CEO, Charleston Promise Neighborhood
“Why did we have to wait for a pandemic before realizing the value that teachers brought to all our lives?” Sherrie Snipes-Williams asked this poignant question in reflection of the state’s education system.
“Teaching is one of the most important professions,” she said. “To help solve South Carolina’s teacher shortage crisis, we must be intentional in properly compensating, recognizing, and supporting our educators.”
Since 2012, Snipes-Williams has served as CEO of Charleston Promise Neighborhood, a nonprofit organization with a similar vision as Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC).
Modeled after the highly effective Harlem Children’s Zone, Charleston Promise Neighborhood collaborates with early learning and elementary schools in under-resourced Charleston neighborhoods that comprise “The Neck” to serve the whole child through educational programs, health and wellness services, and parent and community engagement initiatives.
“We believe all children should be valued, respected, and treated equally regardless of the neighborhood in which they live,” said Snipes-Williams.
“We also believe in supporting the whole child because the success of our children and the strength of our community go hand in hand,” she added. “Their needs must be addressed together if we want to break the cycle of generational poverty and give our children greater opportunities for success.”
Charleston Promise Neighborhood raises funds to support administrators and teachers and offer wraparound services like after-school and summer learning programs. In 2019, 83 percent of students received higher reading scores after attending its summer learning program.
Now, its educational programs are continuing to close the gaps that were accelerated during the pandemic.
“It is exciting to expand opportunities for children, particularly in STEM education,” said Snipes-Williams, who originally wanted to be a math teacher while majoring in math and statistics at the University of South Carolina but realized teaching was not her gift. “Thank you to our partners for these opportunities like camps that allow students to build robots and smartphone apps and even tour manufacturing sites virtually.”
TFASC was an early partner of Charleston Promise Neighborhood. When TFASC approached Charleston Promise Neighborhood on a potential school reform partnership, it was a no brainer, according to Snipes-Williams. “We invested to have TFASC teachers placed at our schools.”
“TFASC excels at recruiting quality teachers who will be impactful at under-resourced schools in a short period of time,” she said. “Their community of support for first-year educators is outstanding.”
Snipes-Williams concluded, “To make a significant impact in our classrooms moving forward, we need to be real about the educational and racial disparities that exist – as half the battle is talking about it – and find ways to creatively support our teachers. Our children deserve an educational experience where the teaching profession is revered.”