News

Florence businesses sign on with reading program

on Tuesday, 03 March 2015. Posted in News

BY JOHN D. RUSSELL Morning News
Published in The Morning News March 1, 2015
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FLORENCE, S.C. – Some businesses in Florence are helping parents help their children learn to read through a new program sponsored by Florence School District One. The Start 2 Read program puts educators in businesses and books in the hands of parents.

Dr. Floyd Creech, director of school readiness for the school district, said part of the goal is to help parents who may have limited time by reaching them at their workplace.  "We thought this would be a good place to approach them," Creech said. "Then the parents would be able to get a book, learn about it and read it to their child at home."

Studies show that the earlier parents start reading to their children, the better prepared they will be when entering school. The Start 2 Read program is geared toward children from birth to age 3. It provides age-appropriate books free to parents to read to their children.

Experienced early childhood educators ensure that parents get their questions answered and are on the right track. After 30 years of teaching in the Darlington County School District, Glenda Cottingham retired but wasn't quite ready to completely give up teaching. She said that in many ways she feels like she's having an even bigger effect with children by working with parents in the Start 2 Read program.

"It's exciting to know that reading is actually getting into the homes," Cottingham said. "Parents say their children are excited to read, and the parents can't wait to read to their children. You can't do anything in this world without reading. Children want to read but if you don't read to them, they're not going to care."

Assurant was one of the first companies to sign on with the program late last year. Early childhood educators pay a visit two days a month to meet with parents and give them tips on how to read to their child.

Deb Davis, Assurant site manager and vice president, said the program doesn't just help children.  "Our associates see we're interested in helping them with their children and it helps us be more engaged with them," she said. "Twenty years from now these kids could be applying to work at Assurant. We're not saying they aren't good parents. We feel everybody could learn to better use the resources available to help children."  

Assurant employee Wendy Stang, a mother of a 3-year-old boy, said that since participating in the program her son really loves to read.  "When the educators explain to us what we can do to help, it really helps us help them learn," Stang said. "It means a lot and shows they (Assurant) care about your family; that's not happened at other jobs I've had."

PGBA is another participating company, letting program representatives meet with employees up to three times per month. PGBA human resource generalist Rozlyn Ford said participating in the Start 2 Read program is unprecedented with the PGBA.
"On an educational level we've never had anything like this before," Ford said. "We do all kinds of things in the community but this is the first hands-on program geared to children. Overall, I think it helps build morale and employees' spirit."

PGBA employee Shatannah Johnson, a mother of a 4-year-old son, said having the books readily accessible at home helps when there may not be time to go out and get them on her own.
"I love it," she said. "It's so much easier because it's at my disposal. I come home with them and my son encourages me to read to him. Anytime you have a child that would rather read instead of play video games, it's a success."

Florence One provided $30,000 in funding for the program, with grants from The School Foundation and donations from other businesses in the area. So far, there have been more than 5,000 books distributed this year. Creech said he expects about 10,000 books to be distributed every year, once the program is fully operational.

Foundation executive director Debbie Hyler said supporting Start 2 Read fits right in with its goal for a well-educated community. The School Foundation supports schools and educational programs in Florence One through grants.
"We felt if children have a better chance at success when they come to kindergarten, through this program, why wouldn't we want to support it?" Hyler said. "It's important to remember, this is a very inexpensive way to reach parents. Think how expensive it could be down the road if a child is not where they need to be and needs tutoring, specialists or other programs to catch them up."

Hyler named FMU’s Outstanding Alumnus; three others honored

on Saturday, 28 February 2015. Posted in News

Hyler named FMU’s Outstanding Alumnus; three others honored

Posted: The Morning News
Thursday, February 26, 2015 8:02 pm
Francis Marion University press release

FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University honored four at its annual Alumni Appreciation Dinner held at the university's Performing Arts Center in Florence Thursday night.

The 2015 Outstanding Alumnus award went to Deborah W. Hyler ('82), executive director of the School Foundation.

Emily Brandenburg McMillan ('10) of Columbia received the Benjamin Wall Ingram III Young Alumnus award. Stacey Y. Brayboy ('94) of Washington, D.C., received the Professional Industry Award in Public Service and Law. Brad Sponic ('04), of Florence, received the Professional Industry Award in Education and Arts.

