An event organized by a United Methodist Church in Taylors, S.C., shows the positive influence churches can have in encouraging young people to continue their education. More than 150 youth and family members attended the Life After School Summit at St. Mark UMC in Taylors, S.C., on May 17, 2014, for presentations and exhibits by representatives from colleges and universities, the armed forces and other organizations.
For the past decade, St. Mark has sponsored an annual education program about scholarships and college testing requirements typically attended by 7-12 students and their family members from the congregation. This year, however, the program was opened to anyone in the community, and about 125 students and 45-50 parents participated, including several busloads of participants from other churches. “One of the most powerful things we had was nine of our [church’s] college students, ranging from freshmen to first year out of college, who were on a student-only panel,” said church member Derek McGowan, a corporate campus relations manager and former U.S. Air Force recruiter who chaired the church’s program committee. “They opened up and talked about anything those students needed to know about going to college. That received the highest marks.”
Representatives from seven colleges and universities, the military and other organizations were present for workshops, counseling sessions and other presentations. More than $280,000 in scholarships were offered to students attending the event. Melanie Overton, assistant general secretary for Schools, Colleges and Universities at the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry, said the St. Mark event is a great example of how churches can help high school students. “The church has a role to play in mentoring students,” Overton said. “Some students need the help of a community to explore their options and prepare themselves to make the best possible decision about their future.” Churches are a part of young people’s lives long before they begin thinking about college, Overton said. “Churches are there when kids are in middle school and high school, and they are the ones who can help nurture their aspirations and help them think about financial planning and those kinds of things,” Overton said.
Six workshops ran simultaneously in church classrooms on topics such as job enrichment opportunities, military careers and parenting first-year college students. A representative of the Workforce Development Agency in nearby Greenville talked about summer jobs for students. A panel of parents discussed how to help students get through their first semester. Other speakers talked about how to fill out job applications and how to be successful in interviews. One standing-room-only session featured college coaches and players who spoke about NCAA rules and requirements. “A lot of students were thinking how easy it is to be on scholarship and go to college, so some of the high school coaches sent their football teams to the meeting,” McGowan said.
“We didn’t want to exclude anyone in our congregation by focusing on academia only. That’s why we called it the Life After School Summit,” McGowan said. “Traditionally, churches have a college program or something that’s college-focused, [and] there is nothing there for people who want to go to technical colleges, two-year schools, trade schools or the military. So adding that component made it a much more successful program because those rooms were filled, as well.”
Retired teachers and educators in St. Mark’s congregation served as part of the support team for the summit, and 7th and 8th grade students wore “Ask Me” t-shirts and helped participants find their sessions. The church’s hospitality committee provided free lunch to everyone attending.
One college participating was Spartanburg Methodist College, a two-year liberal arts institution in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., where more than half of its 800 students are the first in their families to attend college.
“A two-year school [like Spartanburg Methodist] is really a great place for people to start, especially if they are first-generation students, because of the one-on-one attention that our students receive,” said Dr. Colleen Perry Keith, president of the 103-year-old United Methodist-related college. She said because the college focuses on the first two years, faculty and staff really understand the challenges these first-generation college students face. “And we work to try to make those challenges manageable for them,” she added. Nationally, about 20 percent of students who start two-year colleges complete their four-year degree elsewhere, but that percentage at Spartanburg Methodist is more than four times greater, Keith said. “Our mean graduation rate for the last nine years is 41.3 percent for those who actually go for the full two years and meet all of the degree requirements to graduate,” she said. But Keith said 82 percent of Spartanburg’s students either graduate or go on to pursue their education somewhere else.
Following on the summit’s success, McGowan said St. Mark is planning another educational event later this year.
Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the release of the NJCAA Athletes of Distinction Academic Student-Athlete award winners for 2013-2014.
The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) serves as the national governing body for two-year college athletics in the United States and is the nation’s second-largest national intercollegiate sports organization (second to the NCAA). Each year nearly 60,000 student-athletes from 525 member colleges compete in 28 different sports.
The following eight SMC sophomore student athletes were recognized with this honorable distinction:
Lindsey Auton was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Auton maintained a 3.6 GPA. She is the daughter of Kathy Auton, resides in Morganton, NC and attended Freedom High School.
William Eubanks was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Men’s Cross Country I. Eubanks maintained a 3.65 GPA. He is the son of Lisa and William Eubanks, resides in Lyman, SC and attended James F. Byrnes High School.
Jenna Farotto was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Volleyball I. Farotto maintained a 3.6 GPA. She is the daughter of Carter and Jimmy Farotto, resides in Greer, SC and attended Eastside High School.
Sarah Gambrill was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Gambrill maintained a 3.65 GPA. She is the daughter of Cherie and Milton Gambrill, resides in Charleston, SC and attended Fort Dorchester High School.
Reagan Huggins was awarded the Superior Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Tennis I. Huggins maintained a 3.9 GPA. She is the daughter of Angela and John Huggins, resides in Pauline, SC and attended Spartanburg Christian Academy.
Alexandria Oliver was awarded Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Softball I. Oliver maintained a 3.65 GPA. She is the daughter of Kimberly and William Oliver, resides in Clemson, SC and attended DW Daniel High School.
Alex Tutterow was awarded the Exemplary Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Soccer I. Tutterow maintained a 3.73 GPA. She is the daughter of Michelle and Mike Tutterow, resides in Boiling Springs, SC and attended Boiling Springs High School.
Aeriel Wheeler was awarded the Superior Academic Achievement in the sport of Women’s Volleyball I. Wheeler maintained a 3.85 GPA. She is the daughter of Jaci Shuette, resides in Woodruff, SC and attended Woodruff High School.
Spartanburg Methodist College is pleased to announce the addition of new staff and staff with new responsibilities. Jeanette R. Dunn, Director of Human Resources for the college shared “SMC knows the quality of these individuals’ work ethic and their commitment to SMC. It is a blessing to have these individuals share their talents with our campus.”
After an absence of six years, Sharon Wilborn has resumed the position of Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs. While her family lived out of state, Wilborn worked as an Energy Supply Cost Analyst with HKA/Duke Energy. Wilborn and her husband, Charlie, are now residing in Spartanburg.
In June, ten-year SMC employee and SMC Class of 1999 alum, Scott Deskins assumed the position of Facilities Event and Administrative Coordinator. In addition to assisting the Director of Facilities Management with administrative tasks, Deskins is responsible for the set up and take down of all campus events. Deskins is married to Nadia and they reside in Greenville, SC with their three children.
On July 1, Cheryl Somerset officially assumed the role of Administrative Assistant to the President, after the retirement of Vicki Kennedy. Previously Somerset served as Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for six years. Somerset resides in in Moore with her husband Larry.
Dunn has also assumed a new role with the college. In addition to her duties in Human Resources, she will also serve as Special Assistant to the President. She and her husband, Joe, reside in Spartanburg.
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