The College of Educational Enrichment to Graduate 21 Students with Special Needs on Friday, December 4

December 3, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Spartanburg, S.C. – The College of Educational Enrichment, a joint partnership between the School of Education at University of South Carolina Upstate and the Charles Lea Center, will hold its annual graduation ceremony at 6:45 p.m. Friday, December 4, 2015 in the University Readiness Center. Twenty-one students will graduate; 88 students will be recognized for their continued academic efforts.

U.S. Congressional Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-4) of Spartanburg will give the keynote address. Prior to his election to the U.S. Congress, Gowdy served as the solicitor for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties. In 2014, he was elected the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Since 2006, the School of Education at the University of South Carolina Upstate and the Charles Lea Center have collaborated in a college enrichment program that offers classes on campus for adults with special needs. The program has grown from serving 50 participants to now more than 350 in just eight years and continues to serve as a viable example of how these types of educational partnerships truly make a difference.


“Many USC Upstate students have had little or no interaction with persons with disabilities, so interacting in this setting allows Upstate students to be directly involved with this population and enables a connection to individuals,” said Dr. Laura Hooks, program director and USC Upstate professor of early childhood education. “Many University students are quick to tell me how much the program’s participants are able to do. It is a great way to focus on strengths not weaknesses.”


Each academic semester, participants from the Charles Lea Center make a selection from the program’s course listings. They then attend class one night a week at USC Upstate. A number of School of Education students volunteer with this program each semester and receive clinical/observation hours for their involvement. Faculty members also lend their expertise in teaching the various courses.


Courses offered include Reading, Consumer Math, Science, Computer, Health & Fitness, Music, Art, Crafts, Sign Language and Zumba/Dance.


After completing five courses, participants earn their Initial Degree of Educational Enrichment. When they complete eight courses, they earn the Advanced Degree of Educational Enrichment. Upon completion of 12 courses, participants earn the Exceptional Degree of Educational Enrichment. Once participants have earned all of the degrees, they can spend two years as interns before being eligible to assist University instructors.

During this ceremony six students will earn their initial degree; four will receive the advanced degree; six will receive an exceptional degree; and five will receive intern status.

A reception will follow the ceremony.

For more information about the College of Educational Enrichment, contact Dr. Laura M. Hooks, professor of education at USC Upstate, at (864) 503-5547 or