Giana Loretta, a junior at West Virginia University, is a passionate advocate for enhancing educational opportunities in our state. Giana started to recognize educational inequality from an early age. She saw first-hand how uneven distribution of educational resources leads to unequal access to opportunities, and thus, a widening achievement gap. She feels compelled to serve her state by advocating for education policy change. Giana’s proposed Newman Civic Fellowship project centers around the growing issue of school choice in West Virginia. She plans to produce a comprehensive policy analysis on school choice and then, through formal presentations of her findings, she will provide county and state policymakers with potential remedies to educational inequities. An additional element of her project will be to identify schools that especially lack academic opportunities and address their deficiencies directly through her role as President of Mountaineer Mentors, a student-led organization that visits high schools in our most rural and economically disadvantaged areas to provide college prep mentoring.
Knowing that many educational disparities plague West Virginia, my home, expanding academic accessibility has become the heart of my collegiate academic pursuits and all of my leadership and service endeavors. Growing up here, I saw how the maldistribution of opportunity exacerbated the gap in achievement between students of higher and lower socioeconomic statuses. Now, as WV is fostering the growth of school choice by developing charter schools and extensive voucher programs, I want to ensure that these policies promote equity, accessibility, and achievement for all students— not widen the achievement gap further. Thus, I will produce a comprehensive policy analysis and an empirical cost-benefit evaluation of alternatives to understand the overall impact of WV’s school choice policies on educational outcomes. Through publication and formal presentations, I intend to provide local policymakers with potential remedies to inequities. Additionally, I will identify schools during my research that especially lack academic opportunities and address their deficiencies directly through my role as President of Mountaineer Mentors: a WVU student organization that improves professional development in WV high schools through mentorship and informational presentations. Therefore, I aspire to protect already disadvantaged children from being further excluded from educational opportunities while also encouraging academic advancement.