NOTE :: "Celebrate N.C. Schools" feature stories contained on this site are for historical purposes only. While each story was accurate on the date it was published, it may be outdated when viewed.

Below are some innovative programs in North Carolina school and districts that have made local, state and national headlines. To see your program featured here, contact Vanessa Jeter.


SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS CREATE POSITIVE CHANGES IN ABSS SCHOOLS (Burlington Times News) Parents and community members alike have been skeptical of the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education’s redistricting plan for Graham and Cummings high school since it was announced earlier this year.

Between 2019 and 2021, Graham would become a skilled trade academy, offering courses and certificates in areas like electrical and plumbing, and Cummings a school of the arts. Creating specialized programs would give students more opportunities and focused paths to college, and much of the interest in those programs is coming from within the schools.

ABSS already has successful arts and trade programs. In fact, Graham High School took the first step to becoming a skilled trade school this fall, and it was received with interest and excitement.

The Fire Academy is a four-course program that trains high school students to become EMTs and firefighters. Now entering its fourth week, the program has roughly 50 students, with 12 of those coming from Southern, Williams, and Eastern high schools by bus to participate. Once the program is completely operational, seniors will have the certifications needed to start applying for jobs immediately after graduation, and for students who can’t afford a university or community college education, this is an opportunity to gain marketable skills for free.

Robin Bowers, director of Career and Technical Education for ABSS, adds that the demand for those programs isn’t coming only from students and parents, but from employers. She’s been working with teachers, representatives from Alamance Community College, and the Alamance Chamber of Commerce on developing programs that fit the needs of the surrounding job market.

The current proposed programs are electrical, masonry, welding, HVAC and plumbing. At recent meetings, the board also has received multiple requests to add an aviation program because of the high number of jobs available at Honda Aircraft Co. in Greensboro.

HEC STUDENT GOES THE EXTRA MILE (The Mountaineer) When Melanie Hagan, a rising sophomore at Haywood Early College, was recently assigned the task of writing a blog about her HEC experience, it wasn’t much of a challenge for her. Instead, the blog was an opportunity to showcase her passion for HEC and how much she enjoys being a part of a different kind of school environment.

Hagan's passion for being at the early college came through in her writing — so much so, that the NC Department of Public Instruction noticed and posted her writing and photo on the homepage of its website. In her blog, Hagan wrote about her first year at HEC, in which she took six college-level classes along with four high school classes, and loved being challenged. She described the courses as “intriguing” and her teachers as “inspiring," while also mentioning how much she enjoys being in smaller class sizes.

When asked what she thought of her blog being used on the DPI website, a shy Hagan didn’t know what to say. “It was a little shocking — obviously, I didn’t expect it,” Hagan said.

LANGUAGE PROGRAMS BOOST ACADEMICS IN BUNCOMBE SCHOOLS (Asheville Citizen-Times) Teacher Diana Restrepo held a card with a picture of a pair of socks to her forehead. She couldn’t see the picture on the card, but through a series of questions to her first-graders, she made guesses.

Restrepo asked her questions in Spanish. The children listened and answer “si” or “no.” These students are in their second year in the popular Spanish immersion program at Glen Arden Elementary.

Starting in kindergarten, students learn from native Spanish speakers. They hear almost all Spanish during the school day. The teacher assistant in Restrepo’s class is also a native Spanish speaker.

“In kindergarten, they are sponges,” said Elimerd Aponte, a first-grade teacher in the program at Avery’s Creek. “They just absorb everything. They have this wide open brain, and everything you put inside there is gonna stay there.”

Since 2005, more and more North Carolina school districts have added dual language/immersion programs. Educators cite research that shows students perform better academically and have higher proficiency levels in both languages.

The number of school districts with these programs has grown from four in 2004-05 to 33 featuring more than 120 programs, according to Helga Fasciano, special assistant for global education for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.