Summer in Halifax and Martin Counties

Wrapping up a full month of visits in July, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction staff and regional team traveled to Halifax and Martin counties to witness the innovative education strategies in the northeast.

Wrapping up a full month of visits in July, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction staff and regional team traveled to Halifax and Martin counties to witness the innovative education strategies in the northeast.

Known as the “lighthouse district of the east”, Halifax county created several summer opportunities for its students, targeting the specific needs of the community and expanding students’ horizon for the future. Through the Clean Energy Youth Apprenticeship and Solar Camp, 20 students learned all the components of solar energy while also developing and honing skills through social emotional learning. In addition to solar energy, Green Leaf Farm is a farm-to-school county initiative for agriculture students with the potential for a CTE pathway.

Throughout both summer initiatives visited by DPI staff, schools and districts were intentional about the frequency and platforms used to share information about summer programming to families and communities in the early planning stages. It was important parents were informed of the opportunities available to students and the skills that students would gain during the highly engaging summer enrichment.

“All children need to know how they contribute to the great state of North Carolina,” Superintendent of Halifax county, Dr. Eric Cunningham shared.

Continuing their visit in the east, DPI staff traveled to Martin county to visit a new creator space that will serve all county schools and students. Opening in the fall, a former strip mall was renovated to become a state-of-the-art campus where students can learn workforce-based skills through virtual, hybrid and face-to-face classes. This unique campus will give students the opportunity to expand their knowledge base beyond traditional classes through hands-on learning.

In early August, DPI staff returned to Halifax county for the solar energy camp graduation ceremony with all 20 students completing the 10-week program and earning three industry certifications: OSHA 10 – construction, Six Sigma – Yellow Belt Level, and Working Smart. Throughout the paid apprenticeship in the growing solar industry, students also earned applicable credits at North Carolina A&T.

“To solve a big problem to help y’all not just get the education, the stipend and the credentials, but to help empower y’all to solve the biggest problems our whole earth is facing,” said Caroline Sullivan, executive director of the North Carolina Business Committee of Education. “So many people are excited about not what the grownups came together to build, but y’all were able to do. Please know that not just people all over the state, but all over the country, are excited and inspired by y’all. It will forever be known as the Halifax Model. Congratulations to all of you.”

Students brought high energy to the solar summer apprenticeship while developing both college and career skills in a flourishing industry.

Now what? Opportunities within Halifax and Martin counties capitalize on community business partnerships to prepare students for pathways to success while growing the workforce within the community. In each of these instances, students are learning skills in school to pursue the post-secondary plans of their choice be it college or a career. Specifically, the solar camp in Halifax county is an exemplar for counties and industry partners to foster college and career readiness beyond the traditional classroom setting. Created through state, community and industry partners, the Clean Energy Youth Apprenticeship and Solar Camp is a strong model with opportunity to be replicated throughout the state to prepare students for the post-secondary plans of their choosing.

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