Lesson Learned Column "Upshur Strong"


We have taken to honoring “Upshur Strong” awardees at our Board of Education public meetings. Perhaps the most esteemed honor, especially a highlight of the eighth-grade year, is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. At our April 16th meeting, our own Dr. Debra Harrison, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, disclosed that she felt greatly honored as a Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. She then presented our current Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Bryce Cayton, Nathan Cornett, Ian Donnen and Lakota Lantz. We gave a big round of applause to our latest Upshur Strong Knights.

To show how this achievement can carry forward for future educational achievement, I pointed out that BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples’ mother, Joanne, won in my Buckhannon-Upshur Class of 1966, and that our daughter Maria Luisa Ganan Almond received the honor for her B-U Class, continuing her education to earn a Medical Doctor degree in 2006 from Harvard Medical School.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, “The prestigious Golden Horseshoe program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia. In 1716 the Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, ‘Sic jurat transcendere monte,’ which means ‘Thus he swears to cross the mountains.’ Governor Spotswood presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition. The Golden Horseshoe has become known as a symbol of scholastic achievement to honor students who excel in the study of West Virginia.”

My lesson learned is that Governor Spotswood some 300 years ago was onto something both tangible and intangible. This pin symbolizes the student’s knowledge and understanding of their state’s proud heritage. Receiving the Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe turns on something powerful in the growth and development of a child.

Again according to the WVDE, “The primary goal of the program is to promote pride in our state, develop intellectual and participatory skills as well as foster attitudes that are necessary for students to participate as effective, involved and responsible citizens. The State Department of Education, in effect, uses the Golden Horseshoe award to honor ‘all-state’ West Virginia Studies students. The Golden Horseshoe Test has been administered in West Virginia since 1931 and is the longest-running program of its kind in any state.”

Both as a member of the BOE and as a Psychiatric Physician, I see merit in honoring students. To earn an academic award carries weight just as a sports letter. Our “Upshur Strong” certificate and photo-op follows as a second recognition. But then the ball is really rolling when our Upshur Schools website promotes the student, and a wide audience recognizes the student when the local newspapers do the same.
Most importantly, our student begins a process of believing in herself/himself. Our BOE wants our students to experience the power of positive thinking. We want them to wake up each day believing in themselves.

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