Hartsville named All America City

PULSE program key component of application

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The city of Hartsville and its residents are still celebrating the victory of being named an All America City (AAC). Sponsored by the National Civic League, the AAC designation is given annually to towns, cities, counties, tribes, neighborhoods and metropolitan regions for outstanding civic accomplishments. The 2016 award program highlighted community efforts to "ensure that all our children are healthy and successful in school and life."

The process to become an All America City is daunting. The application asks direct questions about race, crime and employment. Specifically, each city must elaborate on three key community-driven programs, and make presentations to a jury of civic experts focusing on those examples of collaborative community problem solving. The application states: “We welcome descriptions of projects that ensure the success of all children, including at-risk children, through health or healthy community strategies and/or education strategies particularly seeking to improve attendance in school and/or projects that reflect the intersection of health and education.”

The Partnership for Unparalleled Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) was an integral part of the application's success story. The public-private partnership began in 2011, when then Sonoco president, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Harris DeLoach approached local leaders to improve educational opportunities and academic achievement for Hartsville students. Those leaders, Robert Wyatt, president of Coker College; Murray Brockman, president of the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM); and Dr. Rainey Knight, superintendent of the Darlington County School District, brainstormed ideas that eventually become PULSE.

PULSE initiatives create the framework for student success by providing an elementary school environment that supports and encourages whole child development and offers academic challenges for high school students. The goal is that at graduation, students will be prepared, contributing members of society and the workforce through the combined resources and collaboration. The two key components of PULSE—the Comer School Development Program (SDP) at four Hartsville elementary schools and the Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) at the high school for students excelling in science, math, the arts and language.

ALO students benefit from collaborative teaching program between GSSM and Coker College. Classes through GSSM include Advanced Chemistry, AP Calculus AB, Robotics, Molecular Biology, Pre-Engineering and Mandarin Chinese I, II and III. Classes at Coker include art, music, theater and dance. Dual credit is available for the arts classes and Mandarin Chinese.

The Comer SDP uses a no-fault problem solving strategy among three teams at the school. The teams encourage parental involvement and participation. By creating and working a comprehensive school plan, the SDP focuses on nurturing the whole child along six developmental pathways. The Comer schools have seen an increase in student growth and academic achievement as well as a reduction in disciplinary issues.

The application also outlined numerous successes in both the elementary and high school initiatives. Also mentioned were the PULSE mentor program, and Scoutreach, which is active in all four of the Comer elementary schools. The former enlists citizens to mentor elementary school children and the latter is an extension of the Boy Scouts of America, designed to provide leadership skills to children in rural areas.

Sharman Poplava, executive director of the TEACH Foundation, which oversees the administration of the PULSE program, and member of the AAC team, says she is proud of the town's accomplishment. “It's a wonderful testament to the residents of Hartsville that we have been named an All America City. There is a tremendous amount of ground work that has to be done to prepare and participate in this process.

“This year's theme of student success is what the PULSE program is all about,” she adds. “Hartsville is a special place that strives to improve educational outcomes for students. It's nice to be recognized for all the things that our community is doing right.”

Poplava was joined by two ALO students, Stone Martin and Archie Torain. Tara King, principal of West Hartsville elementary, a Comer school, also attended on behalf of the PULSE program.

Hartsville is one of 10 cities that earned the All American City designation for 2016. The small South Carolina town was also an All America City in 1996.

Read the entire application and the numerous PULSE successes here.