New program reversing student performance in Richmond County

Students who initially performed poorly in school are turning around with a new work program.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Dozens of local students are setting out to prove if you change the way they learn, you can improve education results.  Arriving to school in the morning and staying until the final bell ring didn’t work for a group of kids in Richmond County School System.  Instead, they learn by working more with their hands.  And instead of just getting a grade they get money.

“I was struggling a lot in school. I just couldn’t comprehend a lot of stuff and move fast as others,” said Tyler Gregory, a senior in the district.

It wasn’t that Gregory didn’t know how to do the work, it just took him longer. A full, eight-hour school day at Hephzibah Comprehensive High School was too much for him.

“I’ve always struggled in math. I can study and study and study and I still won’t get it right,” he said.

He struggled in Language Arts and Science too. That directly led to behavior problems.

He told NewsChannel 6 about his problems while in traditional school at Hephzibah.

“Hanging out with the wrong crowds, doing what I wanted to do, being bad.”

Tyler is one of about 90 kids enrolled in Richmond County School System’s Reaching Potential Through Manufacturing program. The district partnered with Textron Specialized Vehicles E-Z-GO to motivate students to complete school.

“The direct instruction teacher will stay until 9 o’clock or they will get certain people from the main plant to come down here and tutor us,” Gregory said. “So far, I’ve been passing all my classes since I’ve started.”

Aldreausha Young, who is also a senior in RPM, is doing well too just like Gregory.

“It’s actually a good program because I come every day and before I used to miss school a lot. [I would] stay home sick, didn’t want to go to school.”

Young told NewsChannel 6 she was attending T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School.  She left there and attended Cross Creek before making a final stop at the Performance Learning Center.  She decided on the RPM program and that gave her a reason to stay in school and learn. RPM offers a morning, afternoon or evening shift for students to work for roughly nine dollars an hour. Students take a break and hit the books.

“If you don’t come to school, you don’t work. You make money so you want to come every day to make money,” Young explained.

Justin Bowman monitors RPM students on the floor and at home if needed.

“It’s a stable work environment. If they’re not here we’re calling and looking for them,” said Bowman, an operations manager there.

He added that in the classroom, it’s all about smaller numbers and encouragement.

“In the meeting that we start-up with, if a kid finishes a class or does good on a test we will have a hooray for that particular student. I think that may be the first time somebody has said good job.”

Added to better grades, students have plans for the money they now make.

“I’ve always wanted a motorcycle so, get a motorcycle. Get a house,” Gregory told us.

“I like to buy food,” Young said.

Both Tyler and Aldreausha plan to graduate and stay with Textron. The company pays for college too and they both plan on taking advantage of that. The school’s principal, Dr. Jason Moore, said he’s hoping other companies in different counties catch on and start similar programs.

Learn more about the program here.

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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