Hyler received a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from FMU in 1982 and has been executive director of The School Foundation in Florence since 2006. Under her leadership, The School Foundation has funded and awarded more than $900,000 in grants to local public schools. She is an accomplished organizer with more than 20 years of experience in community-related activities. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Mary Dean Brewer Woman of Distinction award from the Girl Scouts of the Eastern South Carolina. She is married to Dr. Daniel Hyler, a 1981gradute of FMU. They have three children: Jonathan, Jennifer, and Julia.

McMillan received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from FMU in 2009 and is a third-year law student at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Prior to enrolling in law school in the fall of 2012, she served as event coordinator for Governor Nikki R. Haley and assistant to the First Gentleman. She is the research editor for the ABA Real Property, Trust & Estate Journal, a member of the Moot Court Bar, and vice president of the Pro Bono Board. She has won numerous awards as a law student and worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal and at the law office of Sweeney, Wingate & Barrow. After her spring 2015 graduation, she will work as an associate at Sweeney, Wingate & Barrow in the areas of estate planning and appellate advocacy. Emily and her husband, John, a 2013 graduate of the FMU who holds a Masters in Business Administration from the university, reside in Columbia.

Brayboy received a Bachelor of Science in political science from FMU in 1984 and a master's degree in public administration from Clark Atlanta University. She is chief of staff for the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., where she manages the daily priorities of FNS. Previously, she served as director of Economic and Community Development for Rural Development at USDA, as a member of the transition team for President Obama and Vice President Biden, director of the Obama campaigns in South Carolina and Virginia during the Presidential primaries, deputy director in Indiana and Virginia during the general election campaign, and deputy director of the Virginia Council on Human Rights. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her daughter, Madison Lilli Philhower Brayboy.

Sponic received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from FMU and a Master's of Education in literacy from Walden University. He is currently working towards a Master's in Education in educational leadership from Arkansas State University . He has been employed by Florence School District I since 2008, where he teaches theatre arts in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program at Williams Middle School. He began his teaching career in Marion County. Sponic is a frequent volunteer at the Florence Little Theatre, where he has acted, directed, and designed lighting. He also leads the theatre's 7-12 grade "Rising Star" workshop.

It's All About That Bass For DWTSF's Michele and Jacob

on Wednesday, 25 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
2/14/2015


Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward are having a blast rehearsing for the upcoming Dancing With The Stars of Florence competition and benefit to be held on March 31 at the SiMT Building. The event is hosted by The School Foundation. The couple will present an energetic jive swing choreographed to "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor. Celebrity dancer Michele says her dance training is almost nil having given up tap dance classes around age 7 in favor of softball. She is a good sport, however, agreeing to take one for her company, Honda of South Carolina, which has participated in this popular fund-raising event since its beginnings four years ago.

"They told me it was time for a female representative and that I was the best candidate to support the company," she quipped. Michelle is assistant manager of administration with Honda. She considers participation as an adventure, but with her competitive nature and desire to win, she is trying to remember to have fun. This will be 17 year-old Jacob's first time dancing in Dancing With The Stars of Florence, but not his first time under the spotlight. The senior at Florence Christian School has been performing for four years with Surrendered Drama Team at Grace & Glory Ministries in Coward where he resides.

Jacob plans to enter the nursing program at Francis Marion University in the fall with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. Jacob says their routine is challenging, but he has confidence that he and Michele can pull it off. The real goal, both agree, is the opportunity to support The School Foundation's efforts to better the education in the community. This year's celebrity dancers paired with professionals include Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedrick Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley; Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker.

The dancers will be competing for the following trophies: Technical Skills Winners – to be awarded by the judges based on dancers' overall skills. People's Choice – to be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes,Most Entertaining - to be awarded to the most entertaining couple, and Social Stars - to be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward or other couples, for $10 a vote at www. FlorenceDancingWithThe Stars.com. Visit the Dancing With the Stars of Florence website, www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com, for dancer photos, updated news and to follow the votes.

Program takes early education home to parents

on Tuesday, 24 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 2:08 pm

By NICOLE CARTRETTE Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dulce Cruz wants to be a good mother.

Two days a month she welcomes a child development specialist into her home to offer parenting advice, discuss developmental milestones and talk about ways to boost learning at home for her daughter , Odaray, who is 18 months old .

The first-time mother and her husband, Sergio, have been finding extra parenting support and advice from the Parents as Teachers program since Odaray was 3 months old.

The early learning initiative is offered by the Start Smart/ early childhood education component of Florence School District One.

The program comes at no cost to participants and is open to pregnant mothers or those with children up to age 3 .

Cruz, a graduate of West Florence High School, said her little sister benefited from a similar early education experience.

