USC Upstate News

$2.6 Million Grant Funds Scholars Academy At USC Upstate: 25 Academically Advanced Students To Take College Courses While Still In High School

08- 09- 2007

Spartanburg, S.C. - The Scholars Academy at the University of South Carolina Upstate recently received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Secretary of Education under No Child Left Behind's Voluntary School Choice Program (VSCP) to help states and school districts create or expand public school choice initiatives. This is the largest grant in the 40-year history of USC Upstate and will be administered over a four-year period. It will cover expenses such as laptop computers, educational supplies, books, faculty, transportation, evaluation instrument, applicant screening process, professional development, and more.

"I applaud USC Upstate's innovative approach that offers our students an exciting opportunity. We should encourage this creativity throughout the state and across the nation.  Many students lose interest in their education because their abilities go beyond what is offered at their high school. We need to give our students more choices so they can follow an education path that captures their imagination and gives them the skills they need,” said Senator Jim DeMint.

USC Upstate is one of 14 grantees that will share $25 million from the VSCP, a competitive program that supports projects for up to five years that aim to offer the widest variety of choices to students in participating schools, including options that allow students to transfer from low-performing schools to higher performing schools, and projects that seek to implement an inter-district approach. Under No Child Left Behind, students in under-performing Title I schools must be given the option to transfer to a higher performing school in their school district, if their school has not met adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years. Grantees develop the program with parental and community involvement, in concert with those who will carry out the program, including teachers, administrators and other staff. Some grantees use the first project year to plan and design the public school choice initiative.

“The grant and the establishment of the Scholars Academy is so advantageous to USC Upstate in that it allows us to attract the brightest students and provides the opportunity for such academically gifted to complete their studies here,” said Dr. Deryle F. Hope, associate director of international studies and coordinator of strategic academic initiatives at USC Upstate. “It also gives the parents and students a school choice that they currently do not have and the option of earning 45-60 college credit hours before even graduating high school. It opens up a world of opportunities for these families.”

The Scholars Academy is a partnership between the University and Spartanburg County's public school districts which allows academically advanced ninth-grade students to take courses on the college campus during their high school years. This enables the students to earn as many as 60 college credits upon graduation from high school, which means thousands of dollars potentially saved for parents.

“More than 60 rising high-school freshmen from Spartanburg County applied for the program with the students and their parents undergoing an interview process. The purpose of including the parents in the interviews was to make them fully aware of what the program entails and equip them with all the information that they need in order to support their child. The top 25 were selected using a ratings system based on a number of factors, including their grades,” said Dr. Charles Love, dean of the College of Education at USC Upstate.

There is no charge for students participating in the Scholars Academy. There are five students participating from District 1; 10 students from District 2; one student from District 3; three students from District 5; and six students from District 6. Students begin their school days at their home high school and are then transported to USC Upstate where they will take core classes - English, American history, math and wellness/fitness – from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  To ensure that the Academy students are acclimated to a college campus, all 25 students will be grouped together during their first year to provide for a healthy psychological transition. During their second year and beyond, the students will be blended in classes with college students.

While more than half of their day will be spent on the University campus, these students still have the opportunity to take afternoon classes at their individual high schools as well as partake in sports, extracurricular activities and social events.

“Academically gifted students will truly benefit from the Scholars Academy,” said Dr. Scott Mercer, superintendent of Spartanburg District 2. “In this classroom, they will experience intellectual challenge among their high achieving peers that otherwise might not occur until their college years while maintaining connections and interactions with fellow students at their respective high schools. Additionally, this is an incredible financial benefit to parents in that these students will possibly enter college with half the credits needed to graduate.”

Melissa DeLoachMelissa DeLoach, a former assistant principal at Dorman Freshman Campus, has been named director of the Scholars Academy. She will also teach Honors English II and a Freshman Seminar, which will require the students to do a community service research project. DeLoach taught Advanced Placement English for eight years at Saluda High School and for seven years at Dorman High School before being named assistant principal at the Dorman Freshman Campus. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education / English from Clemson University and a master’s degree in educational administration from Converse College. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of South Carolina.

“The Scholars Academy is a true model of cooperation among USC Upstate and the area school districts,” said DeLoach. “These self-motivated students will benefit from the academic resources the University offers as well as from the continued social and academic connection with their high schools.”

She said the program will maintain a challenging curriculum of high expectations designed for advanced, academically gifted students. Each year 25 more ninth graders will join the Academy serving 100 students in grades 9-12 by 2010.

In addition to DeLoach, other educators will teach for the Scholars Academy. Sherri Grant, an employee of Spartanburg District 6 who teaches math classes at the Dorman Freshman Campus, will teach Algebra II Honors. A physical science teacher will be hired for the spring semester in 2008. In addition, the Scholars Academy will contract university courses as needed to complete its curriculum requirements.

For more information about the Scholars Academy, contact Melissa DeLoach at (864) 503-5506 or mdeloach@uscupstate.edu. For more information on the No Child Left Behind's Voluntary School Choice Program, visit www.ed.gov/programs/choice/index.html.