This Is Carolina: Palm Charter High School drives kids to succeed

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:31 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Palm Charter High School is using motorsports to turn a craft into a career. Students like 17-year-old Ruben Jimenez said welding is one vocation that’s sparked his interest and he’s now working as a teaching assistant.

“We grind metal and put different parts of metal together and weld different pipes. I just think it’s nice and fun helping new people out,” said Jimenez.

Welding, graphic design and auto collision are just a few of the programs offered at Palm Charter, the only vocational high school in the nation that’s centered around motorsports. The intimate classes are tailored to every student’s talent and to their needs, like Hannah McKinney’s class.

“Students with disabilities tend to get pushed under the rug or looked as the black sheep of the community, and that is not even a factor here at Palm,” she said.

McKinney covers the core subjects, but she also focuses on life skills. Everything from handling personal finances, applying for college scholarships, to buying a home and a car. McKinney sets up her students for success with her employability class.

“A few things that we’ve been working on is resume building, cover letters. They have a work portfolio that they’re putting together with work samples.”

That includes their “Spill the Beans” coffee shop. Her class learns to blend smoothies and serve up coffee and pastries to staff and students.

“It just gives them opportunities to not only communicate with the staff around here but also their peers,” said McKinney.

And when the last bagel is served, McKinney’s students trade in the apron for another trade. For 17-year-old Dustin Swihart, it’s graphic design.

“That is his niche,” said McKinney. “He enjoys being able to tap into his creativity and really put whatever he visualizes to life.”

Dustin said he really enjoys making the stickers.

“My favorite animal is sloth stickers,” he said.

McKinney said Dustin masters his craft by quickly learning and executing class projects. The students design their stickers and logos on a computer program and print them out. Then, they make sure they’re bubble free, before decorating the halls and lockers and eventually, cars. That’s what Dustin said he wants to do when he grows up.

“Preparing cars. Like auto collision. So, yeah,” he said.

The class even took time to create and print out stickers for This Is Carolina.

“There’s unique learning happening here at Palms, so I’m very blessed to be here,” said McKinney.

McKinney said her goal is for her students to be successful once they graduate and believes what’s offered here at Palm Charter will do just that.

“It just warms my heart to see them excelling all areas of life inside this classroom, over in the vocational side, but applying things that they’ve learned on both sides out into the real world.”

To learn more about what Palm Charter High School has to offer, click here. If you have good news to share just email or message Loren Korn on Facebook.