No matter their age, some people just do better with incentives. McDuffie County Partners For Success took advantage of that fact using grant funds. Partners offered three field trips this school year to 120 students and their parents through the after school programs at the middle and junior high schools.
"Each time, it has been wonderful to watch the interaction between parents and students. We've received an amazing amount of support from our community, especially the parents of these students," Executive Director Miriam Smith said in an e-mail. "Beyond expanding the horizons of some of our community's most at-risk students, these trips also were aimed at increasing parental involvement, which is vital to student success."
To qualify, the students participated in an abstinence education class taught after school as part of the Bulldogs Against Destructive Decisions club and the McDuffie Education and Enrichment Program for Students. Their parents were encouraged to become involved in their children's education by attending a parent workshop one night per month at one of the different McDuffie County Schools.
The first trip, in November, was to tour the Augusta Museum of History and Fort Discovery before attending an Augusta Lynx minor league hockey game.
"I liked the hockey trip the best, because there was a lot of action, fighting and stuff like that," eighth grader John Quelle said. "It was the first time I'd ever been to a hockey game. I'd seen it on TV, but to see it in real life was amazing."
In March, the students and their parents traveled to Atlanta, where they were given a tour of the state capital building by Representative Sistie Hudson. From the capital, they went on to tour the Georgia Aquarium.
"It was better than I expected," eighth grader Rashad Johnson said of the Atlanta trip, which he said was his favorite. "We got to go to the aquarium. I didn't know the sting rays could get so big."
The third trip was last Friday night to watch the Augusta GreenJackets minor league baseball team beat the Charleston River Dogs. The Thomson Krystal's restaurant provided hamburger meals, which everyone enjoyed picnic-style beside Lake Olmstead before the game.
As if the trip wasn't incentive enough, some students earned the privilege to work with the ushers as greeters before the game, sit in the press booth with the announcers and participate in the between-inning contests on the field. All students and their parents also received a free Augusta Green Jackets baseball cap.
"The field trips encouraged good attendance in the after school program," Thomson Middle School counselor Glenn Short said. "The requirements for the trips allowed us to check homework, and it was good incentive for the kids to do their work."
The middle school students screamed when Mr. Short threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game, which bounced just shy of home plate.
"They'll never let me hear the end of that," he said.
Also representing Thomson in the pre-game ceremony was Thomson First United Methodist Church's music director, Kyung Kim, who sang the National Anthem. The Greenjackets staff was so impressed with Mr. Kim's performance that they asked for his contact information so they could invite him to perform at other games.
Thomson-McDuffie Junior High teacher Patricia Connor said the field trips "gave the students and their parents opportunities to visit and see places that they may not have otherwise been able to go to," something the parents and teachers echoed.
"I enjoyed myself," said Rashad's mother, Keylyn Johnson. "I want to thank Partners For Success and the MEEPS for doing everything they did. I enjoyed all of the trips. Atlanta was very nice."
Aquanis Clark, who also is an eighth grader, said he liked the fighting action at the hockey game like his classmates did. But really, he said he just liked the experience of a field trip, no matter what the destination might be.
"I just like riding with everybody on the field trips and stuff, because it's just fun," he said.
Click on images for more photos