iBELIEVE program to host benefit dinner

PARKERSBURG – A foundation that seeks to teach and build leadership skills to Appalachian students in Ohio and West Virginia is holding its first benefit dinner in the area.

Connie Miley, director of programming and outreach for iBELIEVE, held a press conference at Parkersburg High Monday morning to announce the iBELIEVE benefit dinner. The dinner will be Nov. 6 at the Nemesis Shrine Temple in Parkersburg. Keynote speaker is former WNBA player and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kate Smith.

“We wanted to raise money for local kids,” said foundation board member Miriam Keith, one of three locals on the foundation board.

Miley said there is no goal for the dinner.

“We want to do as much as we can,” she said.

“We are thrilled to have our first benefit dinner in the Mid-Ohio Valley,” Patrick Klein, director of the iBELIEVE Foundation, stated in a press release. “Washington and Wood counties are where the foundation started in our first years. The students from these areas are special and we are excited about providing more opportunities for them.”

The goal of iBELIEVE is to provide scholarships to high school and middle school Appalachian students. Student leaders attend a five-day, four-night summer leadership camp run by the Ohio Association of Student Councils.

Miley said local officials want to send five students from each Wood County and Washington County high school to a leadership workshop. Cost is $300 per student.

“That’s a lofty goal,” Keith said.

This year the iBELIEVE Foundation has sent 150 students from Ohio and West Virginia to workshops. When the program started in 2011, there were just 34 Ohio students who attended.

“It’s grown exponentially. We are moving,” Miley said.

Officials were joined by Gabbie Gramkow, a junior at Belpre High School; and Parkersburg High School sophomores Sierra Persinger and Coy Miller. Persinger and Miller attended a workshop at West Liberty University.

Gramkow, who’s been in the program for two years and will enter her third, attended workshops at Wright State University.

“Everybody’s experience is a little different,” she said.

Miley said the workshops strive to enhance life skills; communication, team building, team work and problem solving.

“Things that fall outside the academic push,” she said.