Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute Offers Overview of Options at OCtech

Photo of guidance counselors at Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute in 2015
Area guidance counselors participating in Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s 2015 Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute are, front row, from left, Ruth Kallio (Lake Marion High School), Angelia Fersner (North Middle/High School), Danyell Boneparte (Edisto High School), Brenda Hughes (Denmark-Olar High School), Shanika Cooper (Calhoun County High School), Yvette Pelzer-Brown (Brookdale Elementary School); middle row, GCLI coordinator Xennie Weeks, Sheridan Coleman (William J. Clark Middle School), Sandra Thomas (Robert E. Howard Middle School), Peggy Whittenburg (Sandy Run Schools), Dee Edwards (Branchville High School), Andre Smith (Dover Elementary School); back row, Pam Kinard (Cope Area Career Center), Deloris Smith (Mellichamp Elementary School) and Bob Crane (Edisto High School).

More than a dozen area elementary, middle and high school guidance counselors are at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College for two weeks to learn more about the college and all that it has to offer during the second annual Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute.

“We want to expose guidance counselors to what’s going on at OCtech so that when they’re advising students, they can let them know about our programs,” said Xennie Weeks, Early Childhood Education instructor at the college and coordinator of this year’s institute.

During their first week on campus, counselors attend information sessions about OCtech’s student services, admissions process, marketing efforts and adult education program. They also tour the college and gain insight into each of the school’s academic program areas. On Friday, they tour the Starbucks roasting facility in Sandy Run to see a modern manufacturing plant in operation.

“During the second week of the institute, guidance counselors get on the phone and connect with students at their schools who they know have not made a decision about where they’re going to college – or whether they’re going to college – and offer them options at OCtech,” Weeks said. “I was told that because of this program last year, we enrolled several students that we would not have had had the guidance counselors not called them that second week. This institute is well worth the effort.”

President Dr. Walt Tobin said the Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute will likely serve as an eye-opening experience for many of the counselors.

He said before joining the college’s staff more than a decade ago, “I had no idea what happened at this institution. I found out very quickly that my perception of the college was similar to the perception of other people in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. If you talk about OCtech, they say, ‘Yeah, you do a great job,’ but when you press further, it’s very difficult for them to quantify what we do at this institution.

“Guidance counselors really serve as the gatekeeper for a lot of students, in terms of what happens to them as they plan their future. The point of this institute is to give counselors an idea about what we do at OCtech and why we do it.”

The guidance counselors are paid for their time at the institute and receive recertification hours, Weeks said. This year’s group has counselors from Orangeburg Consolidated School Districts 3, 4 and 5, Calhoun County Public Schools and Bamberg School District 2.

“You would be surprised at just how many students will tell you they’re not doing anything when they graduate, and then when they’re introduced to all of the opportunities that are out there, they reevaluate their plans at the very end and you’ve got to help them choose a path,” said Angelia Fersner, a guidance counselor at Dover Elementary and North Middle/High schools in North. “I’m thrilled to learn more about OCtech’s programs and how our students can benefit from them.”

The Guidance Counselor Leadership Institute ends July 23, which is also Instant Admissions Day at OCtech. For information about Instant Admissions Day or OCtech’s more than 80 academic programs, call 803-535-1234, email or visit

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