Daniel Foster

Gaffney High graduation coach is the ‘real deal’

By Lynne P. Shackleford
lynne.shackleford@shj.com
Published: Monday, October 20, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 20, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.

Photo:  Daniel Foster, a graduation coach at Gaffney High School, right, talks with Isaac Polanco, 15, a student at the school, on Wednesday between classes. MICHAEL JUSTUS/michael.justus@shj.com

Gaffney High School graduation coach Daniel Foster gives students two things many of them have never had: encouragement and hope.

“When I look at them, I see me,” Foster said. “I’ve been where they are. Some of them don’t think they can get a diploma. Some don’t have support at home. Some have just made a bad grade in core class, and they’re off track, but somewhere along the way, they have to get hope back.”

Fresh out of high school 20 years ago, Foster was working with a plumbing crew when the company’s owner asked him about his future plans.

Foster had just graduated from Gaffney High School and wasn’t interested in college; he just wanted to work. The company’s owner, the late Gene Wilson, then drove Foster around rural communities — Corinth, Goucher and Blacksburg — before stopping the car.

“He asked me which community I liked best, and I didn’t know where he was coming from,” Foster said. “But he told me that if I didn’t make something of myself that I would never go anywhere else — I wouldn’t even have the option of going anywhere else — and that hit home to me.”

Wilson then drove Foster to Spartanburg Methodist College and helped him enroll in a two-year program.

“That man did more for me that day because I saw that someone else saw my potential,” Foster said. “I understood then that I could be something.”

After visiting six countries during his 11 years in the Army, Foster returned home and started working as a long-term substitute at Gaffney High School before becoming the in-school suspension coordinator. He is now the school’s first graduation coach, and is tasked with coaching and mentoring at-risk students, mostly those who repeated ninth-grade and other students he calls “geographically displaced seniors.” The latter are students who should be seniors, but failed English or math classes so they are in 11th grade homerooms.

Gaffney High Principal Rashaad Fitzpatrick said the graduation coach position was created based on best practices from the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University. The center recommends using a holistic approach with individualized success plans for at-risk students and having a facilitator, or coach, monitoring students.

“Mr. Foster was a good fit because he had already built relationships with some students as the (in-school suspension) supervisor last year,” Fitzpatrick said. “He is one of those people who understands what we’re trying to accomplish and goes the extra mile to make it happen.”

Foster said he has no doubt the school’s graduation rate of 78 percent, just below the state average, will rise this year just out of will and determination. His goal is a graduation rate of 80 percent this year.

“We’re going to show everyone that we can do it,” Foster said. “No doubt in my mind that the rate will go up this year. When you lay it out for them, show them a path to success, they’ll make it.”

At the beginning of the year, Foster was assigned to 138 students at Gaffney High and the alternative school and mapped out an individualized plan for each. He meets with each of them at least twice a week and attends classes with them periodically to monitor how they take notes and to hear their concerns. Foster refers them to tutors or peer study groups and contacts their teachers to monitor progress.

If they are chronically absent, Foster and another district staffer go to their houses to find out what issues they are facing.

“Mr. Foster is stepping in as a counselor, a father, a big brother. Somewhere they’re not getting the guidance or love they need, and he’s the boots on the ground, so to speak,” said in-school suspension supervisor Tierney Rollins, who works closely with Foster. “He knows them, remembers what their goals are; he works really hard… His goal is to help them realize that ‘I can do this, and life will be different.’”

Rollins said Foster is an “encourager at every turn.”

“If we have a student who has a behavior issue, Mr. Foster finds the core issue behind the behavioral problem,” Rollins said. “He shows them discipline and love and tells them they can learn from their mistakes, and what he’s telling them comes from his heart.”

Jamie Brown, who teaches Algebra II, said students take Foster’s advice and motivation to heart.

“When he walks in the classroom, I see the faces of the students he’s trying to help,” Brown said. “They know Mr. Foster provides accountability. They know he’s watching them, and they want to take better notes. They want to listen and do the work.”

Brown said one student was a few credits off-track and was coming to class unprepared. After being referred to Foster, the student came to Brown’s class the following day with class work he had missed, prepared to take notes.

“I was shocked,” Brown said. “The parents are involved now. Mr. Foster makes it click for these students.”

Foster said all students want to succeed, but they’ve lost faith and drive somewhere along the way.

“I’ve lived their life,” Foster said. “When I was in middle school and high school, no one forced me to study.”

Isaac Polanco, 15, should be a sophomore, but is repeating ninth grade because he failed algebra with a 68 — two points shy of a D. Polanco, one of Foster’s students, has an 86 in geometry so far this semester, and he’s on track to become a sophomore in December.

“Mr. Foster is the real deal,” Polanco said. “He knows what’s going on with us because he cares enough to ask. He wants us to make it. I’m proud of the grades I’m making now, and I will get back on track, but it would’ve been a lot harder without him.”

Donna Phillips, guidance director, said just nine weeks into the school year, she’s already seen students who are making progress.  “I see they’re more motivated; they have direction,” Phillips said. “We’re so fortunate to have him. He’s pushing the kids to succeed.”

