Elizabeth McCoy feels honored to receive the Governor's Recognition Certificate and to meet first lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, but that is only part of what she's accomplished in the past six months.
"Elizabeth's been a star since she got here," Gene Ochsendorf, the director of YouthBuild in Elkins, said this week. McCoy, 18, who had dropped out of Tygarts Valley High School, first came to YouthBuild last November to earn her GED degree.
Ochsendorf recognized her intelligence and leadership qualities, and arranged for her to attend a YouthBuild USA conference in Washington, D.C. in March.
While there, she was one of the 15 participants who were elected to a three-year term on the National Youth Council, out of the approximately 200 people who attended. She will attend a second conference in Boston in June.
"She represents Appalachia in terms of YouthBuild for the whole country," Ochsendorf said. "We're very proud of her."
It was Ochsendorf who alerted Davis & Elkins College to McCoy. The college shares Ochsendorf's belief in her: she is the first YouthBuild participant to be awarded the Highlands Scholarship to D&E.
"Elizabeth is a great representative and a really nice young lady, and she's a hard worker," Kevin Wilson, executive vice president of D&E, said this week. "She'll do very well here on campus. YouthBuild is a great part of the community, and we love being part of the community as well."
McCoy will make use of the $56,000 scholarship when she starts at D&E in the fall, majoring in pyschology. "I want to work with kids," she said this week. "I want to be a counselor."
She is serving as an Americorp VISTA with YouthBuild and has already completed her hours for the year, despite only working since November.
McCoy said the YouthBuild program has had an incredible impact on her life. "They had faith in me and believed in me, and now I believe in myself," she said."I feel like it's something that will stick with me forever,"
"I think that YouthBuild has honestly brought my family a lot closer," McCoy said. "Before, I never talked to my parents. Now my mother and I talk every day. I'm not afraid to tell her what's going on in my life now. I feel like I can open up and be honest with her. I fell like they're proud of me."
McCoy was quick to credit people who have shown faith in her, including Loren Fortney, YouthBuild principal and teacher, Tygarts Valley High School principal Steve Wamsley and TVHS guidance counselor Jay Rector.
"Any kid who honestly puts their mind to it can accomplish what I've accomplished," McCoy said. "All it takes is effort and determination. I just hope my story can do some good for someone else like me."