Six hundred students have graduated from the practical nursing program at the Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC) since it opened in September 1968.
The program was “designed to prepare qualified applicants to assist in the care of the sick, rehabilitation, prevention of illness and to prepare students to take the state licensing examination,” according to a 1968 Camden Chronicle article.
Beginning in the 1920s, Kershaw County Memorial Hospital (KCMH) -- now KershawHealth -- directed a registered nurse program, said Sharon Clyburn, now the former director of the practical nursing program at ATEC.
In the ’60s, a trend emerged across America: hospitals closed their registered nurse (RN) diploma programs and moved to associate degree LPN programs. Post-secondary schools took over diploma programs. KCMH closed its RN program in 1964 and taught the LPN program until they closed its entire nursing program in 1968. According to a 1966 article, students in Kershaw County’s practical nursing program had the second highest scores in the state.
The Kershaw County Vocational Center (KCVC) -- now ATEC -- hosted its first practical nursing students in 1968.
Approximately 500 people showed up to the Kershaw County Vocational Center’s dedication on Sunday, May 11, 1969, according to the Chronicle. In its first year, KCVC served 782 adults in evening classes and 307 in high school students throughout the day.
KCMH’s original building on Dubose Street eventually became the home of the Kershaw County School District administration, Clyburn said. The district offices are now located on DeKalb Street near Battleship Road.
ATEC’s program was a two-year program with Phase I students in class for two hours and 40 minutes and day and Phase II students in class for seven and half hours a day, five days a week.
ATEC served the Kershaw County community until a broad-based committee visited ATEC in 2011 and suggested it immediately transition during the 2011-2012 school year to focus on high school students interested in the health science profession instead of adult education. ATEC will refer interested adult students to Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC).
CCTC offers a 48-semester hour program to adult based on a “competitive admission process.” The number of Kershaw County residents enrolled in CCTC has nearly doubled from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year.
The transition allowed ATEC to serve an additional 67 high school students.
Clyburn is set to retire and instructor Laura Marshall will teach additional health science courses. Former practical nursing Phase 1 instructor Tammy Pugh transitioned into teaching Health Science 1 during the 2011-2012 school year. Clyburn has been with ATEC for 35 years.