Last updated: June 11. 2014 3:31PM - 214 Views
By Karen Kissiah

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The Rural Leadership Institute of Chesterfield County is sponsoring a four-week summer career camp called “Bridging the Work Force Skills Gap” for 20 rising high-school freshmen in Cheraw.

This pilot program is the culmination of more than two years of work and planning by the Chesterfield County graduates of the 2011-12 Rural Area Leadership Initiative at Francis Marion University.

Graduates include Chairman Lenora Powe of the Chesterfield County Council, Ethel Wynn, secretary/treasurer for the town of Patrick, Runette Wilson of the Chesterfield Town Council, Wendell Perdue, former mayor of Patrick, and Amy Brown of the Chesterfield Town Council.

Working with the graduates on the summer program were Dr. Forest Mahan, vice president of academic affairs and student services for Northeastern Technical College, Gail Ingram of Cheraw High School and Connie Townsend, a representative for the Chesterfield County School District.

The purpose of RLI Chesterfield County’s summer camp is to empower rising ninth-graders with the knowledge, tools and confidence to achieve success in high school, and to encourage and educate them about the demands and needs of the work force in their community.

Twenty students, who have already been selected through a rigorous application process, will work at Long Middle School, three days a week, four hours each day, for four weeks. Two teachers, Rhoda Ellison and Braber Spell, will provide instruction to improve the students’ math and English skills, as well as their “soft skills” such as time and anger management and punctuality.

Four industry visits have been planned to expose the students to the working opportunities available in Cheraw.

The pilot program seeks to address, through a partnership with the Chesterfield County School District, the disparity some rising ninth-graders experience between the skills needed to be successful in high school and their actual level of skills attainment.

Students who struggle upon entering the ninth grade are far more likely to drop out and not complete high school and, therefore, will not pursue the higher education which can lead to gainful employment in a high-paying, high-skilled, and high-demand job.

“Our institute wants to improve the chances of student success in high school in order to provide more highly trained workers who can later meet the demands of the local industries and businesses for a qualified, skilled work force,” Chairman Lenora Powe said in a release.

Powe’s group received $5,000 from the Chesterfield County Economic Development Alliance to help fund the summer camp, and also received nonprofit status from the IRS.

Additional donations will be accepted. Those interested are asked to contact Ethel Wynn at 843-623-2611.

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