DILLON, SC (WMBF) - A school is the foundation of a community and a new one in Dillon has the community excited about the future of education. Dillon Middle School students just finished up their first year in a brand new building, but it wasn't long ago that was a far-reaching dream.
It was just 4 ½ years ago that President Barack Obama highlighted the old, rundown JV Martin Middle School in his State of the Union Address. The oldest school in South Carolina was brought to his attention by a letter written by then-eighth-grader Ty'Sheoma Bethea. But the dream of a new school building for Dillon Middle School students was decades in the making.
"It's been a dream for 20-something years & it finally came to fruition this year with a lot of hard work from a lot of people and a lot of people wanting better," says Ray Rogers, Superintendent of Dillon County School District 4.
And better it is! The Dillon Middle School is a state-of-the-art educational facility. Every room has a promethean board for interactive learning. The classrooms are also climate-controlled, unlike JV Martin which didn't offer heat or air conditioning. There are new computer labs with desktops for every student. It's obvious the new Dillon Middle School is breaking down the barriers that used to inhibit learning.
"It was embarrassing to all of us to have you know, to have the oldest building in the state being used for kids," Rogers says. "All that's been rectified now"
School leaders are also proud of the massive 1,000 seat gymnasium that looks more like it belongs attached to a high school.
"What we had was a boxed in arena built in 1926 at JV Martin," remembers Rogers. "Everything we have is just so much nicer and modern and up to today's standards."
And when you build such a magnificent place for middle school students to come, they respond in positive ways.
"The kids take more pride in the facility and take care of the facility," principle Rodney Cook says. "I think that stands out most, not necessarily the facility but the way it makes you feel when you walk in the door."
Students walked in the door for the first day of school just weeks after the building was finished, but Rogers says they never missed a step.
"This was our first year and in fact probably went better than planned because of [the] hard work of people here. Teachers & everyone did a great job getting this facility ready."
Now, the community is ready to watch generations of students excel in their new middle school.