CS Brown gives students second chance

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WINTON — Many school districts forget these students.

Instead of trying to help those who life has given some sort of disadvantage, districts across the country simply watch as they drop out and lose the chance to get a high school diploma, go to college and fulfill the American dream.

Hertford County has decided this should not be the fate of their children.

This year Hertford County Public Schools opened the C.S Brown Student Development Center under the direction of Nora Artis.

That school provides a chance for students who are at least two years behind their kindergarten class to earn a high school diploma and continue their education.

Teresa Wiggins, who serves as the counselor for the school, said the students will receive a diploma that will be the same as the one from Hertford County High School.

“The only difference will be the transcript,” Wiggins said. “Hertford County graduates will have 28 credits and our students will have 21 credits.

That is sufficient to meet community college entrance requirements, but not most four-year schools in North Carolina.”

Wiggins said students would only need one math credit and two levels of foreign language at the community college to be eligible for a four-year school.

The school was originally established with the idea of allowing students at Hertford County High School who were in danger of not finishing before aging out (at 21).

“What we’ve found is that even we have been surprised by the number of students who have dropped out, but have come back to school because of this program,” Artis said.

“We were surprised by the number of students who have ‘dropped-in’ since they have the opportunity to get a diploma.”

Artis said many of the students had dropped out with the idea of getting a GED (General Equivalency Diploma), but had not followed through with that plan.

“They have seen that with this program, they have the opportunity – probably their last one – to get a high school diploma,” Artis said. Currently, C.S. Brown boasts a student enrollment of 54.

“This is no longer an alternative school,” Wiggins said. “Students are not sent here because of their behavior.

They are here because they are in danger of aging out or because they are at least two years behind their kindergarten class.”

Wiggins said the school was a drop-out prevention mechanism and would eventually help decrease the dropout rate for Hertford County Public Schools.

“I think it is a very beneficial program,” Wiggins said. “Thus far, it appears that 15 of our 54 students will graduate in June.”

The ability of C.S. Brown to touch students who would not be able to get a diploma in the regular high school setting is appealing to all involved.

“Some people can pick up the Standard Course of Study and get it,” said HCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael G. Basham. “Some people take more time.

There are those who have life experiences that interfere and get them off track. “Because of the mission of C.S. Brown, every student has the opportunity to get a high school diploma and then go on and further their education,” he continued. Community Relations Officer Ronald Gatling said he thought the program benefitted the local community.

“Any time you give a child an alternative to be successful, it means there will be less chance of them dropping out,” Gatling said.

“When you lose less students, it means a lot for a rural community. I think it’s great.” Wiggins said she felt good about the work she is doing at C.S. Brown.

“It is like a reward for me, helping assist students that potentially could have been counted out by society,” she stressed. “Helping them get their diploma and accomplish one of their dreams is important to me.”

Wiggins said many of the students came to C.S. Brown disillusioned, but were taking pride in their work and beginning to feel good about themselves.

“To be a part of that is most rewarding,” she added. Students are enjoying taking advantage of the opportunity provided them by the new center.

Eric Bissett said he entered the school because he had fallen behind and chose to come to C.S. Brown to graduate on time. “I was a little scared at first because I was staring a new school, but soon I came to love it. I really like it here,” he said.

“I love this place and I have never really liked any other school this much.” Farrah Childs had a similar story, except she had dropped out of school before returning to C.S. Brown.

“I came to C.S. Brown because I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to receive a high school diploma,” she said. “I also came to C.S. Brown because it is a smaller environment and I thought it would be a better learning environment for me.”

Both students said they liked the school because of the small number of students in it. “What I like most about C.S. Brown is that the environment is much smaller than other schools,” Childs said.

“I have the opportunity to learn better and most of all, I can receive my high school diploma on time and attend college and become a successful person.” “I like it mainly because there are not so many people here,” Bissett added.

“I like it quiet and I don’t really like being around a lot of people. I like the work too.” C.S. Brown Student Development Center is making a difference for both students.

“C.S. Brown has made a big difference in my future because if it wasn’t for C.S. Brown, I wouldn’t have a chance to receive a high school diploma,” Childs said.

“I would probably have had to settle with a GED and it would be much harder for me to be accepted into the colleges I prefer.” Bissett said C.S. Brown has made him more motivated.

“I believe I’ll do better here and graduate so I can get a good job,” he said. “I plan to join the Army.” While C.S. Brown is no longer an alternative school as it has been in the past, Artis said there were still some difficulties that were being ironed out.

“We are still facing the obstacle of motivation,” Artis said. “A lot of the students we have now, we would have had with a usual alternative learning program.

They still have the baggage they had at high school and we’re still wading through that.

“We are still trying to figure out what motivates a student to get his or her high school diploma when it’s not in their frame of reference,” Artis continued.

“By that I mean if they have no one in their family with a high school diploma, what motivates them to want one.” Whatever the motivation, the school is working.

“Education in Hertford County provides more opportunities to be successful,” Gatling said. “C.S. Brown adds to that tremendously when you look at the students who are now able to come out ahead.”

One area still needed at C.S. Brown is more parental involvement. “We offer opportunities for parents to be more involved,” Wiggins said. “They come in and receive training to help them be more involved in the lives of their children.

“We also use mentors to allow these students to see what they can achieve,” Wiggins said. The school is in need of more mentors and it requires only about one hour per week.

Those interested in helping can call Wiggins at 358-2852 or reach her by email at twiggins@hertford.k12.nc.us.