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Partnership renewed to advance diversity

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The Riley Institute at Furman University has received a $75,000 grant from Duke Energy to expand ConnectionsSC, a program that advances diversity leadership among education and law enforcement professionals across the state. The grant marks Duke Energy’s second investment in ConnectionsSC. The Riley Institute first received a pledge of support from Duke Energy in 2015 following the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“There are no quick solutions for the deep legacies of racism,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s president in South Carolina, in a news release. “We are continuing to invest in the long-term approach of the Riley Institute’s diversity leadership work because we expect that over time it will help drive systemic change in the state.”

Modeled after the Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative, ConnectionsSC brings educators and law enforcement officials together over the course of five months to participate in discussion and case studies designed to help them gain tools to lead effectively in their increasingly diverse communities, according to the release. Grouped together by school district, educator and law enforcement teams work together on action projects that benefit students and the community.

“Educators and law enforcement professionals are strongly linked in their interaction with and impact on community members, especially young people. ConnectionsSC brings together professionals from both groups who are best positioned to help build cultures that support diverse communities,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute, in the release. 

The inaugural ConnectionsSC class graduated in 2016. The graduates launched several community initiatives, including Project H.O.M.E. in North Charleston, an initiative to provide housing and a home environment to students who become homeless while still in high school.

The new funding expands the program further into Duke Energy’s South Carolina service area, adding 31 additional education and law enforcement professionals and six school districts, nearly doubling the number of impacted school districts in the state.          

ConnectionsSC 2017 participants will attend five day-long sessions through December of this year. The participants are:

  • Lt. Tim Ayers, community services unit supervisor, Rock Hill Police Department
  • Robyn Caldwell, principal, The Academy for Teaching and Learning, Chester County School District
  • Deputy Sheriff Calvin Carter, school resource officer, Chester County Sheriff’s Office
  • Eric Childers, principal, Sims Middle School, Union County School District
  • Cameron Collier, assistant principal, Spartanburg High School, Spartanburg District 7
  • Sgt. Kito Crank, Chester County Sheriff’s Office
  • Rebecca Ford, principal, Johnakin Middle School, Marion County School District
  • Shannon Gibson, principal, Union County High School, Union County School District
  • Shane Goodwin, principal, Sullivan Middle School, York School District 3
  • Daris Gore, principal, Marion High School, Marion County School District
  • Duane Graham, principal, Chester Senior High School, Chester County School District
  • Scott Griffin, school resource officer, Union County School District
  • Sheka Houston, principal, Chester Middle School, Chester County School District
  • Chief Carl Jennings, Jonesville Police Department, Union County
  • Michael Johnson, school resource officer supervisor, Rock Hill Police Department
  • Ken Kiser, principal, Dorman High School, Spartanburg School District 6
  • Dean Ledford Jr., principal, Fairforest Middle School, Spartanburg School District 6
  • Al Leonard, principal, South Pointe High School, York School District 3
  • Don Mims, director of student services/hearing officer, Spartanburg District 7
  • Margaret Peach, principal, McCracken Middle School, Spartanburg District 7
  • Martina Rush, student services specialist, Marion County School District
  • Tawanda Scott, school resource officer, Chester County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jay Seegars, principal, R. P. Dawkins Middle School, Spartanburg School District 6
  • Deputy Sheriff Andrew Smith, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office
  • Cpl. Carl Stokes, school resource officer, Marion County Police and Marion County High School, Marion County School District
  • Kathy Taylor, principal, Jonesville Middle School, Union County School District
  • Machelle Thomas, school resource officer, Spartanburg City Police Department
  • Nicole Thompson, principal, Carver Middle School, Spartanburg District 7
  • Betsy Trakas, director of student services, Union County School District
  • Norris Williams, principal, Dutchman Creek Middle School, York School District 3
  • Kevin Wren, director of risk, security and emergency management, York School District 3

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