“I saw that she did well in school,” Cruz said.

Wanting the best for Odaray, Cruz said , she decided to participate in the program. As a first-time mom at 19-years old, Cruz has lots of questions.

She is not afraid to look up information or talk to family but she thinks the extra source of support is helpful.

“I look up things on websites,” Cruz said, adding that she recently asked herself: “O K , when am I supposed to start potty training?”

“She has already learned so much,” Cruz said, adding that her daughter looks forward to visits with their home visitor, Melanie McMillan.

McMillan is a supervisor for the program. She makes home visits but also observes five other parent educators who provide services to a total of 127 families in Florence One.

McMillan said at the heart of the curriculum is the idea that all parents, regardless of personal circumstances, can be empowered, gain control over difficult circumstances, and interact with their children in a way that facilitates healthy development.

The ultimate goal is to help children learn, grow and develop to their full potential.

“The early years of life are so crucial,” McMillan said.

Parent educators, like McMillan, build on a parent’s strengths with an emphasis on the latest research about child development and early learning. They model best practices in interacting with children and open the door for parents to become the teachers.

“I want you to color with her,” McMillan told Cruz during a home visit this week. She demonstrated ways to capture the excited and busy Odaray’s attention.

McMillan also brought a book for Odaray . McMillan read each sentence of the short, colorful book in English while Cruz repeated her words in Spanish.

During the visit, Cruz and McMillan also talked about potty training and motor skills and how Cruz’s part-time tutoring endeavors were going.

Part of the Parent as Teachers philosophy is that family well-being is as important as development-centered parenting and parent-child interaction.

“We help the parent as well as the child,” McMillan said. “A lot of parents just don’t know about child development or what to expect. We help the parent, model for the parent and guide them.

“We let the parent know what things they can be doing with their child right now, at home, before they get to school.”

McMillan said some children come to pre-K lacking a lot of basic things that could be taught at home.

“Some are ready and some are not ready,” she said.

“Our job is to go in to make sure that the parent is working with the child. If the child has a delay we will pick up on it,” McMillan added. “We can offer referrals to try to get the child help. We might find a child who may need speech therapy. Sometimes we may run into a 3- year - old that can only make sounds and not speak words. We get that intervention in the home before the child gets to school.”

Preschool teachers can tell the difference, she said.

“They can tell that we have been working with them. We follow … (children in the program) from the time we have them all the way through school,” McMillan said.

The results are promising.

“They do very well,” she said.

Participation in Parents as Teacher is not income based. It is available to people who live in the school district.

“We definitely have available space,” McMillan said.

Pregnant mothers and parents of child up to 3 years old can participate in the program. All participants need to commit to two home visits per month. For more information contact the Florence One Office for School Readiness at 673-1129.

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Robert Watkins

on Friday, 20 February 2015. Posted in News

What is your previous dance experience?

I did a lot of dancing in college with friends and classmates from 2004 to 2008.

 

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

Popping or locking has always been the go-to move for me. It all depends on the song, though.

 

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

The first practice was good.  It was actually harder. Most of the dancing I did in the past was free- style.  I never had to count steps, but I caught on quick.

 

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Show off your talent, show your strengths and what you’re good at.

 

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?

I always thought how fun it would be to be on stage. Last year, my boss did it and I knew automatically I wanted to the next year. 

 

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

Not too bad. I’m usually on the other side.

 

What is your job title and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

 

Formation area manager. I recently was promoted to this position and moved from Kansas City, Missouri. My background is in engineering, so this is my first role that is more about managing people and production.

As an area manager for a battery manufacturing facilitymy main focus is supplying a quality product to our customers in the safest way possible.  My day-to-day task is managing production in my formation area, which includes giving direction to my four salary supervisors and also providing assistance to my 70 hourly employees on anything they need help with. This can range from simple tasks such as purchasing supplies for my team or can also be leading projects to resolve quality or productivity issues.

Robert Watkins and his partner Drew Arnold will be performing to Usher’sCaught Up.

Warner-Baker dance team rehearsing samba routine

on Wednesday, 18 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 2/17/2015

Chris Warner and Meggie Baker are rehearsing a lively samba routine for their presentation at Dancing With the Stars of Florence. They will be quick-stepping to the music of Bruno Mars' "Treasure." The pair are practicing weekly at the KFA dance studio perfecting some spins and dips for the March 31 competition to be held at the SiMT Building. Chris is a sales representative for St. Jude Medical. He grew up in Aiken where he attended Cotillion classes during seventh through tenth grades. As for dancing, that's the extent of his experience, he says.

