yards and six touchdowns on 149 career rushing attempts.

“He’s a fifth-year senior. He’s experienced. He can run, just like the Sanders kid,” Neal Brown said on his Thursday night radio show. “I don’t think it changes anything.”

With or without Sanders, the Cowboys intent is to establish the running game around Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher.

“They’re built on running. Chuba is physical and durable,” Brown said. “They’re built around their offensive line and him.”

Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 with 19 plays of at least 50 yards this season. Oklahoma, the next-closest team, has 11 such plays.

Four-man fun, Part I

West Virginia’s defense came out with a major wrinkle against Kansas State, playing the majority of the game with four down linemen after spending almost the entire season in a three-man front.

“It was fun,” said defensive lineman Reese Donahue. “It was really enjoyable to be out there with almost everybody. It felt like everyone got a piece of the action instead of a couple guys are in, a couple guys are rotating out.”

The reasoning was simple enough since the Wildcats use fullbacks and two tight ends with more frequency than most of the Big 12. But playing in a 4-2-5 really highlighted the strengths of defensive end Jeffrey Pooler. Though he only finished with two tackles, both came behind the line of scrimmage. Pooler frequently harrassed K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson throughout the game.

“Having a four-down front really set us up for a lot of 1-on-1’s for me to get into the backfield,” Pooler said. “They couldn’t double-team certain ways. It set up real well for us.

“Each week, Coach Vic and the defensive staff do a good job of getting us in the best position to make plays. We have a versatile defense. Guys who can do a lot and move a lot.”

It wasn’t without its challenges. The Mountaineers rotated five linemen to play those four spots, increasing everyone’s typical snap count.

“It was hard,” Donahue said. “Depth is an issue when you play four guys. But it was a lot of fun.”

Four-man fun, Part II

For the first time since beating Kansas in the Big 12 opener, the Mountaineers made positive progress in the running game at Kansas State. Though they finished with 85 rushing yards on paper, they gained 103 when sacks and the game-ending kneel-down are removed from the stats.

Part of that was because of a reworked interior line. Junior Chase Behrndt took over for freshman Briason Mays at center, while Mike Brown played his best game at left guard while James Gmiter continued to grow into his new spot at right guard.

But what may have helped even more was West Virginia finally getting to play against a four-man defensive front. It seems little coincidence that WVU’s five-game losing streak coincided with playing against three-man fronts featuring hefty nose tackles who dwarfed the Mountaineers’ first-year starter at center.

“All year, those guys have had a head-up nose over them,” said senior left tackle Colton McKivitz said. “Just seeing a different front was kind of a relief for the centers. Seeing that extra space, we were able to get some outside runs on them and move with relative speed inside on the O-line. A different look was nice to see.”

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the respite from three-man fronts will be short. Oklahoma State primarily plays with three-down linemen.

Combing Canada

The biggest star in Saturday’s game is Hubbard, the Oklahoma State running back who hails from Alberta, Canada.

“Canadian football is underrated,” Brown said.

As it turns out, the location of multiple Tim Horton’s locations in Morgantown may soon be working to Brown’s benefit on the recruiting trail.

“That’s an area we’ve pinpointed in recruiting,” Brown said. “You may see some movement in December.”

The Mountaineers already have one Canadian on the roster in defensive back Alonzo Addae, who has impressed on the scout team as he sits out after transferring from New Hampshire.

WVU is in pursuit of a pair of native Canadians playing their high school football in Florida — defensive ends Akheem Mesidor and Wesley Bailey.

Uniform update

West Virginia will wear gold helmets, blue jerseys and gold pants against Oklahoma State.

Game 1️⃣1️⃣

Senior Day#HailWV | #TrustTheClimb

Presented by @BookExchangeWV

— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) November 21, 2019

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Hyperloop seeks to blow WVU engineering students’ minds

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kristen Hammer, business development director for Virgin Hyperloop One, had a straightforward message for dozens of West Virginia University engineering students.

Kristen Hammer

“The journey that you take should not be scary.”

Yeah, right. How about when you’re in a pod exceeding 600 miles an hour in a vacuum sealed tube?

Fortunately, Hammer was referring to life’s journeys. Hammer, whose educational background is in welding, was exhorting student to think big.

