Hartsville PULSE Initiative Selected as Finalist for Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence

Hartsville, S.C., U.S. – The TEACH Foundation (Teaching, Educating and Advancing Children in Hartsville) is pleased to announce its PULSE (Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence) initiative has been selected as a finalist for The Riley Institute at Furman University's 2016 Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence. The WhatWorksSC award, first given in 2011, highlights outstanding evidence-based educational initiatives throughout South Carolina. Finalists were chosen by a panel of judges from more than 100 entries in the Riley Institute's WhatWorksSC clearinghouse. As a finalist, PULSE will receive a small grant from the Riley Institute for enhancement of the program or consulting with other schools, districts and organizations interested in its replication.

PULSE is a one-of-kind public-private partnership formed to implement a comprehensive scholastic excellence program in Hartsville public schools that expanded curriculum opportunities and further improved student achievement through collaborative academic and social development initiatives. Partners include the Darlington County School District, South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM), Coker College and Sonoco. Sonoco funded the initiative through a $5 million grant over five years.

"We believe it is our responsibility to build the community as we build our business," said Harris DeLoach, executive chairman of the board, Sonoco, and chairman of the board, TEACH Foundation. "It is absolutely critical that every child, regardless of economic status, leaves the public school system with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace."

After its five year implementation, a snapshot of results is as follows:

  • A key component of PULSE, the Comer School Development Program, focusing on academic achievement and personal development of elementary students, served more than 6,500 students at four area elementary schools. On average, students increased reading scores by 12-points and math scores by 14-points on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing.
  • Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) served more than 840 high school students in Hartsville with courses such as Mandarin Chinese, Molecular Biology, Engineering Design and Development, Circuitry and Electronic Inventions, Applied Piano, Class Voice, and more. The ALO program grew to 14 course offerings during the 2015-16 school year and celebrated three successive years of all students passing AP tests, earning college credits. Students participating in ALO have published scientific papers, earned prestigious scholarships and been selected for competitive internships at organizations like NASA.
  • The local Scoutreach component helped more than 350 male students in grades 5k-5 gain leadership skills.
  •  The summer reading program (six weeks long) exceeded its goal of increasing reading proficiency – from four months to six months of reading growth. 

"Every accomplishment begins with action, and PULSE is no different. The five-year program is a great example of coordinated action resulting in positive change. We must build on it," said Jack Sanders, president and CEO of Sonoco.

"The TEACH Foundation is much more than just an exciting and unique partnership," said Dr. Eddie Ingram, superintendent of Darlington County School District. "The Foundation's leadership is forward-thinking in approach and execution. In addition to substantial fiscal support of the PULSE program, the TEACH Foundations also brings innovation and networking opportunities to the people of our district."

Finalists will be recognized and the winner of the 2016 award will be announced at a luncheon October 14 in conjunction with South Carolina Future Minds' annual Public Education Partners (PEP) conference at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The public is invited to attend the full conference or the luncheon only. For more information and/or to register for the luncheon or conference, please visit the Riley Institute's website or contact Jill Fuson at jill.fuson@furman.edu.


The TEACH Foundation is a not for profit, 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the administration arm for the PULSE initiative which includes accelerated learning programs at Hartsville High School, students living in Hartsville attending Mayo High School and the Comer School Development Program in four area elementary schools. It was formed as part of the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce. The Foundation manages the $5 million in funding provided to PULSE by the Sonoco Foundation.

About Sonoco

Founded in 1899, Sonoco is a global provider of a variety of consumer packaging, industrial products, protective packaging, and displays and packaging supply chain services. With annualized net sales of approximately $5 billion, the Company has 20,800 employees working in more than 330 operations in 34 countries, serving some of the world's best known brands in some 85 nations. Sonoco is a proud member of the 2015/2016 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. For more information on the Company, visit our website at  www.sonoco.com.

Julie Scott

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.

Stone Martin earns prestigious scholarships

ALO piano student excels in competitions

Stone Martin

Stone Martin

Hartsville High School junior Stone Martin is receiving some of the most prestigious accolades an 11th grader can achieve. In March, he won the Pee Dee District South Carolina Federation of Music Clubs (SCFMC) auditions, where he successfully competed against winners of other state districts. Most recently, he earned two scholarships--the Josephine B. Davis Piano Scholarship and the Elizabeth Crudup Lee Scholarship--from SCFMC that will enable him to attend Brevard Music Center (BMC) this summer.

Now in its 80th year, the BMC is a summer home for young musicians. Located in Brevard, N.C., on 180 acres, the institute is nestled in lush mountain terrain. Four hundred students from across the country enroll to study their musical passion. The center has two divisions in music, one for high school students and one for college students and older. The high school division enrolls approximately 180 students from ages 14-18. Programs of study include orchestral studies, piano, composition and voice. 

As a student in the piano program, Martin will take weekly private lessons, as well as classes in piano literature, performance practice and more. In addition to having practice time, he will participate in weekly studio and master classes with faculty and guest artists and rehearse with world-renowned concert soloists. Students at BMC also have the opportunity to attend a variety of orchestra, chamber, and opera performances at the center.