However, nine year-old daughter Ella, a ballet dancer in training, is helping him practice at home. He and wife Heather also have a six-year-old son, Gray. Meggie began dance training at an early age and today she serves as a ballet mistress with the S.C. Dance Theatre. An attorney, she is Director of Corporate Compliance and Risk Management for HopeHealth Inc. And, she is a cast member for the Florence Little Theatre's upcoming production of "Noises Off," rehearsing four times a week for that play.

Both Chris and Meggie say they are having a good time rehearsing for a good cause. "This is such a great event," said Chris. "It raises a lot of money and it all stays here." He added that his children are in the public school system. The School Foundation will host its 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence fund-raising event on the evening of March 31. Over $480,000 has been raised from this event in the last four years.

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will select one couple as "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. A new edition this year, The Social Stars trophy, will be awarded to the couple receiving the most online votes. Fans may vote online for Chris Warner or Meggie Baker, or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Deepak Chowdhary

on Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015 8:30 pm
Nicole Cartrette/Morning News

What is your previous dance experience?
My only dance experience has been on the dance floor at parties or at home with my family. I grew up listening to Bollywood songs, which are a rich amalgamation of classical and folk dance laced with elements of jazz, hip-hop, and salsa. In Bollywood dance, the main goal is to have fun while dancing, so there are no rigid steps or moves followed. As a result, I often just feel and dance to the beat of any song that plays.

Do you have a go-to move, at weddings, parties, etc.?
I believe I have had the same go-to dance move for most of my life. Whether it's Indian, jazz, or even classical music playing, my go-to move is a type of Indian folk dance called bhangra, which was originally performed as a way of celebrating harvests in India. These bhangradance moves are often described as being done in a flamboyantly happy way. The moves involve petting an imaginary dog with one hand, screwing in an imaginary light bulb with the other hand, and stomping on the ground with one leg while simultaneously jumping up and down.

How was the first practice?
I thoroughly enjoyed my first practice. I was able to get to know my partner better and even learn the first few dance moves of our song. I truly look forward to many more practices and to finally perfecting our dance choreography for the Dancing with the Stars event!

Was it easier or harder than you expected?
I was incredibly nervous and apprehensive at the start of my first practice as I was not quite sure what to expect. Luckily, it turned out to be much easier and less intimidating than I had anticipated. My partner and I got along very well and practiced the first few seconds of the song. She reassured me that we will be able to learn the entire choreography over next practice sessions to come.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?
Brandi has been very encouraging and patient with me. I was worried about tripping over my two left feet, but she has repeatedly reassured me and told me to relax, stay loose, and enjoy this exciting journey which will culminate into our final performance on March 31.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?
During my young adult years, I was often discovering new places and new hobbies with my close friends. I realized recently that I had fallen into a routine and thought that participating in the Dancing with the Stars event would be a great change of pace, a way to take up a new hobby, and a wonderful way to meet new people. Not only is it a way for me to have fun and add to my collection of dance moves, but this event promotes a worthy cause that I believe very strongly in, which is the improvement of education. If I can be a part of an event that spreads awareness for the importance of education and raises money to help improve it, while giving people a night of fun and entertainment, I consider it a perfect opportunity to be a part of.

What do you think of The School Foundation's mission?
The School Foundation's mission coincides well with my passion for education, and my children can vouch for that. I consider the importance of education almost unparalleled and strongly believe that every child should have the opportunity to gain knowledge and receive a good education. The quote by journalist Sydney J. Harris sums up my beliefs quite well: "Education turns mirrors into windows." I agree wholeheartedly with this quote that when you look into a mirror, you see only your own reflection. When you look out of a window, however, the view is limitless; and it is precisely education that allows us these limitless opportunities.

How does it feel to be the 'celebrity' in your pairing?
I feel both humbled and honored to be a "celebrity" in this Dancing with the Stars event. I feel absolutely wonderful that this small effort on my part can have a direct impact on the students within our community. I do believe, however, that the true celebrities are the children of our community and of communities around the world whose insatiable curiosity, elaborate imaginations, and incredible ability to learn, improve and follow their dreams, whatever they may be, never ceases to amaze me.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?
By day, I am a gastroenterologist with McLeod Gastroenterology Associates, meaning that I am trained to diagnose and treat various conditions of the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver and pancreas. My main responsibility is to ensure that my patients receive the most proper and effective care that each and every one of them deserves. I would particularly like to emphasize the importance of early colon screening as it is highly effective in preventing the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Receiving a simple colonoscopy procedure every few years after the age of 50 can help reduce your risk by approximately 90 percent; and since March is colon cancer awareness month, I highly recommend that everyone make an effort to be safe and get checked even if symptoms are not present.

Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and his partner Brandi Williamson will be dancing to Dilliwaali Girlfriend.

DWTSF Partners are 'Happy' about their routine

on Wednesday, 11 February 2015. Posted in News

Brenda Harrison, Editor
The News Journal
Published 2/10/15

It was a weak moment when Michael Miller agreed to be one of the celebrity dancers for this year's Dancing With The Stars of Florence, but the president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce is happy to be helping The School Foundation raise funds for the children in Florence School District One. Michael says his dance experience is zero, even though his wife Kevin is a dance instructor. He said she has been trying for 38 years to get him to take dance lessons.

"I just don't want to fall and injure myself or my partner," he said, adding, "If I get a few laughs, that's fine." Miller will be dancing a jive with Cheyanne Beck, last year's Technical Skills Winner with Craig Washington. They will be dancing to the song, "Happy," by Pharrell Williams. Cheyanne Beck, 17, is a freshman at Coker College where she is majoring in both dance therapy and medicine. This is her third year as a professional with DWTSF. She is the daughter of Jay and Melody Beck of Florence and a South Florence High graduate.

Cheyanne has been dancing since the age of three and is trained in jazz, ballet and modern dance. As dance professional and teacher, she said Miller is doing great on the dance floor and both are "Happy" to support this great cause. The School Foundation will host its fifth annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence fund-raising event on the evening of March 31 at the SiMT Building. Over $480,000 has been raised from this event in the last four years.

Completing this year's line up of dancers are Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. Fans may vote online for Michael Miller and Cheyanne Beck, or other couples, at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

 

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Fields Norwood

on Monday, 09 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015 8:30 pm

What is your previous dance experience?

I took a class at Clemson that taught me to shag a little, but other than that it’s just been trial and error on various dance floors throughout the Southeast.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

According to my wife I like to twirl her, or drop it down to the ground.

How was the first practice?

The first practice I thought went really well. My partner, Tiffany Welsh, has been an excellent teacher and motivator.

Was it easier or harder than you expected?

I would say it has been slightly easier than I expected, but I was expecting the worst. There are a couple of steps that have been a challenge to learn but overall it’s been a fun experience.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Tiffany has just constantly reminded me to relax and to have fun with it. I tend to take most things in life a little too serious.

Why were you interested in taking part in Dancing with the Stars of Florence?

I was interested in Dancing with the Stars of Florence because I want to do anything I can to help the next generation. I am especially enamored with their education. I believe, wholeheartedly, that knowledge is power. It’s such a cliché to most people, but it is so very true. You can never know too much.

What do you think of The School Foundation’s mission?

I am a huge believer in their mission, and how they are going about achieving it. I believe knowledge is power. It’s incredibly hard to gain that knowledge when you are not properly equipped to learn, or your educator is not properly equipped to teach you. My mother has been a teacher for 33 years, and she has spent a lot of her own money to ensure that her students have what they needed to learn. I am glad that The School Foundation is in place to help provide these teachers with what they need without them having to dig into their own pockets.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

I really haven’t thought much about being the “celebrity,” but now that I have it’s a little odd. I don’t feel as though I am a celebrity here in Florence, but I am definitely someone who will do whatever it takes for this community to continue to thrive.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?

I don’t have a “title” per se, but I work with my two uncles on our family’s farm. As far as day-to-day responsibilities they vary widely. Most days out of the year I am usually spraying our row-crops or turf, taking employees where they need to go, or doing whatever I need to do to keep everyone’s productivity high. Once the peanut harvest starts you can find me on the combine all hours of the day, and night.

Fields Norwood and his partner Tiffany Welsh will be dancing to 'Walk This Way' by Aerosmith.

Burnadene: The talent behind the DWTS spotlight

on Wednesday, 04 February 2015. Posted in News

The News Journal 2/4/2015
Brenda Harrison, Editor

As director of choreography, Burnadene Kelley-Newman has a full dance card with Dancing With the Stars of Florence. This highly popular and successful fund raiser for The School Foundation will celebrate its fifth annual event on the evening of March 31 at the SiMT Building. Involved in this local benefit since its beginning, Burnadene choreographs about 80 percent of the dance routines, helps select the music for the competition, is responsible for finding the professional dancers, donates space in her studio for rehearsals, and generously assists dancers who ask for help with their routines, costumes and shoes.

