ECHS sets the bar

Published 11:14 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Efforts to improve education and allow more students the opportunity to graduate at Escambia County High School are not going unnoticed.

ECHS’ many after-school programs have caught the attention of the Alabama Department of Education. Department representatives recently visited the school to documentss the programs, focusing in on ECHS’ Twilight Program, which was instituted last January by principal Zickeyous Byrd to allow students facing issues like pregnancy or sickness the chance to complete their high school diploma after school.

While visiting ECHS, ADE representatives spoke with Byrd and other community leaders about the motivation for starting the Twilight Program, as well as some the success stories that have already surfaced as a result of the after school initiative. Students involved in the program also spoke with the ADE. Byrd said the interviews were filmed and have been viewed in various workshops across the state.

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“ECHS is featured in the Alabama Department of Education’s new initiative on providing professional development to schools, which is called Good To Great,” Byrd said.

The interview also highlighted other creative programs implemented by Byrd such as Operation Success, the community-based scholarship program.

The Twilight program for this year got under way last week and will hopefully be a catalyst for students who had given up on graduating returning to finish receiving their high school education, Byrd said.

“The program is continuing to go strong,” he said. “We were able to pull back in students who dropped out at the age of 17 and now they are 19.”

Byrd said many of the returning students have seen first-hand the difficulties of trying to get jobs without a high school diploma.

“They witnessed the doors being shut in their faces and of course they came across the space on the applications many times that asked about a high school diploma,” he said. “They realized they had to put no. That shut the door. They are back and we are glad to have them and to make sure they graduate.”

Byrd said ECHS is also happy to be able to continue the Operation Success program, an initiative aimed at achieving a 100 percent rate of students graduating and attending some level of post high school education. Byrd said last year’s results were great, and he has hopes of even more success this year.

“Operation Success was able to award over $4,000 in scholarship money to various graduating students during the 2011 academic year,” Byrd said. “We had a wonderful year on last year with 92 percent of our students graduating in May. About five percent finished the requirements during the summer. This year we are going to reach our goal of 100 percent and we are looking for everyone to get on board again this year.”

Byrd said ECHS is very thankful to all of the businesses that have supported Operation Success.

“We are thankful to First National Bank and Trust again for their help and support this year,” Byrd said. “All donations can be made there. The only thing a contributor needs to do is go in and mention Operation Success and the wonderful tellers will be glad to assist.”
Byrd said Operation Success has already received its first donation of the year in a $1,000 contribution from Aurora Crook on behalf of the Myrtice Wise Nall Scholarship.

Other local contributors include: State Farm; Regions Bank; Myrtice Nall (three scholarships); Davids Catfish; Luverne Wise Albert; Community Friendship Club; Suzanne Smith (five scholarships); Johnson Ford; Mary Bess and Buck Powell; Atmore Animal Hospital; Merrill and Patricia Still; Forrest Jones; Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union; Atmore Rotary Club (four scholarships); and Atmore Kappa League (five scholarships).

Byrd said in addition to the Twilight Program and Operation Success, there are other opportunities for educational advancement offered at ECHS. In conjunction with the Atmore Kappa League, the school is now offering an additional after school program for area students. Byrd said the new after school enrichment program was made possible by the 21st Century grant from the ADE, and provides after school assistance and tutoring for students from ECHS as well as A.C. Moore Elementary School and Escambia County Middle School.
Byrd said the program keeps students busy after school while giving them an educational edge by exposing them to new opportunities.

“When students walk into the doors at 3:30, they are fed snacks by the Child Nutrition Department and then they are off to take care of homework or provided with extra help from various computer programs,” Byrd said.

Byrd said his particularly excited about exposing students to various computer programs.

“We are doing our best to keep up with the trends of today,” he said. “We know that computer applications and graphics are so intriguing to both students and adults. These are popular programs that cost a lot of money and we are happy to provide the community and our students with these skills.”