Collaboration prepares teachers to help underachieving students succeed

By Pam Bryant

YLI, DJJ, Columbia CollegeMany students labeled “at-risk” do not lack intelligence, they simply do not learn well through traditional teaching methods. This leads to a downward spiral of disruptive behavior when they don’t succeed. Helping teachers transform these students into engaged learners in South Carolina’s classrooms is the goal of a collaborative partnership between Clemson University, Columbia College, and the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

Clemson’s Youth Learning Institute operates the Youth Development Center in Aiken, an alternative placement facility for first-time youthful offenders, in partnership with DJJ. Disruptive behavior in school is a common violation among youth at the center, and many have a history of failure in traditional classroom settings.

Columbia College has developed a groundbreaking master’s of education program in “divergent learning” that focuses on alternative teaching methods for at-risk youth. This fall, a group of the graduate students will teach classes at the Youth Development Center using alternative methods to help the younger students succeed.

“This partnership will benefit the state of South Carolina and youth who learn best through creative, out-of the-box teaching methods,” said DJJ Director Bill Byars. “Reaching them before they enter the juvenile justice system is critical. We are very grateful to Clemson University and Columbia College for their ongoing assistance to address this need.”

For more information: Stephen Lance, 803-414-1735,, or