NEWBERRY — The Newberry County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast brought out educators and district employees from around Newberry to the Piedmont Technical College campus to hear speakers discuss education in Newberry County.
Brian Fitzgerald, Newberry Academy Head of School, spoke on creating a personalized approach to education for students.
“We want each student to have a well-rounded resume when they leave Newberry Academy. There are no lines at Newberry Academy of the jocks, geeks or art kids, and we’re very proud of that,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said this allows students to reach the absolute highest level possible.
One way Newberry Academy has done this is through its various partnerships, including a partnership with Newberry College over the years to create a dual enrollment schedule that provides opportunities for students.
“Over several years, we’ve had numerous meetings with various administrators and as a result of that, we have more students attending the opportunities at Piedmont Tech than ever before,” said Fitzgerald.
Newberry Academy also plans to pursue various opportunities with the Newberry County School District.
Over the last few years, Newberry Academy has welcomed the Discovery Program, which focuses on teaching cognitive functions with students who have different learning styles.
“That’s in addition to academic learning programs that we have started in recent years that has opened doors for students who previously would have thought that Newberry Academy was not an option for them,” said Fitzgerald. “We have expanded our offerings not only in terms of a college preparatory traditional environment, but also in terms of what we offer to all learners and all students.”
Newberry Academy has also pursued online opportunities and partnering with an organization that has allowed students to be exposed to agricultural classes where students receive the academic portion but also have hands-on experience. Exchange student programs are another opportunity that the Academy is getting involved in, welcoming students from China, Vietnam and Italy.
“These students all add to the social aspects of our school. Our students aren’t just seeing local, they are getting to see a global perspective on what’s going on in the world. It has been a very neat experience for everyone,” said Fitzgerald.
Last year, in South Carolina, 60 percent of high school graduates who took the SAT did not reach college readiness in any subject field. Only 20 percent reached readiness in more than two areas.
“To further prepare students for college life, the majority of our students take dual credit classes at either Piedmont Tech. or Newberry College in their senior year. Over the last few years, 100 percent of our college graduates have received a four year college offer,” said Nicole May, Academic Dean.
May also said only preparing students for college is not enough and that students need to be prepared for the workplace and life itself.
“Being a well-rounded student isn’t just about personal growth. It’s also about empathy and helping others. That’s why all students at Newberry Academy must complete a minimum of 10 service hours each year. We’re proud to say that many of our students far exceed that requirement,” said May.
“Our goal here today is to focus on some of the programs and initiatives we’ve got going on in Newberry County that prepare our students to be college and career ready because that’s what we see as our most important goal,” said Superintendent Jim Suber. “What we try to impress upon our young people is to set high goals. Set high goals and always imagine that you can do more than you really think you can, because if you don’t reach for the moon, you’ll never land in the stars.”
Dr. Lynn Cary, Assistant Director of Instruction, spoke on the engineering program called Project Lead the Way, which has been established for about five years, along with the recurring theme of preparing students for college and the workforce.
“In South Carolina and really across the country, we do not have enough students going into STEM fields, whether it’s straight into the workplace or college. That’s something that we’re working very hard at and making an effort to get students interested in STEM so that we can get that pipeline flowing, not only in South Carolina but across the country,” said Cary.
One of the beliefs of the Newberry County School District is starting early and implementing Project LAUNCH, Project Lead the Way’s program for elementary students. Once students move forward to middle school, they will be exposed to Gateway to Technology programs. At the high school level, students will be exposed to the engineering program and biomedical science.
Last year all juniors in South Carolina took the ACT Workkeys Assessment, regardless of whether they were going to college or straight into the workplace.
“Last year in our first year of that initiative, we had 90.1 percent of our students earn a national career readiness certificate, which we are very proud of. One thing to keep in mind is that even some of our students who have severe disabilities who may not be earning a diploma take Workkeys. It truly includes everybody,” said Cary.
Newberry County Career Center Director Beverly Leslie gave an updated on the different career clusters and programs offered at NCCC.
“We are going to provide that education for them and it’s important to know what we are offering. We are offering a pathway that is a partnership with what the business industries are looking for and what we can offer as a school,” said Leslie. The NCCC offers 13 of the 16 career clusters offered through the State Department.
PTC President Dr. Ray Brooks addressed PTC’s goals and students they serve. PTC has served over 7,000 students, with 839 of those students being from Newberry County and a 98 percent placement rating of graduating students.
“Businesses are having trouble finding good, qualified people,” said Brooks.
Newberry College President Dr. Maurice Scherrens briefly addressed the audience and said that the biggest need were more opportunities for internships for students.
“Nearly 40 percent of our students are first generation students. If we accept them, we’re going to graduate. That’s our responsibility. One of our tag lines is passion, purpose and personal attention. If you leave Newberry College, you will leave with a purpose,” said Scherrens.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.