8. Invest in current educational, economic and civic programs that have a consistent and proven track record of success.
The group's goal is to improve opportunities, which are measured through an established national index, by at least 10 percent in 10 years in all 50 states. The index helps establish where a community ranks and where it should focus its efforts to increase economic, educational and community resource opportunities.
West Virginia's overall opportunity score was 44.9 out of 100, which ranks us 43rd nationally.
The lone good news for the state economically is its unemployment rate is lower than the national rate. Other statistics, however, show our median household income is well below the national average; our population below the poverty line is well above the national average; and our percentage of households with high-speed Internet is significantly lower than the national average.
In education, West Virginia's on-time high school graduation rate is slightly better than the national average, but the percentage of adults with an associate's degree or higher is very low. Our percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds participating in preschool programs is well below the national average.
In the community health and civic life section of the index, West Virginia scores lower than the national average in civic group memberships, above the national average in youth not in school and not working, and below the national average in volunteerism. The only positive in this category was a significantly lower score of violent crimes per 100,000 in population.
The general tone of the summit was that the zip code you are born in shouldn't determine your life opportunities. The Opportunity Nation plan provides recommendations that we can all employ:
1. Mentor a young adult.
2. Get involved in a young person's life and let him or her know you care.
3. As an employee, mention to your human resource professional the employer toolkit on the Opportunity Nation website.
There are also recommendations for community leaders and even recommendations for people of different faiths.
The experience was an eye-opener to me. The summit was only a beginning. After spending time with my new colleagues from across the nation, I now have a network of diverse ideas. I am asking all West Virginians to contribute independently or as part of their existing economic, educational and civic organizations. Use some of the recommendations to help boost our score. The end result is increased opportunity ahead.
To learn more about Opportunity Nation, its Shared Plan and recommendations, go to opportunitynation.org.
Scalise, of Charleston, is executive director of the five-county Capital Resource Agency and this year's only Opportunity Leader from West Virginia. He can be reached at dscal...@crawv.org.