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Harry Lightsey Testifies Before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

Harry Lightsey, President of BellSouth - South Carolina, testified Thursday, June 24, 2004, before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Mr. Lightsey discussed the need to support career and technical education by reauthorizing the funding for the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical program.

Mr. Lightsey was selected to represent the business community because of his reputation for leadership and support of education initiatives. He has been actively involved in education in South Carolina and was instrumental in BellSouth’s recent award of a $1 million grant to the South Carolina Department of Education. This funding is making a significant impact on vocational and technical education programs in South Carolina.

The $1 million grant is part of the BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative – a $10 million, five-year initiative designed to assist teachers across the company’s nine-state region with working conditions, professional development and retention, the top issues facing teachers nationwide.

In addition to the funding provided, a key component of each state initiative is the time, energy and talent of hundreds of BellSouth volunteers assisting with implementation of the programs.

In December, 2003, BellSouth announced a $1 million grant to help middle- and high-school teachers develop the requisite content-knowledge of math and science so that they may inspire more South Carolina students to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering.

The South Carolina Department of Education, the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Information Technology, and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce partnered with BellSouth on this program that uses a nationally recognized pre-engineering curriculum, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to build teachers’ content-knowledge and prepare them to use cutting-edge technology.

Project Lead the Way offers a four year sequence of courses which, when combined with traditional mathematics and science courses, introduces high school students to the disciplines of engineering and engineering technology. Currently, 52 schools in South Carolina participate in the program. Because of the success of the program in the last year, that number is expected to grow to 100 by September, 2005.

In addition, students are encouraged to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering through their participation in South Carolina’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a national program that challenges high school students to work with professional engineering and business mentors to design and build a robot in six weeks. Each team must use the same kit of parts and a standard set of rules. Then, the students and their robots compete in an intense, action packed, two minute competition that measures the effectiveness of each robot, the power of team strategy and the collaboration and determination of students. Since there are critical roles for students in everything from design and building, to computer animation, to fundraising and research, every student can actively participate and benefit.

To date, more than 200 BellSouth volunteers have logged over 2,000 hours by mentoring students in math and science, working with them on robotics projects and helping teachers develop unique lesson plans. In addition, the BellSouth Network of African-American Telecommunications Professionals (BNAT) in South Carolina adopted this initiative as their primary business objective.

BellSouth funds were used to host the inaugural Palmetto FIRST Regional Robotics Competition, where 42 teams of high school students from across the nation competed.

The economic impact of the Palmetto FIRST Regional Conference in Columbia was $322,000.

Because of the excitement the FIRST competition generated throughout the state, there has been a 100 percent increase in adoption of the Project Lead the Way curriculum in schools in South Carolina.

In addition, because of the success of the program, the South Carolina Committee on K-12 Technology allocated $800,000 to fund additional FIRST teams.

The BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative is the first region-wide effort that involves the leveraging of all philanthropic resources in the company to maximize the program’s impact – executive leadership, grants, contributions, and volunteer support. In each state, BellSouth is partnering with local education institutions and non-profits to design and implement programs that are customized to meet the needs of the local communities. This initiative provides the latitude and support for states to address teaching quality through divergent, but related strategies.

The BellSouth Quality in the Classroom Teaching Initiative in South Carolina is a reflection of the success of this collaborative, integrated effort. The program has succeeded in making a significant impact in the community, while raising the profile of BellSouth, and the company’s executive leadership, at the state, region and national levels.

In addition, the initiative has generated extensive media coverage for BellSouth including the following media hits: Associated Press,, Atlanta Journal Constitution, The State, The Post and Courier, The Clarion Ledger and numerous others. Circulation/impressions through 1Q04 total 15.7M.

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