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Rural S.C. Elementary School Marching to a Different Beat

One high-poverty rural elementary school in South Carolina found a way to rally community support and improve morale: start a marching band.

The Marching Lions at D.P. Cooper Elementary in Williamsburg County started with 27 students in 2007, and it has grown to about 100 students. The school enrolls 200. Although marching bands are standard for most high schools, they're far less common at the elementary level.

"The band has actually breathed life into this community," said PTA President Larry Odom in this WCBD-TV story. "We look forward to each and every Friday, wherever this band is, we're going to be there. We support it from a community aspect and we love to see them perform."

The band has boosted the school's profile locally and nationally. News 2 in nearby Charleston, S.C., used it to launch its "Cool Schools" series, which recognizes schools implementing innovative ideas and programs. It has been written about by The News in Kingstree, S.C., and it made it to the national stage by being featured in a recent newsletter from the Rural School and Community Trust.

Doris Williams, executive director of the Rural Trust, wrote in a newsletter that the school understood its constituents and used its resources well.

"They model so many things that are good about good rural schools: intimate relationship with the community, mutual respect between school and community, inclusion of arts in the curriculum, teachers who are indigenous to the community," she wrote.

The school also has other arts programs, such as a praise dance team and chorus. School officials think those efforts have contributed to the school's academic success, and they cited the general correlation between music education and achievement. Research has shown some music experiences can have a positive impact on academic performance in certain circumstances. The school has received one of the state's Palmetto Gold awards for closing the achievement gap and for overall academic excellence.

It's worth noting that nearly every student in the school is considered low-income. So how did they get uniforms and instruments? Donations and fundraisers.

Click here to see the Marching Lions perform. Warning: the video might make you want to get up and dance.

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