Operation Olive Branch is a unity initiative planned by the presidents of both institutions to enhance the college experience for new and transfer students. A key component of the initiative is an oath of integrity, inclusion, respect and a sense of family that students pledged during a full day of activities that began with a procession from Voorhees to Denmark Tech for a formal program and special sessions for the students.
“Denmark Technical College and Voorhees University are in a prime position for collaboration and Operation Olive Branch is an ideal means of helping our students understand collaboration and unity. We are delighted that our institutions can combine resources and campus culture to take our students to the next level of excellence,” said Ronnie Hopkins, Ph.D., president and CEO of Voorhees University.
“We are elated to bring Operation Olive Branch to life for the students at Denmark Technical College and Voorhees University. Our two campuses have a rich history together dating back to the founding of Denmark Technical College. We share a border, but more importantly, as HBCUs in rural South Carolina, we share a duty to engage, educate and empower our students, not just academically, but socially as well. Operation Olive Branch does that in a unique, beautiful and meaningful way,” said Willie L. Todd, Jr., Ph.D., president and CEO of Denmark Technical College.
Hopkins and Todd welcomed students to fall semester, encouraged them to strive for excellence and reminded them that their social and emotional growth are also important. The students took the oath of unity, imprinted on their Project Olive Branch t-shirts. They also participated in sessions designed to address their concerns from a male and female perspective. Following the sessions at Denmark Tech, students processed to the Voorhees Pecan Grove for a cookout and celebration, which included food, games, eating competitions, music and fun.
“Students leaving home, many for the first time, need to feel a sense of family as they experience college life and prepare for careers. Our students will have the gift of family that is growing exponentially beyond the Voorhees campus. They will have peers and higher education personnel to support their academic and personal growth. We will participate in many activities as one large family—Voorhees University and Denmark Technical College,” said Charlene Johnson, vice president for student affairs and director of athletics at Voorhees. “What an awesome opportunity!”
“We wanted to start Operation Olive Branch to promote unity among the students at Denmark Tech and Voorhees, but also to educate them on the responsibilities they each hold to exact social change and to serve as leaders in the community. We are excited to see the impact this program has in Denmark and beyond,” added Lamar J. White, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs at Denmark Tech.
The idea for Operation Olive Branch was inspired by as similar program held annually at the Atlanta University Center among Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morehouse College freshmen. Todd and White, both being former employees and White being a two-time graduate of Clark Atlanta, saw the program flourish and thought the model would be very successful at Denmark Tech and Voorhees.
“We’re just getting this program off the ground and already there’s a lot of momentum behind it. We can’t wait to see the good things that come to the students and the community from Operation Olive Branch,” said White.