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JoCo TEACH awards inaugural scholarship to Smithfield-Selma High senior

Carter Clever, a senior at Smithfield-Selma High School (SSS) and a 2023 Johnston Community College graduate was awarded one of the first Johnston County Teaching Educators And Coming Home (JoCo TEACH) program scholarships. Clever received $30,000 to attend the college of his choice through the JoCo TEACH program. 


Established in 2019, JoCo TEACH is a program designed to invest in and recruit diverse students seeking a degree as educators. It provides a seamless pathway for students to earn their Associate Degree in Science in Teacher Education through Johnston Community College (JCC) while attending a traditional public high school.


Clever is used to being in school. His mother has been a teacher with Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) since before he was born. It seemed that he was always there with her and he would often help his mom set up her classroom, so school is a comfortable place for him. The familiarity helped him academically. “I’ve always enjoyed being a student,” he said.


It only makes sense that he decided to join the JoCo TEACH program, which is offered exclusively at SSS. That meant, however, changing high schools. When he came to SSS he only knew two people, so he joined the band and quickly made friends there.


Clever plays the trumpet and the mellophone, a larger version of the trumpet. The youngest of three, both of his siblings played the trumpet, so it was no surprise that he took it up, too. He had spent countless hours listening to them, so he figured he would repay the favor. “I had to listen to them, so they might as well listen to me,” he laughed.


He enjoys different types of music such as pop if he’s driving, and concert arrangements if he is studying. One of Clever’s favorite concert pieces to listen to is “The Cry of the Unicorn”. When he listens to it, through the music, he is able to visualize what is happening. “You can tell what the piece is talking about without saying anything,” he said.


In addition to music, Clever loves all things engineering. “Carter is our technology guru,” said JoCo TEACH coordinator Suzanne Sweat. “He would help ensure that we could use the smart board, or help make thank you gifts for our cooperating teachers using the 3-D printer.”  He is a member of the robotics team and has taken several classes to support his passion. Those include an aerospace engineering class and a class focused on understanding the role computers play in manufacturing. 


Clever also took Engineering Design and Development (EDD) and one of the assignments was for students to choose a problem they see in the community, design a unique solution, and follow the engineering process for a final design. Clever and his team designed an enclosure for a 3D printer to limit the amount of harmful fumes going into the air from the printer, as well as filter out the smell of said fumes.


Next, they built a prototype that tested well and presented it to two engineers, a tech industry expert, and SSS’s principal and assistant principal. Clever’s team came together, although he admits they were nervous. “It’s very intimidating,“ he commented. Though intimidating, the team tackled the project and provided a viable solution for a real-world problem according to engineers and field experts. The panel of engineers, experts, and administrators loved the solution and recognized that the solution could be patented, pending its functionality with machines in future tests. 


Luckily for Clever, his JoCo TEACH experience gave him the confidence and ability to create and present his ideas in an effective manner. He credits Suzanne Sweat, JoCo TEACH coordinator, and his classmates for elevating his writing and public speaking skills.


His favorite thing about the program has been the people. Clever said he and his classmates had fun, helped each other, and worked well together. “The program allowed for a group of kids who probably wouldn’t have interacted with each other to come together as a team,” he said.


Throughout the program, Clever participated in team building exercises. The most interesting one for him involved a rubber band with five strings attached to it. They had to figure out how to make a pyramid out of three cups using the rubber bands. “That one was pretty fun!,” Clever commented. He also said it took a while to finish the exercise.


When Clever found out he had received the scholarship, he was extremely happy. He is proud to be one of the first graduates of the JoCo TEACH program, and one of the first to receive the JoCo TEACH $30,000 scholarship.


Clever will attend North Carolina State University in the fall. He will enter as a junior because through the JoCo TEACH program students earn an associate degree in teaching. In addition to earning a bachelor degree in teaching, Clever plans to study technology engineering and design, and earn a certificate to teach engineering.


After graduating, he will return to JCPS to teach for three years, a part of the JoCo TEACH program commitment. The program is designed to train future educators, offer them scholarships, and have them return to teach for three years with JCPS. This ensures that JCPS brings the best and brightest educators back into the school district.


When he returns to JCPS he would like to teach at SSS and teach an engineering class. “I love the community our school has,” he said. Clever has had the opportunity to work with students in all grade levels at the high school, and has had a positive experience. In band and in classes, he sees that his peers like to have fun, but knows when it’s time to get down to business.


“The JoCo TEACH program was a wonderful opportunity for me,” said Clever. “One thing I would share with my younger peers in the program is to be dedicated to your studies. You’ll make great friends here, but make a commitment to your education and try to keep a balance between your friends and your studies, and you’re sure to be successful.”

Carter Cleveland was awarded one of the first JCPS JoCo TEACH scholarships for $30,000. A senior at Smithfield-Selma High, Carter not only received the scholarship, but he was also one of the first graduates of the JoCo TEACH program.


Smithfield-Selma High senior Carter Clever (center) stands with JPCS Board of Education Chairperson (left) and Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy (right  after receiving a scholarship for $30,000. The scholarship was awarded to Clever through the JoCo TEACH program.