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“Middle school is the crossroad for students,” says Robert Hemby II, the new principal of Holly Hill-Roberts Middle. It’s a particularly challenging time for them because of the major mental and physical changes they’re going through, he said.

Hemby said he intends to make it a school that will nurture students coming in from the sixth grade as well as prepare them for high school.

“I want it to be a springboard into the next phase of their life,” he said.

His number one priority is to establish a culture of learning at Holly Hill-Roberts, he said. He plans to do that by motivating students and by letting them know that their teachers and administrators truly care about them.

Hemby said the school must be a place of refuge where students' social and emotional needs are met in addition to their academic needs.

“They come from such different backgrounds. You never know where they’re coming from,” he said.

Under his leadership. Holly Hill-Roberts will focus on the three “R’s” -- rigor, relevance and relationship building, Hemby said.

All three are important when dealing with children, he said. Some students are more advanced academically and need added rigor to challenge them, Hemby said. On the other hand, some students need to see the relevance of the school in their own lives while still other students thrive better when they’re building strong relationships with their teachers, he said.

Hemby, a native of Orangeburg, has been in the field of education for 20 years.

Both his parents have been educators in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five. His father retired as an administrator, and his mother still teaches in the district.

“Being an educator was my path of destiny,” Hemby said. “I accepted the fact that education is my ministry, my calling."

“I truly believe the day people are born and the day they realize why (they were born) are the two most important days in their lives,” he said.

Hemby has worked with every age group from kindergarten through college. He was a teacher, a coach and a counselor before becoming an administrator.

“As an administrator, you have a larger impact on all the kids,” he said.

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Becoming principal at Holly Hill-Robert is like coming full circle in his career, Hemby said. His first job after graduating from South Carolina State University in 1995 was as a coach and teacher at Elloree High School.

He is a graduate of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, where he played football and earned a full scholarship to S.C. State.

He’s worked in various districts around South Carolina, including, Hampton and Lee counties.

Immediately before being hired by Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three, he was principal at Lee Central High School in Bishopville.

But Hemby says he hasn’t really worked as an educator -- not even for a day.

“When you’re doing what you love, it’s not work,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be where I am.”

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Contact the writer: dlinder-altman@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5529.

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