She also provides entertainment for the event, presenting dancers from her studios. She is motivated to give so much of her time and effort for this event because it benefits children, schools and the community. "I just don't know how I could say no to that," she said. Burnadene grew up in the rural crossroads of New Zion, where she was not only encouraged in the fine arts, but taught about community service. She has an elementary education degree from Columbia College where she also majored in dance.

Today, she and her husband Sid Newman own and operate KFA (Kelley's Fine Arts) with dance studios in eight locations, including Florence, Lake City, Bishopville, Cheraw, Hartsville, Camden, Turbeville and Johnsonville. They also have full gymnastic facilities in Florence and at two other studios. Burnadene also coaches the Pee Dee Vipettes, cheerleaders for The Pee Dee Vipers, a minor league basketball team in Florence with the Premier Basketball League (PBL). Her three daughters, Alexis, Rebecca and Georgie, are all dancers who have performed as professionals in previous Dancing With The Stars of Florence. She also has a stepdaughter and stepson.

In addition to DWTSF, Burnadene directs and produces Dancing With The Stars benefits in Lee County, Camden and Cheraw. Again, she says it is difficult to say no to events that provide a service to these communities. Although Burnadene develops most of the dance routines, the professionals are free to choreograph their own if they desire. She doesn't prepare ahead when choreographing their routines. She talks with the couple to find out what they like to do, asks about injuries and then listens to their music before designing their steps. "I really don't know how I do it. It just comes from my head.

I have been dancing and choreographing as long as I can remember," she explained. If a dancer needs assistance, she will find time to work with them one-on-one. "I'm here to help and I'm not going to leave anyone stressed," she said. Not only does working with the DWTS event allow her to meet people and make new friends, is rewarding and great fun. "Some of the dance celebrities come in very nervous, but by the time they leave they want to win.

It is a great feeling to see a sparkle in their eyes and watch their confidence level go up," she said. Burnadene expects this year's event to be very competitive, commenting that the celebrity dancers, as a group, are the most coordinated that she has seen. This year's line up of celebrity dancers paired and professionals are: Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. Fans may vote for their favorite couples online at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for $10 per vote. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list. Over $480,000 has been raised from the DWTSF benefits over the last four years. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www.theschoolfoundation.org.

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Michele Pridgen

on Sunday, 01 February 2015. Posted in News

Melissa Rollins/Morning News
Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 5:30 pm


What is your previous dance experience?

The only experience I have is the year and a half between 6 and 7 when my mother insisted I take tap. I did one recital.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I will join in on a train in a heartbeat. I believe life is all about having fun so when a train starts, I jump right in. I’m also known to join in on any line dance; there are so many of them now. I may not know all of the moves but I sure will give it my best.

 How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

I went in to the first practice anticipating that I was going to have to learn so much that first day. I was relieved when I found out we would be breaking it down into phases. The way they structure it was surprising to me but it helped and Jacob put me at ease.

 Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Jacob has been very encouraging. His advice was just to have fun…and let’s win. He said that if we have fun, that will reflect in the routine and everything will fall into place.

 What about the mission of The School Foundation interested you enough to take part in Dancing with the Stars?

The mission of The School Foundation totally coincides with Honda’s philanthropic mission. We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. The foundation helps get those technologies in the schools where grants seem to be lacking a little bit these days, especially since we are still recovering from the recession. It really takes nonprofit visions like The School Foundation; if they were not capable of dreaming and envisioning better school systems in our area, I don’t know where the schools would be. The School Foundation is working to get the things the schools need when there is a gap. I can’t think of a better foundation to support.

 What is your job title and what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am the assistant manager of administration. I am responsible for public and community relations, representing Honda of South Carolina. There is also an element of communications that I am responsible for, both internally and externally for Honda.

Michele Pridgen and her partner Jacob Coward will be dancing to Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass.

Dancing With The Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Chris Warner

on Wednesday, 04 February 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015 7:28 pm
Melissa Rollins Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What is your previous dance experience?

I took ballroom lessons that turned into cotillion classes from 8th to 10th grade but other than that not much experience other than dancing at wedding receptions.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I think if you asked my friends, they would tell you my go-to move would be the worm. That tends to get broken out toward the end of the night.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Our first practice when really well. I have a really great partner, Meggie, and I told her I was really open to doing any type of steps; I feel like I can pick them up really easy. Once we decided on the dance and starting getting our basic footwork down, I think it went really well. I think we’ll be able to put on a pretty good show.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

I’ve gotten a little bit of grief from friends outside of Florence; they didn’t know I was a local celebrity. My daughter has been loving it too, I’ve been rubbing it in with her every chance I get. It has been a lot of fun to be the celebrity in the pair.