 

social media

#SocialMedia – the Future of Teaching and Learning – Friday, October 31 at 11 a.m.

#SocialMedia – the Future of Teaching and Learning will be presented at Spartanburg Methodist College in the Buchheit Board Room on Friday, October 31. Dr. Brian Gloor, SMC Professor of Chemistry, will present an encore program he recently gave in Denver, CO at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference. SMC faculty and Spartanburg District 7 representatives will be in attendance and are reminded to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to the 11 am program.

Gloor will focus on both “the why not” and “the how to” concepts of extending the learning experience beyond the set classroom. “With all of the new ‘smart phones’ on the market today and an increasing number of people using them on a daily basis, why not use the technology provided by Apple and Android to an instructor’s advantage? If we take it a step further and utilize the networks our students are using, will that make them more engaged with the topics being taught in class? Personal experience would tell any teacher or faculty member that the time spent in the classroom is not enough time to cover everything that we need to cover in the span of a semester, let alone in the span of a day. So how can we impact the classroom experience and engage our students by extending the classroom time outside of the actual classroom?” asks Gloor.

Two theoretical foundations guide Gloor’s presentation, the connected learning theory and the extended learning theory, both of which are hot topics in educational technology dialogue. Connected learning is based on utilizing the power of today’s technologies to spark students’ interest, friendship and academic engagement through hands-on production, shared purpose and open networks. Connected learning capitalizes on learning being social and participatory and leverages the personal and individual interests of the students. Extended learning, viewed as the main argument in the use of social media for academic contexts, occurs when an instructor creates a social media presence for the classroom. No longer is the teaching engagement time restrained to a face-to-face meeting, but through social media, students and teachers can share their work and connect anytime/anywhere.

Practical tools and hands-on demonstrations on how faculty can immediately leverage and implement social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking) in the classroom will be shared. Attendees will see firsthand how easily even the most social-media-novice-instructor can engage students in a professional and academic environment outside of the classroom with a connected learning experience.

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HOMECOMING/ALUMNI WEEKEND 2014 NOVEMBER 14-15

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Celebrate being a SMC Pioneer at Homecoming/Alumni Weekend 2014. This year there will be many on-campus events for the entire family to enjoy. SMC Homecoming/Alumni Weekend is the perfect time to reconnect with classmates, reminisce about your days at SMC, and celebrate your love for your alma mater. We will offer casual events to encourage alumni and family attendance. There will be fun events for everyone to enjoy throughout the day. Please note that the Alumni Awards Luncheon (formally a formal luncheon) will be casual and include picnic favorites. The picnic-style lunch will be held indoors, so don’t worry about the weather. You are welcome to dress causal so you can enjoy the on-campus events that will be offered the remainder of the day. Please make plans to attend – this is a weekend you don’t want to miss.

Friday, November 14th
7:00 – 8:00pm Womanless Beauty Pageant Ellis Hall, SMC Campus
8:00 – 10:00pm Alumni & Friends Decade Party Buffalo Wild Wings Patio, 1494 W O Ezell Blvd, Spartanburg, SC 29301

Saturday, November 15th
10:30-11:30am Registration & Silent Auction Fireplace Room, Burgess Student Center
11:30am-12:30pm *Alumni Awards Picnic Style Luncheon Fireplace Room, Burgess Student Center ($15 per person)
*(Casual Attire Welcome at the Alumni Awards Picnic Style Luncheon)
1:00 – 2:00pm Campus Tours and Class Reunions Various Campus Locations
1:00 – 5:00pm Family Fun Festivities Various Campus Locations
(Tethered Hot Air Balloon Rides, Mason Jar Decorating, Scavenger Hunt)
4:00pm Women’s Basketball Game Bridges Arena
6:00pm Men’s Basketball Game Bridges Arena
8:00pm Karaoke Sing-Off Ellis Hall, SMC Campus

For more information and to RSVP please contact
Becky Snow at SnowB@smcsc.edu or 864-587-4210.

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NY Mets Hall of Famer Mookie Wilson to headline SMC Founder’s Day Program

Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce NY Mets Hall of Fame member Mookie Wilson will be the featured speaker at the College’s 2014 Founder’s Day Program on Thursday, October 23 at 6 pm. in the Gibbs Auditorium. A reception and autograph session will follow and the general public is invited to attend.

SMC’s Student Government Association presents the Founder’s Day program each October celebrating the vision, passion, and purpose of SMC’s pioneering founder, Dr. David English Camak, a visionary Methodist minister. Wilson, who graduated from SMC in April of 1976 with an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts, played all or part of twelve seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Mets (1980–89) and Toronto Blue Jays (1989–91).

During SMC’s September 10 Convocation, Greenville native, Adell Enrique Gordon, graduate of Berea High School and the son of Revs. Enrique and Shirley Gordon, was sworn into office as SGA President. Gordon shared “A pioneer, in the simplest form, is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things. Without question, Mookie Wilson is just that.”
The Major League Baseball outfielder and coach is best remembered as the Met that hit the ground ball that trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs in game six of the 1986 World Series. Wilson avoided being hit by a wild pitch, allowing the tying run to score in the bottom of the 10th. His ground ball later in the same at bat went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing the winning run to score. The play is often known as the “Buckner play” and is blamed on the first baseman, but Wilson’s smart at bat, speed, and determination also affected the course of events and allowed the Mets to win the1986 World Series. The ball that rolled through Buckner’s legs was long housed in the Seth Swirsky baseball collection and on May 3, 2012, was sold through Heritage Auctions for $418,250.