In addition to his studies at Hartsville High School, Martin is enrolled in the Accelerated Learning Opportunities program (ALO) at Coker, which is part of the Partners for Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) program. He currently studies piano with Dr. Ryan Smith, assistant professor of music and director of the summer piano institute at Coker College. Dr. Smith is also an instructor with the PULSE program. 

“Stone was introduced to the PULSE program and he is thriving,” says Smith. "Just two years ago, this student didn't read music when he began. By the end of the semester, he was playing at the level of someone who had studied for several years."

Smith continued by saying that Martin passion for the piano is evident in playing. "After enrolling in Applied Piano, he is now playing at the college level or better."

Archie Torain earns superior rating in vocal competition

ALO student advances to NATS state battle

Archie Torain.

Archie Torain.

Hartsville High School (HHS) sophomore Archie Torain received a superior rating at the Mid-Atlantic region's National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. The win enables him to compete at the state level, and advanced to the national preliminaries with another victory, placing in the top 5 out of hundreds of competitors. 

NATS is an organization that promotes singing through competitions and programs that showcase talented singers and performers. Top performers in each region compete against other top artists from around the country. Students of NATS members start the process by performing during regional auditions. Three singers from each regional category advance to a national online screening round, where entrants will submit a video of their performances for adjudication by a panel of national judges. 

Torain is a student at Coker College through the PULSE Accelerated Learning Opportunies (ALO) program, studying voice with Lee Ousley. At high school, he is a member of the Advanced Honors Choir and the HHS Singers. He also studies with Dr. James Beaumier, HHS choral teacher. At the competition, Kim Roberts, Hartsville Middle School magnet chorus teacher, served as Torain's accompaniest. 

Dr. Serena Hill La-Roche, Coker PULSE facilitator, said, "Archie’s voice instructor and I are thrilled with the vocal progress he is making, and are proud that he has a chance to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for growth and self-discovery."

Coker student chooses PULSE as community service project

Lunch buddy idea grows into lasting concept

For the second year, Coker College students choose PULSE programs in Hartsville schools to provide community service projects. Jubilee Smith, a Coker College senior and Sparrow Scholarship recipient, focused on the work of Dr. James P. Comer’s School Development Program to fulfill her scholarship requirements, which included 20 hours of local community service during the academic year and 20 hours of service at home during the summer. Smith developed and coordinated a lunch-buddy program in four elementary schools, Thornwell, Southside Early Childhood Center, West Hartsville and Washington Street.

“For this project, I wanted to focus on students who lacked healthy relationships with others, and students who were shy or timid,” says Smith. “It was important to me to create a project that would get the Coker students involved. I recruited seven very dedicated and awesome volunteers. Iparticipated as a volunteer as well.”

Coker student volunteers met with Comer facilitator Justin Dunham who provided a childhood development training session that provided tips on communication skills targeting youth and on building healthy social relationships.

“At first, we began by eating lunch with each class selected based on the schedule of the students," Smith explains. This allowed the Coker students to select one or two students for the Lunch Buddy Project based on pre-determined criteria. 

"We ended up selecting 16 students total from all four Comer schools to be a part of the Lunch Buddy Project," Smith adds. "We began each session with an icebreaker, asking students about their day. We allowed students to discuss whatever they wanted to as long as it was appropriate. The most important thing was to keep them engaged in healthy conversation. After meeting with the students for a few weeks, we  took them from class at lunch time and sat together as a family."

Many of the students didn't know each other, so Smith and her volunteers used the opportunity to help the students build a healthy relationship with other students. "Each week the students looked forward to us being there and always greeted us with a warm welcome," she says.

"I saw significant impact in both the Coker students and the students that were a part of the project. The Lunch Buddy project will continue in the years to come through other Coker College students,” Smith added.

Smith is the second Sparrow Scholarship recipient to complete scholarship requirements through the PULSE programs. In 2012-13, Coker senior, Gabe Fonseca interned with PULSE facilitator, Tara King. Fonesca helped design and deliver the mentor program.     

Scouting celebrates 106th anniversary

On February 8, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) celebrate its 106-year anniversary. After incorporation by Chicago businessman and publisher, William D. Boyce, a group of public-spirited citizens worked to set up the organization we know today. The BSA is one of the largest youth organizations with more than 2.4 million youth members and nearly one million adult volunteers.

Hartsville schools have more than 115 boys involved in the BSA Scoutreach program locally. Scoutreach provides special emphasis to urban and rural scouting programs and is implemented as an on-site after-school program. Funding for Scoutreach is underwritten by Sonoco Products Company. The program is administered by the Pee Dee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the TEACH Foundation, which oversees the Comer School Development Program (SDP) in four Hartsville elementary schools where the packs reside.

The purpose of the Scoutreach program in Hartsville is to support the Comer SDP precepts of child development which align with the BSA goals to build character in young boys and young adults, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness.

Since the program was implemented in 2011, a total of 358 young boys at Washington Street, West Hartsville, Southside Early Childhood Center and Thornwell School for the Arts have enjoyed educational activities and been taught lifelong values combined with fun.

