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Opportunities begin at Awendaw Outreach Center

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Opportunities begin at Awendaw Outreach Center

This computer lab allows students enrolled in the Awendaw Regional Outreach Center to work at their own pace.

In this day and age, it’s bad enough if you don’t have a college degree. So, not having a completed high school education can be detrimental to a person both economically, socially and culturally.

But Bettye J. Simmons set out to create educational possibilities for her neighbors in Awendaw.

She founded Awendaw Regional Outreach Center in 2011 to help all ages obtain their high school diploma or GED.

Awendaw Regional Outreach Center is a 501-(c)(3) community organization dedicated to improve the health, educational attainment, human welfare and open opportunities for youths, adults and family to become self-sufficient.

“This community needed a service center. There is nothing like it in the region,” she said. “By word of mouth and flyers handed out around the community, she attracted 25 interested students. And those numbers keep growing.

“And oh my glory, it has not been easy,” she said. “It’s hard to get grants. But we need them to operate the center and be able to provide these services for free,” she said.

Simmons said the center provides education and training programs to help young and older individuals achieve a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job.

“We provide the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life and open pathways of possibilities,” she explained.

And with the help of retired educator and administrator and former resident of Awendaw, Ellamae Washington, a student’s success is almost guaranteed.

In South Carolina, someone drops out of school every 11 seconds, and in the United States, someone drops out every 26 seconds. Bridging the gap in early childhood literacy among low-income students is the foundation for preventing at-risk behaviors that lead to delinquency and incarceration in adolescence and adulthood.

This is particularly true for a low-income household caught up in the cycle of poverty that has dominated families for many generations. “We were established to mitigate these problems and to build programs and partnerships to meet individual and family needs of those wishing to obtain their high school diploma or GED,” said Simmons.

Using Auto Skills Academy of Reading and Auto Skills Math Program, students reach proficient levels that prepares them to successfully take the GED or obtain their high school diploma via credit recovery.

The center has also partnered with the Charleston County School District to process at-risk students through the programs available.

Simmons and Washington have the passion and the faith that it takes to run such a center, but Washington urged the community to ban together and support the cause.

Originally from Awendaw, Washington looks at her voluntarism at the center as a way to give back to her community.

“Now I am hooked and I can’t rest because I want to be here at the center helping people learn,” she said.

“The people who come here are enthusiastic and diligent and don’t waste time. Many have made great progress. I wish we could get a nice grant. There is just so much more we could do for these people if we had the money.”

She said that the community of Awendaw was not doing all it could to enhance learning and education for the children of the area. “There should be more of an insistence on the importance of education,” she said.

“This is basically a farming community and the older generations don’t see the technology we have today as something to acquaint themselves with. There is a certain lack of motivation in this rural area,” she explained. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

The center’s business plan is a model for stainability, “We believe when times get difficult we will be able to sustain our core programs, respond to the community and its regional needs to grow our programs,” Simmons explained.

But to keep this much-needed center’s doors open, business partners, donations and volunteers are needed.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

By making a tax deductible donation to their capital campaign, you’ll be directly contributing to individuals struggling to cope with bridging the gap in literacy among high school dropouts to go back to school to obtain their high school diploma or GED. Additionally, you will be recognized for your generosity as a capital campaign supporter on the Awendaw Regional Outreach Center website and in the upcoming newsletter.

Peper Plantation graciously donated the use of their facilities for fund-raisers held by the center. In addition, local sweetgrass basket makers have donated their pieces to be auctioned off, with proceeds going back to Awendaw Regional Outreach Center.

In addition, gift cards and awards are given to the students as they master various levels of the learning requirements and donations of gift cards are much appreciated.

A Prayer Breakfast will be hosted at the center on June 1 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Tickets are $25. Receive one complimentary ticket with the purchase of five tickets.

Breakfast will be catered. Guests will enjoy fellowship and praise and a devotional study led by Ellamae Washington.

“Our job is to plant seeds, because seeds harvest off,” said Simmons. “Sometimes we’ll find a hidden talent that even the individual didn’t know about. It’s wonderful to see that blossom.”

Washington agreed. “I don’t want to see my community left behind. Knowledge is power and an education is essential.”

For more information, visit Awendaw Regional Outreach Center at 4993 Highway 17 North or call 928-3228. Email the office at

This option offers students the ability to complete courses early and recover academic credits to ensure timely graduation. Special Note to private schools and public schools: Awendaw Regional Training Center has been instrumental in reducing your summer school costs for many public schools and private schools nationwide.

Call for a free consultation on how the center can help with your summer school budgets and providing services to enhance academic programs for your school.

If you are a student needing summer school classes, please notify your school student services about using Awendaw Regional Training Center as your summer school option.

The Awendaw Regional Training Center Academic Credit Recovery program provides a randomly generated exam based on our high school diploma program curriculum for the selected course. It identifies strengths and weaknesses by, developing a prescription instructing and generating an individual lesson plan.

The program allows students to work almost completely independently. The student completes the initial assessment, reviews all of the lessons and then takes a follow-up test. The follow-up test creates a new prescription.

If the student actually reviewed the lessons assigned from the first prescription, he or she should have fewer lessons to review on the second prescription.

The student reviews the newly generated lesson plan and takes another follow-up test.

The student follows this same process until there are no more lessons to review.

After school tutoring

Computer literacy for youths

Reading and vocabulary building sessions

Self-esteem counseling sessions

Communication and life skill sessions

Mentoring program

Support services

Adult literacy

Adult computer training

Leadership development ethics

On the job training

Life Skills 101 for youth

Domestic violence awareness “A NEW START”

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