She presented the mind-blowing possibilities of Hyperloop One as representatives of the company swung through Morgantown while determining where to place a certification center that would involve high-speed testing and regulatory issues.

MORE: West Virginia makes its pitch for Hyperloop high-speed pod transit development center

The hyperloop is a proposed method of high-speed transportation for people or freight through a system of tubes.

A hyperloop system could connect cities, allowing transportation in pods zipping through sealed tubes at speeds of 600 miles an hour or more.

This is possible because of the magic of a “proprietary magnetic levitation system.”

It’s right out of the Jetsons, but for the traveler Hammer said it’s fairly mundane — a matter of locating a nearby portal on an app, heading that way and then zipping to another town.

“You can sit there with your hot coffee and not spill anything on yourselves,” she told the Morgantown crowd.

But more research and testing are necessary.

While state officials, including representatives of the Development Office, plus WVU and Marshall universities, are making their best pitch to lure Hyperloop One’s certification center to West Virginia, the pitch on Thursday evening was meant to capture students’ imaginations.

“We’ve come here because West Virginia is interested,” Hammer said. “The fact that you’re all here and listening and learning is really speaking a lot for this region.”

The Hyperloop One public presentation took place at Vantage Ventures on University Avenue, where momentum has sprung from a partnership with West Virginia native John Chambers, former chairman of Cisco Systems.

As students started filled the seats and then stood at the side and back of the room, overhead speakers played “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and then vintage Fleetwood Mac.

Javier Reyes

“I cannot tell you how excited I am to be here tonight,” said Javier Reyes, dean of the Chambers College of Business and Economics. “Now the future is here.”

Reyes aimed his introductions at the students who gathered.

“You can dream it, you can build it,” he said.

Students participated in a question and answer session by tossing each other a microphone safely encased in a puffy cube with WVU branding. They asked questions about financial efficiency and safety considerations.

A mechanical and aerospace engineering student Matt Barker, a Detroit native, asked a question about how Virgin Hyperloop One differs from a concept promoted by Elon Musk. The two have similar ideas but are not directly connected.

“I was really excited to ask my question because I’m really passionate about this stuff,” Barker said.

Brad McElhinny/MetroNews

West Virginia University engineering student Matt Barker asks a question about the Hyperloop transportation system.

Even for these early adapters, development of the hyperloop might still take a while. Hammer described full implementation of about a decade from now.

“You’re going to go out in the world and before you know it you’re going to be riding hyperloops,” Hammer told the students.

Hammer invited students to stay in touch with the company.

“We’re always looking for good talent. I know you have that here,” she said.

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Jobs & Hope West Virginia program graduates first class

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The state’s new multiagency recovery and training program has its first class of graduated students.

Jobs & Hope West Virginia, a program meant to combine addiction recovery programs with career training to help West Virginians overcome obstacles that might keep them out of the job market, graduated around a dozen individuals on Thursday in front of Gov. Jim Justice.

Office of the Governor

Jim Justice

Justice, who created the program as Jim’s Dream a year ago, spoke alongside leaders from the West Virginia National Guard at the program’s base at Camp Dawson near Kingwood.

“Let’s get treatment if needed, and let’s get treatment for free if needed,” Justice said of his original thoughts about the program. “Then let’s get real training for free to where you are really trained to do something.”

The graduates participated in a week-long 54-hour grader operator course taught by heavy construction equipment instructors with the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG).

Justice spoke highly of the relationships built between graduates and members of the WVNG.

“The thing that is really unbelievable that you should get is they are thanking you,” he said to the graduates. “They are asking you to stay in touch with them, where they can help you even more.”

Today I was honored to present certificates to the graduates at our first Jobs & Hope WV training class — a grader operator course! The Jobs and Hope Program gives these men and women a real opportunity for success! #WV #WVGov

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) November 21, 2019

Participants in the program have a final step of the expungement of a non-violent criminal record after completion.

Justice told them all on Thursday that life is about how a person responds from making a mistake.

“We all drift and we all make mistakes, every last one of us. There is nobody perfect in this world.”

Jobs & Hope officially launched last month and drew $29.7 million in funding for its first year from multiple state agencies.

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