Second Chance: C.S. Brown gives hope to ‘at risk’ students

Published 9:41 pm Saturday, October 4, 2008

WINTON – Officials at C.S. Brown Student Development Center want students who have already dropped out or are thinking of dropping out to know about the diploma program they have to offer.

This year, for the first time ever, Hertford County Schools opened the doors of a new high school focused solely on “at risk” students. Before this academic year, the C.S. Brown facility had been used as a temporary place where students with disciplinary problems were sent.

But not any longer… now, C.S. Brown has been accredited as an actual school that has the capability of graduating its own students. The difference between C.S. Brown and a regular high school such as Hertford County High School (HCHS) is that C.S. Brown only requires 21 credits to graduate.

HCHS and most other local public high schools require 28 credits. The North Carolina minimum is 20, but the Hertford County Board of Education further requires one credit in African American studies.

The idea for a special high school for at-risk students came about last academic year when Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham brought the suggestion back to school system administrators.

“Dr. Basham in his travels spoke with someone about an at-risk students’ program, so he brought that information before us last school year and said to do research and see if it would be feasible for us,” noted Nora Artis, who is now the principal at C.S. Brown.

She continued, “There are similar programs in Dare County and Craven County and we looked into how those are successfully run on a 20-credit diploma program.”

Graduation requirements at C.S. Brown include three math credits, four social studies (one of which includes African American history), three sciences, four English credits and six electives.

The electives, according to Artis, must be on a certain track focused on what each individual student wishes to accomplish.

“Most of the students here fall in a career prep or a college tech prep track,” Artis noted.

At-risk students are defined as those who are at least 16 years old and at least two years or two grade levels behind their original kindergarten classes.

However, students must feasibly be able to complete their high school studies and graduate by the age of 21.

Since C.S. Brown began functioning as a real high school and targeting potential dropouts, Artis says the community response has been extremely positive.

“We’ve had students who have already dropped out to hear about C.S. Brown and what we’re doing here and then come in and talk to us and then start back school. It’s very heartwarming,” she stated.

Artis and other staff at the school also help students not only finish their high school diplomas, but prepare for the future and a career.

“We want our students to not only have a high school diploma, we want them to have a goal… having a diploma helps a great deal but it doesn’t mean you will get a job of substance, but if you enroll in a community college then you have a much greater chance,” she noted.

To that end, C.S. Brown is currently looking into partnering with Roanoke-Chowan Community College so that students may take a course there to help them have a specialty when they enter the job market.

Some of those career paths include plumbing, electrical work, nail technician, heating and air conditioning, mechanical work or computer repair.

“Students need to realize that this is a wonderful opportunity and they need to take advantage of it,” Artis stated.

Currently, 60 students attend C.S. Brown full-time. The students are picked up by shuttle bus each morning from Hertford County High School and carried back there each afternoon.

Students are still eligible to participate in all extracurricular activities available through Hertford County Schools, including sports.

C.S. Brown employs seven certified teachers, two computer/lab facilitators and three instructional partners as well as the principal, a counselor and a receptionist.

Artis noted, “Students who want to come here can start immediately; there is no cutoff date… but they would have to come in and talk to us and they would have the same requirements as the other students.”

She concluded by saying, “I think this is a lifeline for a lot of our kids… I know it’s going to make a difference in their future. There’s a world of difference between a high school graduate and a high school dropout.”

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about C.S. Brown or how to enroll, you can contact Artis by calling 358-2852 or visit the site at 102 C.S. Brown Dr. in Winton (off of Hwy. 45).