ELKINS - A forum hosted by the Elkins Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group Monday focused on how better educational standards could affect more than just graduation rates.
Bob Dunkerley, president and CEO of Helianthus LLC, began the meeting by engaging the group in activities that encouraged attendees to develop a formula for the sustainable growth of Elkins and the Randolph County area.
"If the community has a sense of place in itself, then it becomes attractive to newcomers from the outside," said Dunkerley.
Many taking part in Wednesday's forum said a community should have a strong support system and the availability of cultural experiences. Others were interested in attracting newcomers to the area, while several were concerned with the local educational system.
Dunkerley said creativity is often a lost concept within American education, and should be reintroduced into the standards. If creativity was cherished at a young age and continually fostered throughout a child's education, graduation rates would excel and more and more students would consider participating in higher education programs, he said.
"Many are very interested in getting creative folks who look at things differently. I think that's a very important concept. Not only are they creating new things in new ways, but essentially they're just thinking differently," said Dunkerley.
Dunkerley also touched on the importance of non-profit organizations concerning the arts in the Elkins area, saying that according to one study, the non-profits of the area yielded a yearly impact of nearly S6.2 million. Most people traveling to Elkins to participate in a function held by a non-profit organization spent an average of $65 dollars in the area, not including ticket prices, he said.
Educators attending Monday's forum at the Randolph County Courthouse said they are interested in looking for county, state and federal involvement in the educational system. Some also criticized the large amount of standardized testing currently being done in schools, saying it leaves students less able to think creatively.