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Expanding Horizons: Federal Funding Boosts Spartanburg School Programs

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Spartanburg schools awarded federal funding to expand programs and services

Spartanburg County — Two school districts in rural areas of Spartanburg County were recently awarded funds through a federal grant to expand early childhood education and afterschool learning programs. The $15 million full-service community schools grant will be administered over the next five years in Spartanburg County School Districts 3 and 7. The grant will also help provide additional mental health services in the school districts.

The Spartanburg Academic Movement, formed in 2013, helped secure the grant funding. Initially, Cowpens Elementary School, Pacolet Elementary School, Cleveland Academy of Leadership, Mary H. Wright Elementary School, Carver Middle School, and Clifdale Middle School will receive support through the grant funding. Support includes additional 3K classrooms, family navigators, and a mobile health clinic.

“We would like to thank Dr. Booker, the team at Spartanburg Academic Movement, and our local school district and agency partners for collaborating to bring this significant investment to our community,” Spartanburg School District 3 Superintendent Julie Fowler said. “From expanded educational opportunities to mental health support, the Full-Service Community Schools Grant will help us ensure our students have the resources they need to excel academically and build bright futures.”

The grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education focuses on providing integrated student support and encourages family and community engagement.

“I am proud that Spartanburg is able to demonstrate a shared, community-wide commitment to this work that is deemed worthy of such a significant investment,” Spartanburg County School District 7 Superintendent Jeff Stevens said. “The Full-Service Community Schools grant will greatly impact District 7 through initiatives that expand early childhood education, after school programming, health and social services, family engagement, and much more.”

Spartanburg Academic Movement CEO Russell Booker said work continues to help increase economic mobility in the county through the group’s Movement 2030 plan. The non-profit not only works with school districts to improve school readiness but also with other partners to provide additional educational services and resources. In 2023, Blue Meridian pledged $50 million and The Duke Endowment pledged $25 million to help fund the Movement 2030 plan to help improve education outcomes.

“There was a time when you could make a good living working at the mills and of course those mills went away,” Booker said. “We relied so heavily on textiles and there were not a lot of people going to college.” With a changing economy, SAM is working to increase the number of students graduating from high school and attending college. SAM hopes to raise the number of residents in Spartanburg County with a college degree to 40 percent by 2030.

In 2013, SAM was formed with only a few employees. The organization now has 19 employees and plans to grow to 26 employees in 2024. In a need for more space, SAM’s headquarters is moving from its location at 349 E. Main St., Spartanburg to a floor at the Wells Fargo building near the intersection of North Pine and East Saint John streets. After retiring as Spartanburg County School District 7’s Superintendent in July 2020, Booker went to work for SAM. Developing partnerships has been key in moving SAM’s initiatives forward. SAM has helped raise $102 million in private philanthropy and issued $9 million in grants, Booker said.

“Our approach is to use data as a flashlight and not as a hammer,” Booker said. “We use one county metric to see how we are doing as a whole. A big part in what we do is helping educators think about continuous improvement and how we can identify where are the gaps. Our plans focus on school readiness, neighborhood outcomes, and educational attainment.” SAM’s supporting partners include the Benjamin E. Mays Family Center, Bloom Upstate, Emerge Family Therapy Center, My Brother’s Keeper, Northside Development Group, The Bethlehem Center, United Way of the Piedmont, and ReGenesis Healthcare.

Expanding Horizons: Federal Funding Boosts Spartanburg School Programs Spartanburg SC

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