Throughout South Carolina’s history, rural schools have struggled with academic performance. South Carolina State University is dedicated to making a change for students in those areas while helping fill the need for more teachers across the state.
Orientation for the Minority Access to Teacher Education (MATTE) Bridge Summer Program at South Carolina State University was held Wednesday, June 23. Approximately 65 juniors and seniors from high schools along the I-95 corridor are participating in the five-week campus residency program.
“This program is to establish and encourage more teachers from those areas of the state where schools are either failing or underserved,” said Dr. Learie B. Luke, SC State provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “I think SC State is one of the best places for them because we can mentor them and help them to achieve their full potential.”
All participants of the summer program can earn six credit hours in math and English courses from SC State and enroll in dual credits. The cost of the program, along with meals, books and other learning materials are covered by MATTE Bridge Program scholarships.
Students are required to stay on campus for the duration of the five-week summer program. They will be provided with on-campus enrichment activities, mentoring and counseling.
“SC State is committed to preparing students from schools along the I-95 corridor for successful careers in the teaching profession,” said Dr. Janice Owens, acting dean for the College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences. “Many students from these schools enter college with hopes of completing a degree in teacher education and becoming teachers. Unfortunately, some of these students enter college lacking the basic skills needed to pass the entrance examination required by the state of South Carolina to be admitted to a teacher education program.”
The MATTE Bridge Program was funded from a $1.4 million grant awarded to SC State’s Department of Education by the South Carolina Legislature in 2019, largely through the efforts of State Senator John W. Matthews Jr. Because of the high demand for educators in the I-95 area, SC State was adamant about using these funds to create a program that could help improve the teacher education profession in the state.
“The College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences was indeed grateful to receive this award from the S.C. legislature, through the efforts of Senator Matthews, to offer minority high school students access to teacher education programs,” Owens said.
During orientation, Matthews and SC State President James Clark were recognized for the roles they played in securing funding for the project. Luke was also presented with an appreciation award for all the hard work he contributed to the program.
“It is always good to be appreciated, but it is good that the plaque is associated with a program that is working with young people and helping to increase the number of teachers in South Carolina,” Luke said.
The MATTE Bridge program will provide a seamless transition to full admission status for the fall semester for recent high school graduates enrolled. Once enrolled at the university, all participants of the Teacher Preparation Program who maintain a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) are eligible to receive a four-year scholarship and graduate debt free.
“This scholarship will help me with loans and money, so my parents won’t have to pay out-of-pocket. It’s going to help me get through school, especially with the laptops we’re getting. So that’s less money they have to spend. It’s basically like going to school for free. I’m extremely excited about that,” MATTE Bridge participant Jada Marsh said.
Marsh, 17, is originally from Albany, Georgia, and recently graduated from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. She initially learned about the program from her dad who is an SC State alumnus. Several members of her family are teachers, so she was eager to follow in their footsteps.
“I’m very excited for program. I want to teach elementary kids and make a change to their lives because there’s not a lot of teachers in the South Carolina school districts now. They need more teachers and people who are going to change the kids’ lives,” Marsh said.
After the summer program, Marsh will continue at SC State as a freshman with six credit hours in elementary education.