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College of Education

Apple Core Initiative fosters diversity through culture and curriculum

By Annika Dahlgren

Recruiting, enrolling and retaining education students from underrepresented populations has been a challenge for the College of Education. But through its Apple Core Initiative, the college is increasing diversity among its students — and, ultimately, South Carolina’s teachers — while also helping combat the state’s teacher shortage.

The initiative is a scholarship program that recruits high school students from historically underrepresented populations into teacher education programs at UofSC. ACI students receive financial and personal support as they learn teaching practices grounded in culturally relevant lessons.

This year, 19 students, including eight first-generation college students, gained a greater understanding and appreciation for diversity, culture and education by participating in field studies focused on African American history and culture and training and engagement in STEM education through the ACI.
“Our ACI students are exposed to a curriculum rich in culturally relevant teaching and develop their own cultural competencies, which benefits them and their future students as well,” says Margo Jackson, Apple Core Initiative director. “I believe that teachers who value and include their students’ lives and perspectives into the learning experience in the classroom maximize student learning potential.”
During their second year in the program, ACI students have the opportunity to participate in a “study within” program where they travel to a different region of the United States to experience and study the culture there. Third-year students have the chance to study abroad.

“ACI has exposed me to new ways of thinking as an educator and a professional,” says Kendall Parker, an ACI student who will graduate om 2021. “The initiative has opened my eyes to education beyond South Carolina and taught me how to reach minority students in the classroom more effectively,”
Overall, 84 percent of ACI students identified as African American or Black, including several students who identified as mixed race, and 52 percent of students reported being from a rural area. When asked about the ACI scholarship’s impact on their lives, 95 percent of ACI students reported that it increased their ability to purchase school materials. Another 89 percent said the scholarship allowed them to focus on academics.

“I am grateful for all the opportunities ACI has given me. Beyond the scholarship that has been a great financial relief, ACI has helped me shape my teaching philosophy,” says Cheyenne Jones, class of 2022. “I have attended several workshops that the ACI program coordinators organized. These workshops have helped me to deepen my understanding of what it means to be an educator in a society that is becoming more diverse by the day.”

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