Saturday, April 12, 2014
This is the story of children who didn’t fall through the cracks. Something stopped their fall.
For 25 Berkeley County students, that something varies. It ranges from overcoming anger issues to joining ROTC to making the move from the big city to the big country. But the catalysts are only part of the story since, as educators noted, it took each individual choosing to better himself or herself to make them successful.
On April 9, Berkeley County School District invited those students and their families to the annual Turnaround Achievement Awards held at Westview Middle in Goose Creek.
“Each one of us has a light bulb inside of our head somewhere … When that light is not on, some of us are in darker places than others,” district Superintendent Rodney Thompson said during the gala. “When the light’s off, we tend to blame others … When the light comes on, we start taking responsibility for our actions. I see a lot of bright, shining lights in this room, and I look forward to the light you’re going to shine on others in the future.”
The program began 16 years ago with partner Royal Z Bowling Lanes sponsoring the program for three school districts in South Carolina. The sponsorship ended three years into the program, and Berkeley County School District principals decided to keep up the program since.
Berkeley County senior Darius Ellington attended the gala and was one of the students recognized for his accomplishments.
Problems with Darius began after he lost his father in April 2009, according to his aunts Jackie Dawson and Marrie Dingle who now care for him in Moncks Corner. Previously, Darius was living in Brooklyn.
“They were tight,” Dawson said. “That loss put a big dent in his life.”
Darius said he had little interest in school prior to moving to the country. But after the move two years ago, the fewer distractions and the heavy emphasis on education by his family, he started putting more effort into his education.
Berkeley High principal Steven Steele said Darius came to BHS as a junior with only four of the 24 credits needed to graduate. Within two years, he earned the 20 credits. Steele said Darius did that by attending online school, summer school, and more.
“If he didn’t want it, it wouldn’t have happened,” Steele said. “All children are offered that but not all take advantage of it — he did … He rose to the expectation and he chose to do that. He committed himself to that.”
But while the turnaround couldn’t have happened without Darius on board, Darius also credits his family for the change in his studies.
“My aunts kept up with me,” Darius said.
“We stayed up late at night, got up early in the morning. And I constantly quizzed him and worked with him,” Dingle said.
“It took some getting used to,” Darius smiled. Now he works as an intern at All State in Moncks Corner.
Darius has plans on attending Trident Technical College before transferring to another school. He said he’s interested in pursuing a career in business and dealing with numbers.
“It’s pretty much wide open now,” he said.
Darius’ family — like all the other families at the gala — beamed with pride at his accomplishments.
“To excel in two years, to over-achieve … that’s a big plus. It should carry him onto his future endeavors,” cousin DJ Dingle said. “He just proved to himself what he’s capable of.”
Here are the names of this year’s recipients:
• Katelyn Dekker, Boulder Bluff Elementary
• Ty’Mone “Semaj” Ronald Mack, Cainhoy Elementary/Middle
• Jaelun Fitzgerald, Berkeley Middle
• Gregoria Soto-Prieto, Berkeley Middle
• Julie Howard, Cane Bay Middle
• DeAndre Richardson, College Park Middle
• Destiny Gadson, Cross High
• Trevor Porter, Hanahan Middle
• Thomas Moody, Macedonia Middle
• Josh Shumak, Marrington Middle
• Shanerio McHoney, St. Stephen Middle
• Caleb Young, Sangaree Middle
• Alexia Williams, Sedgefield Middle
• Janie Woltz, Westview Middle
• Adina Norris, Berkeley Middle College
• Darius Ellington, Berkeley High
• Kristin Ortiz, Cane Bay High
• Cleveland Singleton, Cane Bay High
• Jonathan Fontaine, Cross High
• Xiomara Elisabeth Chavarria, Goose Creek High
• Christopher Lee Theriot, Goose Creek High
• Maurice Grant, Hanahan High
• Austin Moore, Hanahan High
• Sean Jenkins, Stratford High
• Michael Ferguson, Timberland High
Turnaround students will go on a special field trip May 19 with Dragon Boat of Charleston.