Born William Hayward Wilson, and nicknamed “Mookie” as a small child, in Bamberg, SC, he pitched for the Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School Red Raiders baseball team under legendary coach David Horton. While attending SMC, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the January 1976 amateur draft, but he did not sign. Instead, he transferred to play for The University of South Carolina Gamecocks, preferring to take the chance of skipping the 1976 draft offer and increasing his draft stock by playing for former New York Yankees great, and fellow South Carolina native Bobby Richardson (who was the head coach of the Gamecocks at the time).

The gamble paid-off as Wilson was selected in the second round of the 1977 Major League Baseball Draft by the NY Mets. A switch hitter with excellent speed, his positive attitude and hustle immediately endeared him to a New York Mets fan base and was enshrined in the NY Mets Hall of Fame in 1996. From 1996-2002, Wilson served as the Mets’ first base coach. In 2003 and 2004, he managed the Rookie League Kingsport Mets team, and in 2005, Wilson managed the single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. After serving as the organization’s base running coordinator, Wilson returned to serve as the Mets’ first base coach in 2011. He moved into a front office job after the season. In 2013, he managed the U.S. Team in the All-Star Futures Game held at Citi Field.

Wilson never strayed from the lessons he learned at SMC that encouraged academic excellence, intellectual exploration, social awareness, and character development. Shortly after his classic time at bat in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, Wilson and his wife Rosa started an educational center for girls, Mookie’s Roses, near their home in Lakewood, NJ. In 1996, Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College in New York. In 2001, Mookie and his family released a gospel CD entitled, “Don’t Worry, the Lord will Carry You Through.” Wilson most recently appeared on the April 28, 2014 episode of The Daily Show to discuss his memoir, “Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets” (2014).

During the Thursday, October 23 program, the first annual SGA Founder’s Day Faculty Award will also be presented to a faculty member who represents and embodies the spirit and vision of Dr. Camak. The recipient is one who is not afraid to try new things, puts the needs of students first, and is respected in their profession and by the student body. SMC welcomes the general public to attend this uplifting program. For more information, please contact Yvonne Harper, harpery@smcsc.edu, 864-587-4278.

SMC Paralegal Program celebrating Governor’s Proclamation

The Paralegal Certificate Evening Program at Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to report that Tuesday October 14, 2014 has been declared PARALEGAL DAY in the State of South Carolina by Governor Nikki Haley.

The Governor’s Proclamation states that whereas, paralegals have the skill, education, and training to provide support to attorneys in a variety of areas including legal research, document preparation, and file maintenance; and whereas, working in law firms, corporations, government agencies, and other organizations, paralegals contribute to lower counsel fees, improved management of cases, and greater cost containment for clients; and whereas, demonstrating a high level of achievement, responsibility, dedication, and integrity, paralegals across South Carolina uphold the highest standards of professionalism; and whereas, Paralegal Day provides an opportunity to recognize paralegals throughout the Palmetto State for the role they play in an efficient and effective legal system.

Governor Haley’s proclamation encourages all South Carolinians to honor paralegals for their many contributions to the availability of quality legal services.

“Paralegals provide critical and integral support to attorneys and have established themselves to be an indispensable workforce within the legal system since the 1960s,” stated to Yvonne Harper, director of the SMC Paralegal Certificate Evening Program, who prior to moving to SC, served for over thirteen years as a litigation and bankruptcy paralegal in Virginia. “The paralegal profession continues to be among the fastest growing of any profession in the nation. Employers are reducing costs and increasing the availability and efficiency of legal services by hiring paralegals to perform tasks once done by lawyers. Paralegals are also performing a wider variety of duties, making them useful to even non-legal businesses.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. In fact, in the coming years, paralegals may have more career opportunity than attorneys, stenographers —even federal judges. The latest job rating survey at the CareerCast job portal ranked 200 different jobs based on five vital work criteria: stress, work environment, physical demands, income and outlook. While “lawyer” came in 82nd on the list of 200 best jobs and “federal judges” 69th, “paralegal assistants” made the top 20—ranking 17th overall. CNNMoney.com ranked the paralegal profession 14th in the Top 20 jobs for “people who want more pay, more upside and more control over where they’re going.”

“SMC provides adult students convenient evening hours of instruction, reasonable tuition and real-time learning with quality legal faculty, composed of local judges, practicing attorneys and paralegals, who provide networking opportunities and offer real-world experience with practical application,” Harper stated. “In the past 10 years at SMC, I have had the pleasure of assisting adult students with no-college, some-college, college graduates, as well as multiple students with advanced degrees (Masters and even Doctorate) receive the education they needed for the legal career they wanted,” said Harper, who added, “all had one thing in common, they wanted to work in a profession that valued their contributions!”