Participants of Laurens County Program CHAMPS Upset After Direc -

Participants of Laurens County Program CHAMPS Upset After Director is Let Go

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It was a day many members and member's parents of the group CHAMPS, never thought they'd see. Former CHAMPS students told 7 On Your Side Saturday, their beloved director, Jerman Disasa, was being let go.

Champs stands for Communities Helping Assisting and Motivating Promising Students. The program allows teens in grades 6-12 to experience college life and stay on the campus of Presbyterian College for 2 weeks, taking classes.

Their mission statement is as follows:

Initiated by the collective thinking of leaders from Presbyterian College and the Laurens County, S.C. community, CHAMPS (Communities Helping, Assisting, and Motivating Promising Students) brings together local institutions and the community to find a fresh solution to a persistent education problem.

The CHAMPS mission is to nurture, motivate, and challenge students who have the potential but who otherwise may fall short of their highest educational capability. CHAMPS provides promising students with a vision of their future and stimulates them to strive toward post-secondary education

Members contacted 7 On Your Side because they were upset that Director of Special Projects at Presbyterian College and CHAMPS Director Jerman Disasa was being let go. The College said the position was being eliminated.

Courtney Snow is a member of CHAMPS and attended for the first time in 2003. She said she decided she would attend college because of Disasa and the program. She said there are hundreds of students just like her who decided to go to college because of Disasa.

Snow said he gave them the opportunity to feel comfortable on the campus for 2 weeks each summer, get used to classes and do community work so the transition to higher education wasn't difficult.

"My first year on Presbyterian College's campus I was terrified, homesick I didn't know anybody and Jerman made me feel at ease. I was very pleased with PC," said Snow.

Members said there are many people who are furious with college and will withdraw any support they have for the school.

Another mother of a CHAMPS member told 7 On Your Side that her daughter was changed for the better by her CHAMPS experience.

"How our relationship grew through that separation was immense. It gave her a sense of independence and the fear of going away to college was smooth because she already experienced that," said Penny Easley.

Easley said she knew of many students who wouldn't have gone without Disasa and is worried some may not in the future.

"I can tell you from experience some of the children would not have been there, the drive would not have been there, the goal would not have been there," said Easley. "The program gave them the inspiration to go and become whoever God wants you to be," she said.

Presbyterian College sent 7 On Your Side a letter responding the members concerns. It said in part:

Over the past several months, Presbyterian College has been undergoing a process of financial and organizational analysis. This is part of a strategy to identify areas of improvement for the college, with the aim of creating a stronger campus community that offers the highest quality educational experience possible.

Dr. Joy Smith, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at PC, emphasized the importance that the college places on ensuring its students have the best possible resources and opportunities available.

"Presbyterian College's first priority is our students. It has to be. Without a strong program that develops the greatest potential in our students, we won't be able to create fulfilled servant leaders to contribute back to the wider community," Smith said.

As a result of the analysis, PC's executive leadership has made multiple decisions to focus more resources on its students. One of these decisions was to remove funding for the Director of Special Projects position after June 30, 2013. The position has been responsible for the CHAMPS program, among other initiatives, and is currently held by Dr. Jerman Disasa.

The college also wrote of how they appreciated Disasa's service and that the program would continue.

"We are thankful for the significant contribution that Dr. Disasa has made to the CHAMPS program and to both the PC and Laurens County communities," Smith said. "Jerman has been a tireless leader for the CHAMPS program since its establishment, and he is a role model for CHAMPS students and the community at large. Dr. Disasa's leadership and service have changed countless lives in and beyond Laurens County."

"Though Presbyterian College will no longer fund the Director of Special Projects position, PC's commitment to the CHAMPS program remains strong. Dr. Jeri Parris Perkins, Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at PC, will assume the oversight and responsibility for the CHAMPS program moving forward. " it said.

The College plans to work collaboratively with the CHAMPS Steering Committee and Laurens 55 and 56 School districts to support the CHAMPS program. PC's collective mission is to continue to provide scholarships, administrative support, office space, and volunteer opportunities for this vital outreach program.

7 On Your Side also received a letter from CHAMPS Steering Committee Co-Chairs, Mary Fortune and Lykes Henderson. They thanked Disasa for his service.

"On behalf of the CHAMPS steering committee, we would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Jerman Disasa for his many years of leadership and for his dedication to the youth of Laurens County," they said.

"Under his direction since 1995, CHAMPS has worked in partnership with Presbyterian College, Laurens School District 55 and Laurens School District 56 to help students set educational goals and stay focused on reaching them," the letter read.

The letter continued:

"Although CHAMPS will not be exactly the same without Dr. Disasa, the steering committee will continue to work under the guidance of Dr. Jeri Parris Perkins and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life as it has for the last three years," it read.

"We fully support Dr. Perkins and will work with her to continue to provide an excellent opportunity for our students. We have been assured by the college president and by the superintendents of both school districts that CHAMPS will be supported as the program moves forward," they said.

 Finally, the letter assured future members of CHAMPS that the program would continue. It read:

"Many hours have been spent planning for the upcoming summer experience.  We are especially excited for the 30 new students, rising 7th graders, who will be joining the CHAMPS family.  Please help us to honor Dr. Disasa by remaining positive and supportive of the program he loves." 

 Members tell 7 On Your Side that they are concerned the experience will turn into a summer camp instead of preparation for college. They said it will be help at Camp Fellowship and there may still be classes offered, however it may be a shorter length of time each summer.

The organization responded that the program is longer than just a summer event and all decisions about this summers experience will be decided with the input of Jerman Disasa.

Members told 7 On Your Side Disasa will remain involved in some other capacity.




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