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Option 5

Row 1 (l-r) Kelli Cochran-Seabrook, Julie Armstrong, Cassie Barber
Row 2: John Hagerty, Jack Mitchell, John Wallace, Leila Williams, Adam Parker

Option Five is a group of people with an exceptionally diverse set of skills and abilities, who are incredibly committed to the well-being of children – our own and all those residing in our state. So after much discussion of a variety of issues surrounding the support and advancement of our young people we chose to focus on diversity issues and the complications that can arise during an an exceptionally challenging  period of life for our youngsters -Middle School.

Our group included the superintendent of a struggling school district, Dr. Leila Williams, who leads the Colleton County School District. Dr. Williams identified a need to bring together the numerous cliques and factions that hold strong and sometimes aggressive allegiances with the various neighborhoods and hamlets located within this rural district; often with little knowledge or understanding of the world outside their home. Together with Dr. Williams and her administrative staff, Option Five worked to develop activities and provide support for a Middle School Summit which was held in November, 2009.

The successful summit included programs for “selected” middle school students and their parents to promote understanding, communication and action to bring the parents, students and the school community together to work toward positive outcomes for the district’s most at-risk students. Students took away the knowledge that all the adults in their home and school lives were there to help them solve problems and be the best they can be. Parents and community members went home knowing that the Colleton educators and administrators care about their families and have resources to share with them. School and district participants saw a side of the families they serve that reminded them why they do what they do and provided confirmation of the important work they do every day.

Option Five plans to continue its involvement with Colleton County Schools, which is committed to “Making a World of Difference to Make a Different World.” Additional summits are planned to bring similar communication and involvement with other segments of the middle school population. Option Five involvement will include logistical and financial support in addition to direct participation in activities with parents and students. Another member of Option Five, Cassie Barber, is the executive director of the South Carolina School Improvement Council. Ms. Barber will share the Colleton County Middle School Summit model with the more than 1,100 School Improvement Councils (SICs) statewide via the organization’s website and also during a panel discussion featuring Dr. Williams at the Annual SIC Conference. These activities will provide the opportunity to effect similar opportunities for other students dealing with the challenges of middle school and diversity across the state.