Driven to succeed at Horry County's new charter school

Dozens stopped by the open house and registration for Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports.

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) - A new charter school in Horry County will open its doors to students later this month. It's called Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports or PALM. It will combine high school curriculum with a vocational program.

At the open house Thursday evening, dozens came to learn more about the school, and some registered. They'll accept up to 100 students, and so far, they are halfway there.

"Not only develop a skill, but do something that could be their dream. We had a young lady that walked in yesterday, and she said, 'I want to be the next Danica Patrick,' and we were like you know what we can help you get there," explains Principal Shrie Allen. "Now we're just small and we're starting slow. We don't want to over-commit. We want to make sure we can offer the best thing we can for our students."

Students can choose to study motorsports, collision repair and restoration, or digital media. Instructor Anthony Donovan has more than 30 years experience in the auto industry in body work. He completed a similar program when he was in high school.

"It's kind of a dying breed, really. There's not many what I call young body men out there, and we need to educate students and get more interested in it," says Donovan. "I'm 45 years old and probably one of the younger body men in the area. So the more kids we can get interested in this, I think it'll be great for the industry. And cars are going to be there as long as we're going to be here, they're going to need to be repaired."

Donovan goes on to say they're meeting a need for students who don't plan on going to college.

PALM joins three other charter schools in the county including Bridgewater Academy which has been open for about a decade. Charter schools are open to the public, receive tax dollars and are independently governed. South Carolina also has a special charter school district.

At PALM, students will do academic course work online, and those in collision repair have an opportunity to gain certification through the I-Car program.

"If somebody has a special need, we're going to be able to address that special need with more individualized attention. And also offer kids something they get excited about," adds Allen.

As for her hopes for those who will eventually graduate Allen says, "I want to see our students walk out and say, 'I'm so glad that I was able to be here, and that you've really changed my life.'"

Before becoming a charter school, the school offered similar programs along with a GED.

For more information on PALM call (843) 903-6600. They are located at 136 Rodeo Drive, Myrtle Beach.