Help Comes to School in South Carolina’s ‘Corridor of Shame’

Here’s some good news, involving a young student from South Carolina you might remember from President Obama’s State of the Union speech in February. Although it might take a few minutes to get to the “good” part.

Ty’Sheoma Bethea is an eighth grader at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C. The school is in a poor area of the state, dubbed “the corridor of shame,” and doesn’t have the money to fix it’s crumbling physical plant. The middle of of the following video clip shows Barack Obama making a visit to the area in January 2008 during the election season:

Bethea wrote a letter to Congress to plead for help, which came to Obama’s attention. The letter read in part, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”

Bethea was invited to the President’s State of the Union address to Congress in February, and sat next to Michelle Obama for the event. Obama spoke of Bethea and the plight of her school in his address:

All that publicity didn’t immediately turn things around. The school was disappointed to learn about how political conflicts over the use of federal stimulus funds might affect them:

But thanks to a businessman’s charity, this story has at least a bit of a happy ending. As reported by the Associated Press:

Darryl Rosser, CEO of classroom furniture supplier Sagus International, called Principal Amanda Burnette the day after Obama read Bethea’s plea. After visiting the campus four weeks ago, Rosser said he knew he had to do what he could.

Over the weekend, Sagus sent nearly 2,000 pieces of furniture on four tractor-trailer loads. Volunteers worked throughout the weekend to put the surprise together, including a final coat of paint about 8 p.m. Sunday.

Words of encouragement from leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. adorn the walls. But the students chose as their favorite these words of President Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

At a school assembly attended by state schools chief Jim Rex, U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon, and Sen. Kent Williams, D-Marion, Rosser got a standing ovation.

The student who brought the attention to J.V. Martin said the correctly-sized furniture will help students focus.

“Even though our dream is not yet completed … We now have a better school. We now feel better about our school,” Ty’Sheoma Bethea said. “We are not quitters,” she added, mimicking the words in her letter, “and we are not through.”

Kudos to Mr. Rosser for his charity. At a time when many business people are seen as greedy men without hearts, it’s heartening to see this act of kindness. Rosser didn’t wait for change… he made it.

Scene from an improved J.V. Martin Junior High School. See more images here.

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