Busch takes turn to Strand to open school, race fans

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch cut the ribbon for the Palmetto Academy for Learning Motorsports Charter High School’s new Conway facility Tuesday ahead of its anticipated opening next month.

“I think that schools like this are important,” he said. “It’s important for kids to be able to have a passion that they’re into and that they can go get an education at.”

Hundreds attended the ceremony at the new school located at 826 West Cox Ferry Road.

“I’m beginning to believe that the uniqueness of what we’re doing is truly catching everyone’s attention, superstars and alike,” said Avery Moore, principal of PALM Charter High. “Whenever we got word that the Busch Group wanted to participate I think it really validated the things we were doing here.”

Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy, who is also chairman of the school’s board, recognized her fellow board members and the faculty of PALM, which originally started as a night school and later became a charter school in 2012. She also credited attendee Annie Lou Spivey of Conway, who was instrumental in securing funding for what eventually became the charter school.

Ken Richardson, who has served on the Horry Georgetown Technical College Area Commission, including as chairman, and is the Republican nominee for the Horry County school board chairman’s position who will face no opposition in November’s general election, said some PALM graduates have chosen to continue their education at HGTC.

“It’s a great feeder program for the technical college,” he said, adding that a bridge program between PALM and HGTC will be implemented. “The county needs this. The state needs this. The nation needs this. We need more of these kind of schools.”

Ron Miller, the school’s vocational director, spoke on the history of the school, noting that although the school does teach motorsports and has academics that include building racecars, that is simply PALM’s “hook” that seeks to attract students.

“Once we get people interested in things then it’s unlimited with what we can do with them,” he said.

He talked about the large outpouring of support for the school shown by the community.

“The fact that you all were here today and you showed up today has really put value in this school and then that makes students want to be here,” he said.

Miller added vocational industries, not just motorsports, need young workers.

“PALM Charter High School can’t take any more than 200 students. That’s not even going to put a dent into the need of welders, fabricators [and] body men,” he said.

Busch signed the door of the school’s motorsports technology classroom, which was christened the No. 18 door, and talked about his racing career during a Q&A session with the president of the Darlington Raceway

He spoke also about the NASCAR Technical Institute. A recent PALM graduate, Colorado Gage MacBay, will attend the institute located in Mooresville, North Carolina.

“People there, they get jobs out of there and they go into motorsports,” Busch said. “They go into race teams. The same thing can be said from right here.”

PALM officials have said the school offers a non-traditional learning atmosphere and smaller class sizes.

“PALM is not interested in where our students have come from,” said Susan Cooke, executive director of the school. “We’re interested in where they are going.”

The school itself is moving from its location in Carolina Forest at 136 Rodeo Drive. The cost of the new school is estimated to be roughly $4 million.

Students attending PALM receive math, science, social studies and English credits, but the school also offers four vocational classes — motorsports technology, auto collision technology, welding technology and graphics.

Students taking the motorsports technology class build racecars from the ground up.

Moore said the new facility hones in on both the vocational and academic side of PALM.

He previously said that the part of the school where auto collision technology is taught, for example, will have a paint booth as well as multiple bay doors and lifts, where more than one project can be worked on at a time.

The school’s new Conway location is still under construction and is expected to open following Labor Day weekend, likely some time between Sept. 4 and Sept. 7, Moore said. He said construction delays are primarily due to weather.

“I’m just ready for the Horry County community to realize what they have in their back door and take advantage it,” Moore said of the school.

While he was on the Strand, Busch visited Broadway Grand Prix in Myrtle Beach to race against fans in a promotion for the upcoming Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Photo by Viraj Naik/myhorrynews

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