Endowment aids at-risk local students

At Rockingham County’s McMichael High School in the rural community of Mayodan, students at-risk of dropping out have the chance to make a comeback.

Thanks to funding through the W. Reid Martin Endowment, students are able to engage in a summer program facilitated by off-duty teachers and other volunteers. Meeting for a few hours first thing in the morning, students are empowered with guidance and mentorship as well as classes and study hall.

Ron Webster in the classroom“It’s amazing how many kids it has helped,” said Ron Webster, the retired teacher and coach of 39 years who originally directed the program. “It’s just helped so many kids.”

The program connects teachers and students outside of the traditional classroom to help make up classwork, take online classes and prevent dropout.

The program even aims to keep up with students after graduation. “A lot of them still come by and say if it weren’t for the program, they wouldn’t have graduated,” Webster said.

For Webster, much of the program’s success comes from the ability it has to inspire students to something greater.  “There’s something out there in the world, if they will work for it,” he said. “So many kids just need a little extra attention and more motivation.”

Ben Vernon, who helped spearhead the program with funding for the endowment, believes much of that inspiration has come from Webster himself, who ran the program for nearly 15 years.

“Ron is a pretty modest guy,” Vernon said. “But this has been remarkable work.”

According to Vernon, the program has prepared nearly 300 students for the 12th grade and boasts a 90% graduation rate -- success that he believes would not be possible without Webster.

“I’m especially proud that we found such a dedicated teacher who took the time over the summer to work with these students,” Vernon said. “Of all the charity work I’ve done, he’s my saint.”

For Webster though, the program has always been about helping students achieve success. “My priority has always been to help kids,” he said.

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