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“We invest in our people”

It’s often said that West Virginia’s biggest asset is its people. That sentiment is shared by Blake Humphrey, junior economics and political science dual-major at West Virginia University.
Blake HumphreyAccording to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 360,649 West Virginians gave more than 39.32 million hours to volunteer efforts in 2015.

Humphrey, a Wheeling native, says he hopes to inspire even more young West Virginians to join volunteer efforts.

“I’d really like to…empower the young people in our state, especially high school-aged students—and college-aged students, for that matter—to get involved with their local communities,” Humphrey said. “I know that that’s said a lot, but I think that’s going to start with meaningful conversations with young people about volunteerism and the important role that it plays, and then finding and matching a community need and identifying community need and different projects that young people could get involved with.”

Humphrey now has the opportunity to engage with students as Volunteer West Virginia’s youngest commissioner.

Volunteer West Virginia is the state’s Commission for National and Community Service, and works to empower communities through service and volunteerism. Humphrey was appointed to the commission by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin before the end of his term.

During his three-year appointment, Humphrey said that he looks forward to working with AmeriCorps and non-profits with programs aimed at high-school aged students, as well as within the WVU community. 

Humphrey’s stint with volunteerism began at age 14, when he began to volunteer with the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley, a Wheeling organization that provides children and adults with special needs the opportunity to play baseball on an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant field. These “miracle fields” can be use in all types of weather, and are free of obstacles so players with wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or other mobility issues have room to play.

The Wheeling Miracle League petitioned to have the field built, then continued to spend time with the players as “buddies.”

“It was just so rewarding, back then even, to see young people doing something that they enjoyed,” Humphrey said. “So, for me, that was probably one of my most formidable experiences with volunteering.

“Every time I engage in a new service project or activity, I really find out more about myself, and also I get to strengthen and deepen connections with West Virginia, and our tremendous people here,” he said.

Humphrey also said that he believes volunteerism is the key to keeping West Virginians in the state, as well as helping them succeed.

“I think that by serving the state of West Virginia, people are going to realize that there’s a lot here, a lot of opportunities and a lot of potential,” he said. “That’s going to hopefully lead to more young people staying in the state.”

Increasing access to education is one of Humphrey’s starting points. On campus, he helped start up BlueToGold, a program designed to help WVU students expand upon their financial literacy and make better decisions. Humphrey also works on the WVU Open Education Committee, which works with faculty and WVU libraries to offer open-sourced textbooks to students. The organization successfully transitioned the University’s first-year seminar classes away from physical textbooks.

Humphrey said he wants to make education at all levels—primary, secondary, higher education and career and technical schools—accessible to all West Virginians on a larger scale.

“I think the future is bright, and I think it’s going to start with having people-oriented solutions, and really making sure that no West Virginian is left behind, Humphrey said. “We invest in our people, [and] we really make sure that they are given every opportunity to succeed and rise up.”

Humphrey was recently admitted into the WVU School of Law, and is interested in aviation economics and law, legal policy, administrative law, corporate civil law and trial law. He anticipates finishing his undergraduate degrees in spring 2017.