Marisa Green, incoming student

Getting at the core of the issue

New initiative provides scholarships and support for minority students studying education

Incoming freshman Marisa Green always knew she wanted to study education then teach in her small hometown of Winnsboro, South Carolina.

“I love school and always have. I can’t imagine education not being part of my life is some way,” Green says. “And, I want to live and work where I grew up — where my family is and where I’ve always wanted to be.”

Green says she was hesitant to attend the University of South Carolina because she worried that a larger city like Columbia might be overwhelming for her. 

Though I am still nervous about moving in next week and starting college, I feel like Carolina — by offering the Apple Core Initiative — is saying, ‘Somebody is there for you. You are not alone in this journey.’ And, that means so much to me.

Marisa Green, incoming education student

“I come from a very small town, where everyone knows everyone. Or at least, you know someone who knows everyone,” she says with a laugh. “But, the College of Education offered me an opportunity that was impossible to turn down.”

What Green couldn’t turn down was the opportunity to participate in the College of Education’s Apple Core Initiative, a new program aimed at recruiting high school students from historically underrepresented populations of the state into teacher education programs at the University of South Carolina.

“Research shows that if an African-American child has just one minority teacher between the third through fifth grade, his or her school dropout risk decreases by nearly 30 percent. What a huge — and positive — impact that is,” says Margo Jackson, initiative co-coordinator and director of student diversity, inclusion and engagement at the College of Education. “But in South Carolina, less than 20 percent of our teachers are minorities.”

To increase diversity among South Carolina’s teachers while also tackling the growing teacher shortage, the college launched Apple Core Initiative. Ten students will take part in the pilot program with each receiving a $3,000 annual scholarship.

“We wanted not only to encourage them to study education at Carolina, but also help them begin their careers on a strong footing by offsetting the cost of their education,” Jackson says.

The 10 students will live together in the same residence hall and participate in regular workshops aimed at easing their transition into college life, creating a sense of community and helping them overcome any issues that may stand in the way of their success.

“Knowing all these barriers that can prevent them from having success, we tried to outline ways to provide support,” says Jennifer Clyburn-Reed, co-coordinator.

That support comes in the form of additional training for the students in the Praxis Core exam, which all education students must pass to become certified teachers. Also, school administrators will speak to the students about what their districts are looking for in teachers to better prepare them to land a great job after graduation. The program also offers culturally relevant curriculum and experiences to help students gain a greater understanding and appreciation for diversity, culture and education in South Carolina and around the world.

“Students will participate in field studies to learn more about the state’s culture and African-American history by touring places like Daufuskie Island and the Penn Center,” Jackson says. “In their junior year, students will study abroad to observe teaching and learning in classroom settings outside of the United States. Then in their senior year, they will practice and model what they have learned from the culturally relevant courses and travels in their teaching internships. This will help them become culturally responsive educators.”

For future educators like Green, who are planning to work in rural parts of the state, knowing how to most effectively teach minority students will be critical to their professional success as well as the success of their students.

“Though I am still nervous about moving in next week and starting college, I feel like Carolina — by offering the Apple Core Initiative — is saying, ‘Somebody is there for you. You are not alone in this journey.’ And, that means so much to me,” Green says.

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