CONWAY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Carolinas is home to a unique high school that could be preparing the next Daytona 500-winning driver or crew member. The vocational school in Conway, South Carolina opened in 2012 and has been near capacity for student enrollment ever since.
The Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports, or PALM Charter High School for short, is the only motorsports high school in the country School administrators say the tuition-free public charter high school is funded by state and local taxes as well as grants and donations from the community.
As the only motorsports high school in the nation, there is no problem getting students up and out of bed and into some unique classrooms.
“When you wake up it’s like ugh school, but then you are like yes school,” said student, Mia Crow.
Race cars and racing simulators greet students every day. The different surroundings and curriculum are a huge draw for kids who love motorsports.
“You don’t have that at any other school. That really pulls you into wanting to learn more,” said student, Joseph Foster.
A love for motorsports is not a requirement to attend. School administrators estimate about 20 percent of the student body isn’t interested in racing.
“I never thought I would get into some of the things. Being here I started welding last year and I really liked it,” said Crow.
Welding techniques taught in the classroom can be used beyond motorsports, but for students who want to work on a race car that’s an option too and there is a driver readily available.
“I’m technically the nation’s only NASCAR racing principal,” said PALM Charter High School Principal, Avery Moore.
Principal Moore races a car prepared by students on the weekend, but during the school week, he’s strictly an educator. The charter school teaches students everything needed for a high school diploma. That’s on top of auto collision, fabrication, digital arts and graphics courses.
“That’s on one end of the school and on the other end of the school, it looks like every other school. We have hallways that have math, social studies, science and English,” said Moore.
Going beyond books and tests in the classroom, to teaching students in a race shop was a tough task that left people wondering if it would work. Founder Ron Miller saw a need to help students that learn better with hands-on teaching.
“I was one of these students. I didn’t do well academically. I wasn’t a discipline problem, but I was not at all interested in anything at a mainstream school. How it was taught is not the way I learn,” said Miller.
Thousands of students have walked away with a diploma since the school opened in 2012. Many of them return to say thank you.
“What’s the most rewarding is when I can track a student and they keep coming back here and tell me the role this played in their life,” said Miller.
School administrators encourage students to take trade jobs while in school. To help give students more free time the school week is 4 days with Fridays being virtual.
Right now there are about 180 students enrolled at PALM Charter, with a cap of 200 for a school year. The only requirement to attend in you have to live in Horry County.