High school students EXCEL
Desiree Barnes, a rising senior at Ashley Ridge High School, is a bright, self-assured student. As an active member of MU Alpha Theta, a mathematics honor society, Barnes spends time tutoring other students. She also enjoys science and plans to study nursing after she graduates.
Barnes, along with up to 36 other high school students from Dorchester School District Two, spent time on the Charleston Southern University campus June 25 - 28. They are part of a program called EXCEL (Excellence in College Entrance preparation and Leadership), which was funded by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Education.
According to Phyllis Ledbetter, grants writer and manager at Dorchester District Two, the goal of EXCEL is to increase the graduation rates and college attendance. Students from each of the three high schools were chosen to attend EXCEL with special consideration given to students who would be first generation college students in their families.
Dr. Patty Hambrick, CSU director of academic technology and grants, and Ledbetter, district grants writer, formed a partnership. Hambrick enlisted 17 CSU faculty and staff members to participate in the event. She said the faculty encouraged the EXCEL students to dive into reading, writing and test-taking strategies as well as science, technology and mathematics.
“Research discusses the importance of students building relationships and participating in precollegiate activities which focus on problem solving and critical thinking,” Hambrick, who developed the EXCEL model said. EXCEL is based on Effective Practices Research and the requirements of The Common Core standards, she said.
Brain and Behavior, iPads and Education, Test Taking Strategies and A Fake Blood Experiment are samples of topics taught by the faculty. CSU staff members also spoke with students about where and how to find help with financial aid, student success and tutoring.
On the final day, parents were invited to join their student for lunch. The response was tremendous. Dorchester School District Two Superintendent Joe Pye and Dr. Jairy Hunter Jr., president of CSU, welcomed the group. The principals of the three high schools also came to support their students: Kenny Farrell from Summerville High, Karen Radcliffe from Ashley Ridge and Bert Postell from Ft. Dorchester. Also, Kenneth Wilson, the director of high schools in District Two, and Camilla Pinckney, district high school curriculum coordinator were in attendance.
“I am super pleased with the partnership between Dorchester School District Two and Charleston Southern University as we came together to serve the students, their families and the community,” Ledbetter said.
EXCEL continues during the fall when the students will return to Charleston Southern one day a month for four months. The focus will be on leadership as well as additional training in science, technology and mathematics. In addition, a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium is already in the works.