10/23/13 — Partnership East has new partner, still same mission

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Partnership East has new partner, still same mission

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 23, 2013 1:46 PM

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State Employees Credit Union Partnership East Coordinator Clay Smith addresses potential students in the Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College during Discover Wayne, an event for high school students. Smith's program targets students interested in the teacher education program affiliated with East Carolina University.

An education degree completion program introduced at Wayne Community College in 2004 has a new name, funding source and coordinator but still the same mission -- to develop teachers in Wayne County.

State Employees Credit Union recently announced its $2.28 million grant funding of the program for the next five years, prompting the name change to SECU Partnership East.

WCC originally signed on as a partner with East Carolina University nearly 10 years ago, becoming the third site for the Partnership East program. Its purpose was to meet the growing classroom teacher shortage by making the four-year education degree more accessible.

In the program, students are able to take courses required for a bachelor's degree in elementary, middle grades or special education from ECU without having to travel to the Greenville campus.

The program's original name was Wachovia Partnership East. It then changed to Wells Fargo Partnership East when the bank name changed.

WCC is considered a "hub site" for the south central consortium, which encompasses Johnston, Cumberland, Harnett, Duplin, Wayne, Greene and Sampson counties.

Clay Smith, recently hired as coordinator of SECU Partnership East and himself a product of the ECU College of Education, said one of the biggest hurdles has been recruiting.

"I think folks are concerned with salary, with monetary figures," he said. "We think things are looking up. We really hope to be able to work with our partners. It's a field that really requires a passion."

The program has several benefits -- linking up with a local community college, having financial aid options and online courses are just a few ways to bridge the gap and bring potential educators closer to their goal.

"We're starting the second decade of the program. I think it's really going to take off," Smith said. "We see this as the first step to them getting their first classroom."

The mission all along has been the "grow your own" concept, Smith said. He said the program has been especially successful in attracting those unable to travel a distance to attend college and instructional assistants with an eye toward advancing in the profession.

The statistics prove out that theory. To date, the program has produced 535 graduates. Seventeen percent of those, or 89, attended WCC and 65, or 12 percent, are now employed in Wayne County Public Schools.

WCC currently leads the pack in another way. Fall numbers show the program enrollment at 263, with the largest number from any one community college, 39, represented on the local campus.

"The majority of the students that are coming to our program are associate degree-seeking, a tradition student one to five years removed from high school and working toward this as a career," Smith said. "A smaller number are instructional assistants but a lot do have part-time jobs and are working around those things."

Demographically, he said the areas he hopes to increase representation in would be the minority market -- to have men become more of a presence in elementary schools or special education and females in the areas of social studies, math and science.

"We're seeing more Hispanic females interested, which is good, in the areas of English-as-a-Second-Language," he said.

For more information, call 919-739-7012 or go to www.edu.edu/wpe.