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      AT&T announces expansion to education program

      The halls at C.A. Johnson High School were packed with excited community leaders, students, and parents Monday morning.

      They were on had for AT&T's announcement. The communications giant is donating $250 million to the state in order to help kids graduate from high school through its Aspire program. South Carolina AT&T President Pamela Lackey said Aspire is an innovative program being use to connect students to technology in new and more effective ways.

      "We're focusing on game changing approaches to education. Things like the interactive electronic development of games that foster learning. And hands on educational programs that enable students to do things like clean up simulated oil spills or extract DNA from bananas."

      The extra money is in addition to a previous donation; and officials point out that the results don't lie. The company donated $100 million in 2008, and South Carolina's graduation rates coninue to rise.

      Students also meet and engage with AT&T employees. They hope to mentor and contribute to the students' success. Over 1 million students like Elizabeth Green have participated. She said the program put her on the right track.

      "Visiting the AT&T program and the job shadowing program, seeing the professionals that work there showed me that in order to be what I wanted to be, I needed to go to college and do what I needed to do."

      The job market is competitive in South Carolina, but training programs like Aspire can give participants an edge over the competition; according to State Director of Employment and Workforce Abraham Turner.

      "There are five South Carolinians going after every job. The problem is that when the employer reaches into those five to identify a prospective employee, very few or non of the five have the skill sets the employer needs. In order to train, you've go to have the educational backdrop."

      The program will run for the next five years. For more information, visit