Homegrown Teacher Academy gives back


UMO Public Relations

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

The academy is funded by the Kenan Charitable Trust and supported by other charities. This is a collaboration between Mount Olive University, James Sprunt Community College, and Duplin County Schools to create a seamless pathway for students to earn their education degree.

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

Eleven UMO students currently make up 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 Duplin County students, faculty, and staff.

Seeing a recent need in 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, assistant professor of education at UMO.

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

“Through their hard work and determination, the students collected enough supplies to distribute to every elementary school in Duplin County. They will then be dispersed by teachers as students need them,” she said.

“Giving back to the schools and communities that have lifted me up has been a rewarding experience,” said Academy Fellow Melissa Ann Smith. “Our academy has many members who have siblings and parents who are still in the school system. We understand the tough times these kids are going through and hope to provide them with the right materials to do their jobs online so they can be successful this semester and in years to come.

For more information about the Homegrown Teacher Academy, contact Gail Herring at [email protected]


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