What about the mission of The School Foundation interested you enough to take part in Dancing with the Stars?

I have two kids in the school district; both of them are at Royall. The School Foundation is a great charity and any chance you get to participate in something like this and raise money for the local schools is a no-brainer.

What is your job title and your day-to-day responsibilities?

I am a local sales representative for St. Jude Medical, a medical device company based out of Austin, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. I assist in the implants of pacemakers and defibrillators and I do follow-ups with patients. Any time a device needs programming or troubleshooting, I am responsible for that as well.

Chris Warner and his partner Meggie Baker will be dancing the Samba to “Treasure” by Bruno Mars.

Three initiatives mean win-win for the community

on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in News

EDITORIAL:  Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2015 3:00 am
Morning News

Several community initiatives that are in support of good causes have left the 2015 starting line and are off and running toward spring.

Florence’s Biggest Loser competition kicked off Tuesday. The latest Dancing with the Stars got underway earlier this month. The countdown has begun for Big Give Pee Dee, a new initiative.

The Biggest Loser is a sequel to the inaugural contest that the United Way of Florence County launched a year ago.

Dancing with the Stars, a crowd-pleasing event that is staged by and for The School Foundation, is back for a fifth year.

The Eastern Carolina Community Foundation is the organizing agency for Big Give Pee Dee, a regional event that will involve a nonprofit giving day.

The Morning News salutes and supports all three organizations and their initiatives.

A year ago, 60 people competed in Florence’s Biggest Loser. The group collectively lost more than 1,000 pounds in 10 weeks. Participants pushed themselves to the limit and changed their lives, and by doing so, they served as an inspiration to others. Mary McLeod won the $1,000 first prize. She lost 40 pounds, and she has lost 17 more since the competition ended. The event also served as a fundraiser for United Way. That made it a win-win event.

This year, 72 people have paid the registration fee of $150. In the end, $500 will go to the individual who loses the greatest percentage of pounds and $500 will go to the contestant who loses the most inches. But all participants are winners if they lower their blood pressure, increase their flexibility and create sustainable fitness and nutrition habits.

The emphasis last year was on fitness and nutrition. United Way has added a life coach this year.

As Stephanie Navarro, the community resource manager at United Way of Florence County, noted in an article published Sunday in the Morning News, the Biggest Loser program is only one part of a larger initiative called Burn & Learn, which promotes healthier lifestyles to the whole community.

The Morning News again is a partner with United Way, along with HillSouth, Miller Communications, Sozo Life & Leadership and McLeod Health & Fitness Center.

The Biggest Loser’s finish line is April 2. That’s two days after the Dancing with the Stars event takes place at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center. The dozen “celebrity” dancers have a little more than two months to work on their best moves with their “professional” partner. March 31 is a date to mark on your calendar. The event is entertaining.

Last year, nearly 750 people attended the gala, which raised roughly $190,000 for The School Foundation. A short time later, the foundation presented more than $151,000 in grants to Florence School District 1 classrooms.

Kudos to the celebrities who are participating this year: Dr. Deepak Chowdhary of Pee Dee Gastroenterology Associates; Cedric Kennedy of South Florence High School; Will King of IGA Food Stores/KJ’s Market; Mike Miller of the Florence Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Susan Ninichuck of Roche Carolina; Fields Norwood of Lawson Turf Farm; Michele Pridgen of Honda of the Carolinas; Rick Ryan of NBSC; Stephen Wade of the Morning News; Robert Watkins of Johnson Controls; and Chris Warner of St. Jude Medical.

May 5 is the day to remember for the Big Give Pee Dee. In the weeks to come, you will hear more from the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation about this initiative. You’ll read about participating nonprofits in the Morning News. The campaign will culminate in a local “day of giving” effort. Other community foundations across the nation will carry out their own day of giving simultaneously.

Best wishes to United Way of Florence County, The School Foundation, the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation and all of the individuals involved in these initiatives.

Here’s hoping all three of these worthwhile efforts exceed expectations.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of this newspaper. Editorial board members are Stephen Wade (regional publisher), Don Kausler Jr. (regional editor), Kimberly Brauss (online editor), John Rains (news editor) and David Johnson (regional circulation director).

