Hartsville named All America City

PULSE program key component of application


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.

Scoutreach troops have busy end to 2015

Month features several key events

Scoutreach troops 500, 542, 543 and 544 were busy during the month of December 2015. They celebrated by participating in numerous events as part of Good Citizen Month. 

On Dec. 10, more than 200 family and friends celebrated Scoutreach achievements at the annual banquet on Thursday. The banquet's theme, A Lady and A Scout, focused on the important role mothers play in their sons’ lives. Scouts wore their uniforms and mothers were dressed in long dresses. The scouts escorted the mothers in a grand march to begin the night's events. Admission to the banquet was a new toy to be donated to the Toys For Tots Christmas program. The scouts collected over 100 toys.

To earn the Community Service belt loop, scouts had to provide a service that shows how the actions of one individual or group of individuals can have a positive effect on a community. Any scout who donated a toy earned a Community Service belt loop. 

The banquet also featured other Scout recognitions, dinner and dancing. 

On Dec. 12, the scouts participated in the Hartsville Christmas Parade. Scouts rode together, and waved to the crowd as they threw candy to observers.

On Dec. 15, scouts met Hartsville city manager, Natalie Zeigler, who explained how city government works. She commented on how impressed she was with their many community activities.

Pinewood Derby winners announced

Three take home trophies

(L-r) Austin Burgess, Keyshawn Dolford and Keenan Mitchell, from Pack 544, West Hartsville Elementary. 

(L-r) Austin Burgess, Keyshawn Dolford and Keenan Mitchell, from Pack 544, West Hartsville Elementary. 

Excitement reigned supreme at the Scoutreach Pinewood Derby, Sat., Mar. 15, at St. Luke United Methodist Church. Started in 1953, the Pinewood Derby helps Cub Scouts build with bonds with a parent or adult mentor as they design, carve, paint, weigh, refine and race the car. Other skills Cub Scouts learn as they participate in this annual event include building confidence and taking pride in learning new things and developing good work habits. 

Keyshawn Dolford, Pack 544, West Hartsville Elementary, took first place with his car named Gremlin. Keyshawn is in the fifth grade, and working on completing the requirements of his first badge of rank (Bobcat). He plays football at the Hartsville Recreation Department and is a member of the usher board and youth choir at his church. His younger brother is in the Scoutreach program at Washington Street Elementary School.

Second place went to Keenan Mitchell, also from Pack 544, with his car the Blue Hawk. Third place was awarded to Austin Burgess, Pack 544, and his car the Bumble Bee.

PULSE Mentor Program Benefits

Teacher comments and observations

The comments on this page come from teachers who have students working with a caring adult in the PULSE mentor program. 

"The students seem to light up when they see their mentor come in the room." (Southside 5k teacher)

"I have seen a positive difference in both the school and the students since the implementation of the PULSE Mentor program began. The students are so happy to have someone interested in them and it has really boosted their self confidence. It has had an impact on the school as well because it is nice to have community members involved and being partners with us in the education of these children. The Mentor program has brought educators, community and parents together to help our children achieve." (Southside teacher and mentor coordinator)

"My two first grade students who have weekly mentors live for those Friday visits." (Thornwell grade 1 teacher)

"I can see that my mentors have made a positive impact on their child's school experience and social pathway." (Thornwell grade 1 teacher)

"I see more smiles, less tears. More honesty, less disappointments. I see the value a mentor program holds. It's a treasure worth fighting for." (Washington Street grade 1 teacher and mentor coordinator)

"The students are excited about having an adult in their lives who cares about them and their success. They are more attentive to their studies and have improved their behavior." (Washington Street principal)

"Strong relationships are formed through this valuable program." (West Hartsville grade 5)

"Mentoring was beneficial for me in a way that I didn't expect. Each week, I looked forward to the hour with my mentee because it was one hour when I stepped out of my daily grind to be fully present for an amazing being who I know sincerely appreciated my being there. The joy and laughter we shared together in that hour fueled my energy for the remainder of my week."  (President of the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce & Darlington County Tourism.)
“The mentor program has provided me the chance to help children become better citizens.  I would not trade the opportunity for anything. This experience has been eye opening, and I look forward to working with more children in the continuing years.” (Music teacher, WHE)
“The three years I’ve spent mentoring a student at Thornwell School for the Arts have been rewarding, whether reading with her, playing games or simply being there for her special events. I’ve enjoyed taking part in her social and emotional development and watching her grow over time, and this has made it easy to set aside an hour every week to make a difference in her life.” (Hartsville City Manager)