Homegrown Teacher Academy gives back


The University of Mount Olive’s Homegrown Teacher Academy is for students that grew up in Duplin County and plan to return there after graduation to make an impact on the next generation of students.

The academy is funded by the Kenan Charitable Trust and supported by other charitable organizations. It’s a collaboration between the University of Mount Olive, James Sprunt Community College and Duplin County Schools to create a seamless pathway for students to complete their degrees in education.

“This initiative was developed to address the shortage of teachers in the Duplin County system,” said Dr. Tommy Benson, UMO associate professor of education.

Eleven UMO students currently comprise the HTA. They are Esmerelda Lopez Perez (North Duplin Junior-Senior High School), Noah Oakes (NDHS), Ashlynn Hardison (Harrells Christian), Noah Haney (James Kenan HS), Andrew Cruse (NDHS), Brianna Hinnant (NDHS), Melissa Smith (NDHS), Nick King (JKHS), Adrianna Zepeda (James Sprunt CC), Montana Baysden (East Duplin HS) and Angela Boone (JKHS).

According to Benson, one of the group’s goals is to give back to the community through projects that can benefit students, faculty and staff in Duplin County.

Seeing a recent need within the county for basic school supplies, the Homegrown Teacher Academy took action. They solicited donations from churches, businesses and individuals.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Gail Herring, UMO assistant professor of education.

Herring noted that donations have included pens, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, paper, notebooks, folders, binders, hand sanitizer and more.

“Through hard work and determination, the students collected enough supplies to distribute to all of the elementary schools in Duplin County. They will then be dispersed by the teachers as students’ needs arise,” she said.

“Giving back to the schools and communities that helped raise me has been a rewarding experience,” said Academy member Melissa Ann Smith. “Our academy has many members who have siblings and relatives who are still in the school system. We understand the difficult times these children are going through and we hope to provide them with the right materials to do their online work so they can succeed this semester and in the years to come.”  

For more information on the Homegrown Teacher Academy, contact Gail Herring at GHerring@umo.edu.


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