Dancing With the Stars of Florence: Meet Celebrity Rick Ryan

on Saturday, 17 January 2015. Posted in News

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 7:39 pm

STAFF REPORTS

What is your previous dance experience?

My wife suggested before our wedding that we take dance lessons for our first dance. We took six or eight lessons, 30-45 minutes each. We wanted to be able to do something more than a twirl, or a dip. When they called us out, I forgot everything we learned for a minute and I will probably do the same with this (Dancing with the Stars of Florence) too.

Do you have a go-to move, at wedding, parties, etc.?

I don’t have a go-to move; what I do is kind of dictated by the song. Sometimes though I will walk up and do a spin ; it usually gets a lot of people to laugh. That is kind of an inside joke with my friends.

How was the first practice? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

The first practice was pretty easy. I think my partner (Georgeanna Kelley) relaxed a little when she realized that there wasn’t anything I wasn’t comfortable doing or any limitations on the things I would at least try to do. I am glad , though , that we will have a lot more practices between now and the event.

Best piece of advice your partner has given you so far?

Georgeanna and her mom (Burnadene Kelley) knew some of the contestants from before so they were telling me ‘He was about your height and your build and he was able to do this’ and ‘He didn’t pick this up as quickly as you’ so that felt good, knowing I wasn’t doing badly.

How does it feel to be the ‘celebrity’ in your pairing?

There was a small group from my high school that had a get together last weekend. They saw in the last article that I was a ‘celebrity’ so my friends were dying laughing over that. They were asking if there would be a time for pictures and autographs. If my ‘celebrity’ status brings more attention to The School Foundation, I’ll be a celebrity all day long.

What are your responsibilities at NBSC?

I handle commercial lending like opening new business accounts, any type of cross-networking with mortgages.

Rick Ryan and his partner Georgeanna Kelley will be dancing to Uptown Funk.

Local dancers meet partners for Dancing With The Stars of Florence

on Monday, 19 January 2015. Posted in News

Published in the News Journal 1/13/2015 12:57:00 PM

The dancers for the 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence have been paired with partners and chosen their songs for this popular competition and benefit to take place on Tuesday, March 31. All funds raised go to the School Foundation. This year's celebrity dancers paired with professionals are: Mike Miller and Cheyanne Beck; Robert Watkins and Drew Arnold; Michele Pridgen and Jacob Coward; Ashley Nance and Desiree Stokes; Fields Norwood and Tiffany Welsh; Dr. Deepak Chowdhary and Brandi Williamson; Steve Wade and Kayce Smith; Chris Warner and Meggie Baker; Will King and Amanda Smith; Dr. Susan Ninichuck and Jovan Kindred; Cedric Kennedy and Shandi Cox; Rick Ryan and Georgeanna Kelley.

These local celebrities and their professional dance partners will square-off at SiMT for a chance to win the coveted mirror ball trophy at the 5th Annual Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The reception will begin at 6 p.m. and the competition will begin at 7 p.m. Guests will enjoy food, beverages, fellowship, and an opportunity to win a custom-designed piece of jewelry, donated by Lisa and Lex Matthews of Southern Jewelry Design. A limited number of tables and individual tickets went on sale to the public on Jan. 12. Pricing for tables of eight guests begins at $1,000 and individual tickets sell for $75. Over $480,000 has been raised from this benefit over the last four years. After Feb. 1, fans can vote online for their favorite couple(s) at www.FlorenceDancingWithTheStars.com for only $10 per vote.

The "People's Choice" mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples raising the most votes. A panel of judges will name one couple "Technical Skills Winner" based on the contestants' overall skills. One couple will also be chosen as "Most Entertaining" by the judges. You can follow the dancers' progress on Facebook at Dancing With The Stars of Florence. The School Foundation's board member Ed Love and local celebrity Audra Coble will be master and mistress of ceremonies. The 2014 celebrities will perform the opening act and the KFA Fierce team will provide special entertainment throughout the evening.

About The School Foundation Founded in 2000, The School Foundation promotes educational excellence in Florence, SC School District 1 through grants for innovative learning and through high impact initiatives designed to prepare all students for success. To learn more about The School Foundation, visit their website at www. theschoolfoundation.org. To date, the foundation has provided over $962,000 in grants to FSD1 educators and is currently leading a school readiness awareness campaign focusing on preparing all children to enter kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed. The foundation also launched Start2Read, a program that distributes age appropriate books and reading tips in local businesses.

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