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McDowell Middle students to receive laptop computers

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CHARLESTON, WV -

Appalachian Regional Commission grant funds, along with matching grant funding from Connect2Compete and the public-private partnership, Reconnecting McDowell, will put laptops in the hands of McDowell County middle school students.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, 2013 States Co-Chair for the ARC, announced Sept. 5 he had recommended the laptop project, along with nine other statewide projects that would total more than $4.3 million, to receive West Virginia's ARC Investment Program grants.

The West Virginia Development Office administers the state's ARC program, which is a partnership of federal, state and local participants providing financial and technical assistance for economic development and infrastructure projects.

According to Reconnecting McDowell, the 875 laptops will cost a total of $236,695. Tomblin allocated $117,750 from West Virginia's share of the Appalachian Regional Commission funds and Connect2Compete matched it with $118,945.

The laptops will stay at the middle schools until the students and families are trained on how to use them, security chips have been installed in the laptops and households in the area receive wireless capability.

Frontier Communications, a Reconnecting McDowell partner, recently wired every McDowell County school with expanded broadband Internet service, and Shentel Communications, another partner, is nearly finished wiring 10,000 homes in the county as well as offering reduced Internet service rates for families with school-aged children, according to Reconnecting McDowell.

Among the 10 projects Tomblin recommended for ARC funding were public wastewater service to 226 new residential and commercial customers in Marshall County, specialized instruction and guidance for approximately 120 at-risk students through Jobs for West Virginia Graduates, Inc. and mini-grants through the West Virginia Diabetes Coalitions Support Project.

"Whether used to purchase computers, establish community-based health education for those living with diabetes, or constructing the building blocks of economic development, we're putting these valuable ARC grants to use for their intended purpose – improve life in Appalachia," Tomblin said in a news release.

The ARC operates under the mission of assisting 13 states throughout the Appalachian region through job opportunities, education, health and other socio-economic factors.