Our Mission

Our mission is to EDUCATE, EMPOWER and INSPIRE young people in West Virginia.

The sparse population, geographic remoteness, and poor local economy make our area, while beautiful, the definition of  “underserved.” We have a high poverty rate and poor educational outcomes by most measures. Poor educational outcomes have the effect of silencing local voices and continuing familial cycles of dependency, violence, prescription drug abuse and poverty.

We gain generations of leadership when young people have the confidence and skills to participate fully in our democratic society. We believe that by investing in youth, we are investing in a vibrant, sustainable future for us all.

In 2015, we developed a strategic plan with input from the board of directors, staff members and alumni that outlines the goals and priorities for the next phase of High Rocks’ development.




We want to provide pathways out of poverty for our youth, giving them viable options for success in their home communities and abroad. We envision sustainable local economies that take advantage of our rich human and natural resources. We seek to inspire a culture of learning in our area that prepares rural Appalachian youth with the skills and ideas to drive change locally and on the national stage.


Retreat1237During her 18 years of public school teaching as a librarian and gifted/talented coordinator, Susan Burt observed a trend emerging among middle school girls in her community. Girls began middle school with positive energy and sunny dispositions, excited about their future, but soon began to down slide, failing to live up to their early potential. As a result, doors to their futures began closing and their choices became few.

Together with a group of her friends, Susan wanted to help change the way girls think about themselves. They wanted girls to have more options open to them as high school seniors. With more self confidence and better grades, these girls might be better equipped to choose a future for themselves that may or may not include college.


In 1996, Susan decided to quit her public school job and start a summer camp for middle school girls. She shared her idea with a local woman, Virginia Steele, who had helped start Freedom Schools in the south. Ms. Steele was excited about the school and donated 200 acres of land to house the camp. Then, Margaret Workman of the WV Supreme Court heard about the camp and helped arrange for a local prison crew to clear away trees and brush to accommodate a campground.

High Rocks Academy of Hillsboro, WV, began that summer with 13 girls. It poured rain incessantly for the two-week camp, but that first group of staff and volunteers were determined. The girls’ tents were drenched, their spirits deflated. As the rain came down, Susan gathered the girls together in a tree house. As they all looked down over the hills to the lights of the far away town, Susan said to the girls, “Everyone down there thinks we’re going to come down. Do we want to prove them right, or do we want to tough it out for the two weeks?”

They made it through. And the rest is High Rocks history.