Saturday, April 06, 2002

GE team spruces up school

Corporate partner also boosts college aid

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        Aiken High School got a spring facelift Friday, thanks to a group of General Electric Aircraft Engines volunteers.

        More than 100 members of GE Engineering Services' global leadership team descended on the College Hill school to paint classrooms, renovate the library and groom the campus for spring.

[photo] Volunteers with GE Engineering spread mulch on newly planted daffodil beds Friday in front of Aiken High School.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “The kids are not going to recognize the school when they come back from spring break,” said Dawn Shepherd, director of Aiken's College Bound program.

        When the team finished its work, daffodils bloomed in newly mulched beds, corridors and classrooms boasted a fresh coat of paint, and the College Bound program received a check for $85,000, the second installment of a three-year, $250,000 grant from the GE Fund.

        While Friday's activities focused on upgrading Aiken's physical plant, the major impact of GE's 25-year involvement with the predominantly black high school has been to raise its students' academic achievements and aspirations. After providing tutors for several years, GE jump-started Aiken's College Bound initiative in 1985 with a $1 million grant.

        “It's a continually evolving program, but we see more and more students that have gone on to college,” said longtime volunteer Jay Celesti, who led a painting crew from classroom to classroom.

        “When GE first partnered with Aiken to launch this program in 1985, only 5 percent of graduates went to college. Last year, 63 percent of Aiken graduates went on to college, and those students received $723,000 in scholarships,” said George Oliver, GE vice president and general manager of GE Engine Services.

        Mr. Oliver said company volunteers help students prepare for college entrance exams, counsel on college choices and provide information on financial aid, teach college survival skills, and mentor students even after they enter college. Because of this preparation, Ms. Shepherd said, Aiken students are not only entering college in record numbers, they're succeeding.

        “The GE grant also supports Aiken's chapters of Minorities in Mathmematics, Science and Engineering, and the National Society of Black Engineers,” Ms. Shepherd said.

        “Like those of us here today, the people at the GE Fund believe in the students at Aiken,” Mr. Oliver said


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