Not only is increasing the graduation rate on the minds of local educators, it has become a goal of Leadership McDuffie participants. The organization is putting on a College and Career Fair at Norris Elementary Friday, Sept. 14.
Board Member Kelly Evans said the idea was a culmination of the last three years' class discussions.
"When we started looking at the problem, when you get past just being flabbergasted at the issue of who's not reading at grade level, then you get down to trying to figure out a solution," Mrs. Evans said.
One of the statistics that continued to come up at Leadership discussions was that fourth graders have already made a decision of whether or not they are going to college. Mrs. Evans said they are trying to encourage workforce development when children are young enough to listen.
"So we started looking for ways that we could build on that," she said. "So it seemed like a college and career fair just made sense."
The fair is taking place at the end of career week at Norris Elementary, and students will get to dress according to their career of choice. More than 25 businesses and colleges will have representatives and booths for the children to visit. Mrs. Evans said they requested businesses send people who represent the demographics of the school.
"I think the worst possible thing we could do would be to have a college and career fair and have a child come in and look around and not see anybody they identify with," she said. "That seems like it would do more harm than good."
Fourth graders will visit the fair before lunch and fifth graders will participate after lunch. Dr. Joe Greene, local university professor, public servant and author, will be the featured speaker at the end of both sessions.
The local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs have donated prizes for the fair "to increase momentum and get everybody excited," according to Mrs. Evans. At every booth a child visits, they will receive a ticket to put in a drawing for a chance to win gift cards or a flat screen television.
And everybody should benefit.
"This is about local jobs," Mrs. Evans added. "It's not about who wants to go to the moon. It's about kids who are going to stay here and become a part of the everyday economy in McDuffie County. ... It's important to let them know that they do not have to leave McDuffie County to have a bright future."
Thomson Middle School Graduation Coach Toni Kitchens said the fair at Norris Elementary goes right along with recommendations from the state department of education. Ms. Kitchens said training classes she attended during the summer stressed exposing elementary students to more professions so they can realize their career choices.
"Our goal is to produce responsible workers, not just a high school graduate," she said.
Any business wishing to participate in the fair should contact Lagaile Jones at Augusta Tech by calling 706-595-0166 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on involvement in other youth leadership programs, contact Kelly Evans at 706-595-2104 or email email@example.com.