FCHS STEM students flying far

The second cohort of the Fairfield County School District’s STEM program traveled to Spain this summer before beginning their senior year at Fairfield Central High School. Back, from left: Keyshawn Robertson, Principal Swilley, JaVan Scott, Jordan Dove, Terrell Roach – Athletic Director; Nhandi Long-Shipman, Nikayla Douglas, Janelle Green, Jalen Epps, Darius Free, Janiece Jackson, Ja’Leasha Willis, Shanna Thompson, Jamara Green and Chatyce Robinson, front.

WINNSBORO – Over six years ago, Fairfield County School Superintendent Dr. J. R. Green sought to make a culture change in the Fairfield County School District. He added new classes, including Latin for seventh graders. He also initiated a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program where students could graduate with a South Carolina High School Diploma and two years of college education.

Last May, the first cohort of STEM students graduated from Fairfield Central High School with either an Associate’s Degree in Science, an Associate’s Degree in Arts or a certificate in general college studies. These students received college degrees before they received their high school diploma. All are attending colleges or universities ahead of where they would have been as first year students.

Megan Pearson, for example, entered the University of North Carolina/Charlotte as a second semester sophomore. Mercedes Carpenter entered Coastal Carolina Honors College as a first semester junior.

“It’s an exciting initiative,” Green said. “They may not all earn enough credit hours during their six years in the program for an Associate’s Degree, but the credit hours they earn put them ahead as college freshmen.”

Green said his twin daughters, Janelle and Jamara, are in the program.

Under the plan, students apply and are accepted into the program in seventh grade. Midlands Tech offers dual credit classes, meaning a student takes college level classes that count for both high school and college credit. About 18 college courses are offered on the FCHS campus during regular school days by either college professors from Midlands Tech or by FCHS teachers who are certified as adjunct professors.

“Because of a memorandum of understanding between the school district and Midlands Tech, the students bear no expense for participating in the program,” School Board Chairman William Frick said. “This gives them as much as a two-year head start on college and saves them tens of thousands of dollars towards a four-year degree.”

While the work may be rigorous, the perks are enticing. For instance, between eighth and ninth grades the STEM students spend a week at the Governor’s School for Science and Math in Hartsville. Between ninth and tenth grades, they attend Clemson’s Scholar Camp. They have the next summer off, then the summer before their senior year, the entire STEM class enjoys a trip abroad, to a country of the class’s choosing, where they visit museums, monuments and other wonders of the world.

Last year the first cohort of STEM students, who graduated in May, traveled to England. This year’s rising seniors chose Spain. Each class decides where they will go. The trips are paid for partially by funds raised by the students. The balance is covered by the school district

“The trip is one of exposure, an entirely educational experience,” Green said.

“Our STEM program is a model program that other high schools are now emulating,” Green said. “All of our senior STEM students are on track to earn degrees at the end of this school year. I’m very proud of them.”


  1. Angela jackson says

    I’m so proud of my daughter just as well as the rest of these brilliant young ladies and gentlemen keep up the great work

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