Love West Virginia and want to help people see the state? Join the first-ever Governor’s School for Tourism!

22 April 2024- Gov. Jim Justice released details for the first-ever Governor’s School for Tourism, a 10-day summer academy for students interested in learning more about West Virginia’s growing tourism industry.

Those selected will tour nearly 1,000 miles of West Virginia, learning about tourism and hospitality through hands-on experiences. Students who are currently high school freshmen and sophomores during the 2023-2024 school year must apply online before Friday, April 26, 2024.  

“The Governor’s School for Tourism is going to be really special. 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,” Gov. Justice said. “Tourism has quickly become a growing part of West Virginia’s economy, and I want to make sure our talented students are aware of the variety of career pathways available to them. This program is something these students will never forget.”

Hosted by West Virginia University and supported by the West Virginia Department of Education’s Division of Instruction and Career Engagement, the Governor’s School for Tourism will provide students the opportunity to experience their home state as a visitor for 10days. Students will visit many of the state’s travel regions and meet with dozens of industry professionals who will offer a glimpse into careers in outdoor recreation, arts and culture, hospitality and lodging, and culinary arts. 

The traveling classroom will provide students with a wide range of experiences and lessons including:

  • Behind-the-scenes experiences at Oglebay’s Good Zoo and farm-to-table resort dining facility
  • Adventure tourism instruction at WVU Adventure Outdoor Education Center in Morgantown
  • West Virginia history lesson at Blennerhassett Island Historical Park
  • Sports tourism overview with Charleston Dirty Birds baseball team
  • First-hand off-roading experience and discussion of trail-based economic development with the Hatfield-McCoy Trails
  • Exploration of the whitewater rafting industry and an opportunity to paddle down the New River in the nation’s newest National Park
  • Culinary tourism lesson with James Beard nominated chef
  • A trek through Summersville Lake State Park, the state’s newest addition to the state parks system
  • Insider look at destination marketing highlighting the West Virginia Waterfall Trail
  • Hands-on lesson on trail building at Cacapon Resort State Park

Overnight accommodations will include a resort, campus dormitory, state park lodges, hotels, and glamping tents, exposing students to a diverse range of hospitality business models.

The Governor’s School for Tourism will accept one student from each county, as well as one student from each of the state’s five charter schools and a student from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. These students must be currently enrolled freshman or sophomores, during the 2023-2024 school year. The Governor’s Schools of West Virginia programs undergo a competitive application process to secure a spot in programs taught by esteemed college faculty. State funds provide tuition, room, board, activities, and instructional materials for each student.

While on the tour, students will have the opportunity to help the Tourism Department develop new promotional strategies to be used in the following year. After completing the program, students will serve as the Governor’s official tourism ambassadors for the year following their participation in the School. As ambassadors, they will work throughout the year with the Department of Tourism as local content creators and liaisons to the Department’s marketing team.  

The curriculum and educational components will be led by West Virginia University’s esteemed Hardy Family Hospitality and Tourism Management program within the John Chambers College of Business. Academic professionals from the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative will also be integral in planning, development of curriculum, and hands-on learning.  

The School for Tourism is one of seven Governor’s Schools in West Virginia. These summer residential programs offer students meaningful extended learning experiences in an immersive environment. 

Learn more or apply on the West Virginia Department of Education’s website. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 26, 2024.