During their annual fall break, 10 USC Aiken Pacers headed north to Washington D.C., for an educational leadership experience that exposed them to the highest levels of U.S. government.

"The purpose of the trip is to learn a little bit more about our governmental structures, meet with the offices of our representatives and experience the history of our country in our capital," said Ahmed Samaha, the vice chancellor for student affairs at USCA in a news release.

While they stayed in the heart of D.C., the student-leaders from Aiken traversed the city, learning more about all branches of the government, starting first with the legislative branch.

"The leadership exchange to Washington D.C., was one of the most memorable things I have done since I started school at USC Aiken," said Amanda Fisher, a political science major.

"This opportunity has been a great experience full of learning and friendship."

On Capitol Hill, the Pacers met with either elected officials or members of their staffs, specifically Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Joe Wilson and Rep. Jim Clyburn.

"The Washington D.C., Leadership Exchange trip allowed me to gain valuable knowledge from the congressional staffers in D.C., specifically how they got to where they are now and what they do on a daily basis," said Evan Jenkins, a political science major.

After meeting the South Carolina leaders in D.C., the students visited the Library of Congress. During the trip they also toured notable sites in the nation's capital, including signature monuments, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution's museums and galleries.

"The most impactful part of this trip was the friendships I strengthened and the memories that came with it," Jenkins said.

Students who traveled to D.C. were Mason Spires, Sam Boyd, Ian Martin, Evan Jenkins, Amanda Fisher, Amethyst Marroquin, Cassie Garvin, Chastity Abney, Lularee Altman and Julia Smith.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Area high school students visited Aiken Technical College Oct. 17 to learn about opportunities available to them in educational and workplace settings during Disability Mentoring Day.

The event, a collaborative effort between ATC and the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department, was held in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates America’s workers with disabilities, both past and present, and emphasizes the importance of inclusive policies and practices to ensure that all Americans who want to work can work, and have access to services and supports to enable them to do so,” said Jeanette Murray, Aiken area supervisor for SCVRD, in a news release from ATC.

The month’s theme, “the right talent, right now,” was emphasized throughout Disability Mentoring Day.The event kicked off with guest speaker Dallas A. Frazier, a radio personality, followed by presentations that encouraged students to discover their interests, explore educational programs and learn about the various types of support available to help them reach their goals.

“The heart of this event is equity. It is ensuring that all individuals have access to both higher education and employment opportunities, regardless of their disability,” said Crystal Ratliff, dean of student success and retention at ATC.

This was the second year ATC and SCVRD have partnered for Disability Mentoring Day.

RS-M Middle students qualify for Duke gifted program

Fredy Cabanas Mendez, Jayke Cason, Chandler Harley, Jose Hernandez, Flor Abigail Jimenez Duarte, Connor McKinney, Haleigh Mitchell and Bryce Smith, sixth graders at Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle School, have been invited to join the 4th-6th Talent Search for gifted students sponsored by Duke University's Talent Identification Program.

Daniel Fox, Emma Fulmer, MaKayla Manning, Bianca Romero, Braylon Smith, James Smith and Aubrianna Wise, seventh graders at the school, have been invited to join the 7th Grade Talent Search for gifted students sponsored by Duke TIP.

Each year, a select group of students in the United States are identified as academically gifted based on their standardized test scores in school and are invited to participate in the Duke TIP program, according to a news release from Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.