Education

'Positive peer pressure' motivates Fayetteville students on first day of school

Posted August 28

— The first day of class for one of the largest school systems in North Carolina got off to a smooth start Monday as the day began with a special salute to seniors.

The Cumberland County School System is the fifth largest school district in the state, with 51,000 students attending 87 schools throughout the county.

Seven year-round schools have already been in session for several weeks, but on Monday, students at the remaining 80 schools got off buses to begin the new school year.

At E.E. Smith High School, students packed the gym for a special salute to the class of 2018 where a motivational speaker encouraged them to give it their all.

“Getting students to graduate in four years is so important and making sure we’re increasing our graduation rate is our top priority this school year, so I really wanted to let the seniors feel special and let them know this is their year,” said E.E. Smith High School principal Melody Chalmers. “It’s up to them as to whether or not that they finish in those same chairs at the end of the year.”

For several dozen students though, the first day of class actually came in July, when the school held its first W.T. Brown Leadership Academy. Students who attended spent a week learning how to motivate their classmates to be successful.

"I've been with the students, I've been behind the scenes. I've been able to listen to them and understand what they want so me going home and analyzing that and analyzing myself, they really just want somebody to listen to them and then you're able to talk to them," student Hanna Childress said.

Chalmers has been instrumental in improving a school that was once threatened to be taken over by the state because of poor academic performance. She said the community is rallying in support of the school’s 900 students and several business leaders and retirees are volunteering to motivate students to stay in school and get the most out of their education.

"I think the folks here at E.E. Smith did a great job with grabbing youth and identifying young people who are leaders so that they can impact their social circles. You know you got to turn that negative influence into some positive peer pressure," said motivational speaker Jeff May.

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