In the 2015-16 school year, the program boasts 115 young boys comprising BSA troops 500, 542, 543 and 544. Each school focuses on a difference grade level. There are Tiger Cubs from the first grade and Wolves from the second grade at Washington Street. The third grade Bear Cubs are at Thornwell and the fourth grade Webelos are at West Hartsville. Although Southside students are too young to be Tiger Cubs, they participate in BSA Learning for Life which promotes the came BSA values. Read more about Scoutreach.

Scoutreach is one of the many ways Partners For Unparalleled Local Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) is preparing our children for the future.  

After 180 Days: Hartsville/A Community Perspective wins award

A video produced by the TEACH Foundation earned an Award of Excellence from the South Carolina Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective was evaluated by independent judges from Nashville, Tenn., Altanta, Ga., and St. Louis, Mo.

The entry consisted of two parts: a work plan outlining the objectives and results of the project and supporting documentation illustrating the outcome. The work plan focuses on storytelling, and explains how Hartsville schools became the subject of a year-long video project managed by the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). The project, called 180 Days: Hartsville was a two-hour documentary and part of the PBS public media initiative American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen. Co-produced by South Carolina ETV (SCETV) and NBPC, it aired in March 2015.

The documentary primarily focused on a fifth grader struggling with behavioral issues throughout the 2013-14 school year. Interspersed throughout the film, viewers could catch glimpses of key community outreach and involvement. However, the documentary was a snapshot and didn't explore the details of the Partnership for Unparalleled Scholastic Excellence (PULSE) initiative that played a significant role in the successful outcome of the student’s challenges.

PULSE is an inventive and repeatable path to improving education outcomes in rural schools through collaboration, innovative community resources and increased parental involvement. One of the programs within PULSE is the Comer School Development Program (SDP) which directly set into motion the success that ultimately ends the full, two-hour PBS documentary. In addition to elementary school programs, PULSE is implemented in the high school through Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) not brought out in the documentary.

According to Sharman Poplava, executive director for the TEACH Foundation, After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective explains the scope of PULSE and how it has impacted education in a small southern town. “The PBS documentary tells an important story about the redemption of a young student,” she says. “It is just one of many stories. We wanted to share a broader perspective on how the PULSE program created the environment for that redemption and success.”

In After 180 Days: Hartsville, A Community Perspective, the outcomes of PULSE are highlighted in different segments using interviews from community members who are committed to improving education in Hartsville. Also participating is the Comer SDP team at Yale University, including Dr. James P. Comer himself, who puts missing facets from the documentary into perspective. The TEACH Foundation was able to compile a video that answers pertinent questions about both aspects of the PULSE program and provides a roadmap other communities can follow for similar success.

Judging criteria for the awards included: effective writing integrated with design and visuals appropriate for the medium and the audience, creative and innovative approaches communicating with the target audience, and documented measurement of objectives. In the evaluation, the judges commented, “I was impressed with the quality and content of the video. It does an excellent job of describing PULSE's goals and aspirations.”

Poplava agrees enthusiastically. “We are delighted about receiving the award,” she explains. “It validates our belief that PULSE has an outstanding and pertinent message to share on education in South Carolina, particularly in the Hartsville schools.” 

The video can be viewed here and is embedded below.

ALO students excel in voice and piano

2014-15 year-end recitals, successes celebrated

The PULSE Accelerated Learning Opportunities (ALO) classes celebrated several milestones at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Seventeen students earned dual credit for music arts classes at Coker College, including voice and piano.

Danielle Cottingham, senior at Hartsville High School (HHS), was selected by the Coker faculty to participate and perform at the college's Honors Recital. Her selection was based on grades, class deportment, improvement and clear demonstration of the characteristics of a dedicated music student.

Other successes throughout the year include:

Participation in a piano master class conducted by University of South Carolina professor Dr. Charles Fugo, an accomplished musician and instructor

HHS senior Jabria Bishop, vocal student, was cast in the lead of the school's musical production

Three vocal students from HHS participated in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competiton. ALO students have qualified all four years of the program. This year, three students scored superior, and four scored excellent in the state solo and ensemble divisions. Anisha Green qualified to move on to the regional competition held in College Park, Maryland, but she was unable to attend. The NATS competition is adjudicated by vocal teachers from all over the state and southeast region.  

Three ALO students who have participated in the ALO program for the last three years, graduated in 2015. Two of them, Cottingham and Matthew Little, are pursuing majors in music and have earned scholarships from several institutions. Jabria Bishop, who will attend Duke University on a full scholarship, is pursuing a degree in bio-engineering with a music minor.

In January 2015, rising junior Stone Martin enrolled in Piano Class I to learn basic keyboard reading skills with Professor Chandler. By May, under Professor's Chandler's tutelage, he was invited to participate in the Coker Community Music Spring Recital based on his excellent performance in Class Piano. After the recital, he received a scholarship to participate in the Coker College Summer Piano Institute (SPI). SPI provides intensive piano study to pianists in grades 7-12.