L2IC: Where Lexington Two students gain a competitive edge

By Ella Nichter

Special to Lexington Two


The Lexington Two Innovation Center is helping high school students prepare for the workforce and post-secondary education through hands-on learning programs in technical fields.

Lexington 2 previously had offered technical learning programs at the district’s two high schools, Airport and Brookland-Cayce. However, in 2014 a $225 million package of improvements approved by Lexington Two voters for all the district’s schools – along with a statewide push for technical college and career training for high school students to fill employment shortages – led to the construction of a building specifically for technical instruction at 509 Bulldog Blvd, Cayce. The new state-of-the-art facility opened to students in 2018.

Program Director Bernie Adkins said the mission of the program is to educate students in non-traditional disciplines.

“Our main goal here is to educate students in all of the different disciplines. We house all of the district’s career and technology courses, everything from engineering to digital multimedia, to digital art and design and welding,” Adkins said.  “Our mission is to educate our students and give them the skills that they need to be successful as they leave school.”

The center offers various industry-recognized certification programs to high school students – at no cost. According to L2IC Director Joni Coleman, the program ensures that every student leaves with a competitive industry advantage. Nursing students will take their CNA exam, cosmetology students leave as licensed cosmetologists, and others will be fully trained and licensed firefighters.

However, the program isn’t just for those looking to immediately enter the workforce. Coleman wants potential students to know that everyone is welcome to study at the Innovation Center. 

“The program is valuable regardless of your future plans – whether you are going to a four-year college or the military, whatever it is you are planning to do. There are skills and trades you can learn here that will be beneficial regardless.”

Each career pathway offered at the center is taught by an expert in the industry. Firefighting instructor David Crossland is a retired fire chief, welding instructor Laird Thompson spent 23 years in the steel fabrication market, and Kristen Arledge, an experienced graphic designer and creative director, leads the digital art and design program.

The center ensures its instructors throughout the industry are up to date with industry trends. “We have an advisory committee meeting twice a year,” Adkins said. “It’s easy for teachers to come into a building every day from bell to bell and lose sight of what is happening in their industry … so we bring in businesses from those industries to advise us on new trends in the industry.”

The center’s Digital Multimedia instructor, Anne Reamer is a South Carolina Honor Roll teacher and was one of the top five finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year.  Reamer has been a part of the innovation center since its inception.

“This is my whole world in this building. I love it,” Reamer said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. These kids come and they like to go to school. And that is something that is missing in many schools today. We’re working with our hands, building work skills and employability skills. America had pushed the trades down … being sent to a trade school was a punishment. … That’s not what it is now. It is a gift.”

Local businesses are also extremely supportive of the center, Adkins and Coleman said. Frequent signing days occur when businesses come into the center to hire graduating students. Coleman said the response from local businesses has been overwhelming and extremely encouraging. 

“They will hire our kids just as quickly as we can get them here,” she said.

While the Innovation Center is academically focused, students say it provides more than just academic and technical skills. Jade Valdez, who graduated from the Digital Multimedia program, said the Innovation Center gave her a chance to truly find herself.

“I started as a really shy girl,” Valdez said. “(Anne) Reamer and her program opened a space where I can express myself, open up, and find my creativity.”

Registration for the Innovation Center is now open for new and returning students. Information about the program or how to apply  can be found at the center’s website: https://l2ic.lex2.org/apps/news/article/1897149.

Ella Nichter is a University of South Carolina Honors Journalism student.