Schools in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties now have access to a program designed to help K-12 students develop everything from compassion to financial literacy.

The Medical University of South Carolina has collaborated with Blackbaud to deliver a digital education curricula focused on preventive behavioral health for K-12 students.

In coordination with EVERFI from Blackbaud, the company’s social impact division, the courses will be activated in approximately 70 schools in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, as well as Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Representatives from Blackbaud, EVERFI and MUSC converged upon Edisto Elementary School in the Orangeburg County School District on Wednesday to demonstrate the impact of The Compassion Project.

EVERFI’s preventive behavioral health programs serve students from elementary school through high school.

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The Compassion Project helps educators teach students the social-emotional skills of compassion through the development of understanding of self, social awareness and relationship skills.

A video and games, including one which taught a group of students how to recognize different ways someone might need help and empathy, were used to teach the value of compassion.

“I learned that whenever you see somebody, help somebody. Don’t just stand there and hope they’re OK. Do something about it,” said fourth-grader Imani Jean, 9.

“I also learned that you should always not judge somebody. Put yourselves in their shoes and show empathy,” she said.

Fourth-grader Sahvana Shuler, 9, said, “I learned that when you see somebody that doesn’t look all right or seems sad, you should help them. You want to be nice to people because when you’re probably sad, then they might do something nice to you.”

She continued, “People should put themselves in somebody else’s shoes because you don’t know how much they can be going through and what happens in life.”

Faith Arthur, OCSD’s counseling and career specialist coordinator, said OCSD is an EVERFI district. It has used its program to promote students’ social-emotional development.

“We were awarded that status through our work for the last three years with the EVERFI program. We started working more intensely with EVERFI during COVID. We had to find a way to deliver social-emotional learning services to students during COVID, and EVERFI was one of the programs that was approved through the state education department to be able to give us the curriculum and the platform to do so,” Arthur said.

She continued, “After COVID, we continued using the platform and the curriculum. We have digital lessons that are being offered to our students in grades K-12. All schools are using the EVERFI, and it is used through their school counseling program. We do have some teachers that also use it.”

Arthur said The Compassion Project is implemented in grades 3-5.

“That is the one that we really kind of focus on for our upper elementary school students. It’s just teaching them empathy, compassion, caring and tying into the character traits that are also connected to the Orangeburg County Community of Character. We also work closely with those character traits to make sure we infuse those in the lessons, and the EVERFI curriculum allows us to do that seamlessly,” she said.

The Character Playbook is implemented in grades 7-8.

“There are other (Compassion Project) lessons that are for first and second graders, as well. … Sixth grade gets a little bit of the Character Playbook and a little bit of the Compassion Project. In ninth through 12th grade, there’s a whole different other curriculum,” Arthur said.

“There’s a bully prevention that we use with them. There’s also a program that we have with vaping. We also teach financial literacy, college and career readiness. So those are the platforms that counselors, as they’re working with their cohort groups, work with students on as well. So it’s also counselors and career specialists. There’s a pacing guide that we use that allows them to kind of figure out which lessons they want to use with flexibility,” she said.

Arthur said the goal is help students be resilient and strategic problem solvers.

“We’re hoping that what we’re giving them in school will be able to transform over to real-world situations as they work through life. The mission is to help students develop their person, purpose and platform,” she said.

David Loring, vice president of the Corporate Impact Division at Blackbaud, said he works closely with MUSC on the schools’ digital education programs across the six districts.

“We’re about five or six months into the schools’ program. It’s expanding. It’s a two-year pilot program with courses from compassion all the way up into high school with alcohol education, anti-vaping and prescription drug safety,” Loring said.

“Understanding mental wellness is a whole curation for what we call the behavioral health education that EVERFI provides, along with MUSC, for schools in about eight to nine counties in South Carolina, including Orangeburg.” he said.

Loring continued, “It’s digital and it’s free to the schools. The schools are not paying for it, and it is areas that are not core curriculum. It’s things like compassion and it’s all digital. So the kids get it in a digital format on their computers. They can do it at home. These are things that are not taught in schools today, and we work with sponsors like MUSC to put it in the schools for free.”

“There are other topics like financial literacy, those types of things we’re teaching in schools throughout the nation. Our network is about 35,000 schools across the United States that use our digital courses,” he said.

Lake Marion High School, St. James-Gaillard Elementary, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and Edisto Elementary are among the OCSD schools where digital education programs are being implemented.

Ashley Weiner, director of customer services at EVERFI, said, “MUSC is sponsoring schools in Bamberg, Calhoun, Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley and Orangeburg. They are sponsoring different programs within those counties.”

“Technically, any of the schools in Orangeburg County would have access to this program sponsored by MUSC. There are schools that are currently using one of the programs that they’re sponsoring. All schools will have access to the programs powered by EVERFI, but sponsored by MUSC,” she said. Calhoun and Bamberg counties are also able to tap into the program.

“It doesn’t mean that all the schools are currently using, or have knowledge of it, but our goal is to make sure that all schools, teachers, students have knowledge that these programs are available, one, and, two, that we encourage them to use the program because it is free because of MUSC’s sponsorship,” Weiner said.

“Edisto Elementary would only be using the Compassion Project because that one is geared for elementary school students. So different programs are geared for different grade levels that they’re sponsoring,” she said.

MUSC Health-Orangeburg CEO Walter N. Bennett III said, “With our partnership with EVERFI, it’s actually an enterprise partnership, but we’re looking at how we can go more into the rural areas. Of course, MUSC Health–Orangeburg is a part of a large rural area. So we wanted to see how we can impact the school districts of Orangeburg.”

Bennett said the hospital wants to be a community partner.

“It’s been in the past where the hospital stays in our own walls and silos, but, again, it’s a new day here in Orangeburg. So that’s why we’re wanting to reach out more to the schools, K-12, but also into the higher education, as well. So you’ll start seeing more partnerships that you’ll hear from MUSC Health-Orangeburg moving forward when it comes to our education in Orangeburg and in Calhoun and Bamberg counties. It definitely takes a village,” he said.

Kerrie Hollifield, diabetes project coordinator at the Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness at MUSC, said the center has a school-based wellness initiative that helps school districts implement wellness initiatives. She said wellness, however, is more than just physical activity.

“For our specific school-based wellness initiative, a lot of people think of health as nutrition and physical activity, but our social-emotional wellness is key to that. So the MUSC and EVERFI partnership is really going to help build this relationship in the schools, where our students are living and playing and being educated, as well. So it’s obviously all encompassing, and we’re very excited about that,” she said.

Edisto Elementary School counselor Angela Gordon said her students are also excited about The Compassion Project.

“The kids love it. It makes it easy for me, and it’s exciting to them,” she said.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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