Birthday with a purpose: Governor’s Schools ongoing for state’s 161st

Thursday was West Virginia Day and Dustin Lambert was spending the morning of it on Interstate 77.

He was motoring from Charleston, the Mountain State’s capital city, to Wheeling, which was assigned that designation in the days after West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863 — as the Civil War raged.

“How’s that for a 161st birthday?” he asked, speaking into his hands-free device, while behind the wheel.

Lambert, a former advanced placement history teacher and middle school principal, coordinates student programs for the state Department of Education.

Those programs include the Governor’s Schools of West Virginia, the intellectual enterprise that introduces top-performing middle school and high school students from all 55 counties to an immersive college experience.

Students stay in college dorms while attending seminar-style classes taking in everything from deep dives into STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — to the power of art in public spaces.

The effort dates back to 1984, when then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller fronted an academic activity to keep students engaged over the summer.

Meanwhile, the 2024 edition of the Governor’s Schools launched this week, and “engaged” is the word, Lambert said.

“I just got back from WVU and Fairmont State,” he said, “and I was very impressed by the students and the instructors. People couldn’t have been more excited or engaged.”

He’s referring to the Governor’s Computer Science Institute, which completes its work Saturday at the school in Morgantown, and the Governor’s Honors Academy, which wraps July 3 at the university in neighboring Fairmont, Marion County.

Other gatherings on literacy and entrepreneurship will be at the West Virginia Culture Center, West Virginia State University and Marshall — along with return stops for STEM at WVU.

Visit for full details on the summer offerings.

Lambert was on the road to Wheeling Thursday for the inaugural Governor’s School for Tourism.

A total of 60 students were set to meet up at Oglebay Park, a top tourist attraction in the Northern Panhandle city, before boarding two charter buses bound for various historical stops across West Virginia.

“They’re going to see a lot of places and they’re going be exhausted by the time we’re done,” Lambert said, chuckling.

The nearly 1,000-mile tour concludes June 29 in the Eastern Panhandle.

“The Governor’s School for Tourism is going to be really special,” Gov. Jim Justice said in April, when he announced the new addition.

“High school students will get to travel all across our great state for 10 days and learn about what makes West Virginia’s tourism industry one of the top in the world,” the governor continued.  

That means an atlas of “career pathways,” Justice said, for students to discover and explore.

Pathways, Lambert said, echoing the governor, that just might keep West Virginia’s brightest home.

“Young people are literally the future of our great state,” the Department of Education administrator said.

“I can’t think of a better way to do what we’re doing on this day.”

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