Rev. Matthew J. Watts has been a leader in his West Charleston community for decades and is a fearless advocate for education reform. He will be the first to point out that West Virginia is ranked dead last on most economic prosperity lists and its failing schools are yet another obstacle young students face. 

“School suspension may be the single most important factor that drives children from the school yard to the prison yard.” ~Rev. Matthew J. Watts 

What can one man, one town, one state do to change their course and stop the cycle of poverty and violence around them?

Education Reimagined: The Journey of West Virginia is a 9-minute short documentary by Dignity Unbound that tells the story of how West Virginia’s education system went from failing its students to helping them thrive, thanks in part to the innovative solutions championed by the Cardinal Institute of West Virginia Policy. 

West Virginia’s education system had terrible test scores, high dropout rates and by most measures was simply lagging behind. Despite spending more than the national average per student, the state’s education system provided no flexibility and was failing its students. Enter the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, a non-profit founded in 2014, committed to identifying solutions and fostering innovation to champion West Virginia’s economic turnaround.

In addition to advocating for education savings accounts, to increase flexibility within the education system, the Cardinal Institute was instrumental in the state’s 2019 decision to allow the establishment of three charter schools. Cardinal continues to work to increase the flexibility that parents and students have available to them. The film features West Virginia parents, like Jennifer, who homeschools her three sons. Her oldest struggled in public school after he was not given the tailored approach his dyslexia required. She now tutors five students with dyslexia. The film also follows Rev. Matthew J. Watts, who has been a leader in his West Charleston community for decades and has advocated for education reform for as many years.