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The heroes of the day

It’s not every day a news item sparks both memories of riding around listening to music we weren’t supposed to in high school, and thoughts on the future of higher education in this country. But last week, our newsroom got a press release from West Virginia University at Parkersburg that did both.

It was the word “Metallica” in the headline that caught my eye. “WVU Parkersburg awarded $100,000 for new Metallica Scholars Initiative.” What?

I knew there was a reason I like them. Members of Metallica are not known for their snobbery. In fact, they’re known for, erm, thumbing their noses at those in the traditional social structure who have declared themselves superior because they have “succeeded” at “the way things have always been.”

Now, they’re putting their money where their mouths are and using their All Within My Hands foundation to partner with the American Association of Community Colleges to show they understand the value of the kinds of careers for which community colleges prepare students. It’s refreshing. The band says it started the foundation to “invest in the people and places that have supported the band.”

“As a touring entity, we are in direct involvement with multiple essential career choices along our path,” said vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield. “From electrical, professional driving, culinary, mechanical maintenance, public safety, logistical organizers. And that just scratches the surface. Those, along with a multitude of other technical careers, make our touring and our performances possible. We are passionate and grateful to these trades and tradespeople.”

Yes. Most of you have probably seen by now the social media admonition to take a look at the workers who were deemed essential during the pandemic and consider careers in those fields. Many of them require the kind of training one can get at a school like WVU-P.

These aren’t just “disposable heroes,” or people for whom the goal is a prestigious title and “nothing else matters.” “One” look at the kinds of jobs available to people credentialed through WVU-P’s programs and a students might think “I’ll have a job ‘wherever I may roam!'” In fact, a student may find out that the “holier than thou” types are really just “King Nothing,” and be able to celebrate their good decision with a little “whiskey in the jar.”

(It’s best I don’t attempt to shoehorn “Enter Sandman” or “Fade to Black” in here somewhere.)

At WVU-P, the money will be used to support students looking to earn an associate of applied science in computer information technology.

“Selection for the Metallica Scholars Initiative is further proof that WVU Parkersburg is among the top tier of higher education institutions, not just locally and in West Virginia, but nationally as well,” said WVU-P President Dr. Chris Gilmer. “Only nine colleges were selected this year from an amazing field of applicants nationwide, and we thank this iconic band, its foundation and our good friends at the AACC for their confidence in us.”

I never thought I’d consider Metallica in the same light as Dolly Parton when it comes to celebrities who decide to use their money to do something that will make a generational difference for families in places like rural Appalachia, but here we are.

Congratulations to WVU-P, for being chosen to receive the award. It is always nice to be reminded we have quality institutions preparing people for real-world careers right here at home — and that others are taking notice!

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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