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Depending on the applicant’s degree level and ability to meet requirements, Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) can range from $3,000 - $14,000 per year. The priority deadline for fall applications is April 1, 2015. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. The 2015-16 application form and detailed information about program requirements are available at www.CFNC.org/FELS.

The Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) Program was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 and the first loans were awarded for the 2012-2013 academic year. To date, more than 5,200 loans totaling over $42,000,000 have provided financial assistance to qualified North Carolinians who are committed to working in fields designated as critical employment shortage areas in North Carolina. The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) administers the program.

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Southwestern Community College is bringing local nonprofits and dedicated volunteers together in hopes of bettering local communities. SCC Cares, a college committee and club co-chaired by Amanda Allen, works to facilitate, support and recognize community service done by members of SCC students, staff and faculty.

As part of that mission, SCC Cares has been working to host the first annual Volunteer Fair on Tuesday, Feb. 24, with a snow date of March 3. The event, which will be held in the Burrell Conference Center on the Jackson County Campus from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., will feature a dozen organizations from Macon, Jackson, and Swain counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary.

SCC Cares began planning the event in hopes of encouraging volunteerism and helping non-profits, government agencies and groups find volunteers. "Non-profits are at a critical point right now; a lot of them have the highest amount of clients they've ever seen paired with some of the lowest budgets," said Allen. "Volunteers are the best way to continue providing great service at low cost to our communities."

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Since students are graded on an A-F scale, why not grade the schools the same way? Well, for the first time in state history, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has done just that, issuing a letter grade for each public school, including charter schools, in the state.

The state's new School Performance Grade is a letter grade ranging from A-F, and is based on two factors: Student growth, which accounts for 20 percent of the grade, and student achievement, which makes up the remaining 80 percent.

The majority of the state's schools didn't fare so well for the 2013-14 school year, with more than half of all schools in the state earning a C or worse. Only 132 schools across the state earned an A, 582 scored a B, 1003 earned a C, 561 scored a D, and 146 schools were given an F.

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Elementary students in Macon County are subject to corporal punishment, or paddling, as a form of discipline.

In 2011, when Macon County Schools added a provision to the county's board policy permitting corporal punishment as a form of discipline, there were 60 districts in the state with a corporal punishment policy. Over the years, that number has dwindled and Macon County stands as one of only three school districts with such a policy. Swain County Schools garnered attention last month when their board of education voted to do away with their corporal punishment policy.

According to Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin, 27 reports of corporal punishment were recorded for the 2013-14 school year. Of those 27 instances, 24 occurred at South Macon and three occurred at Iotla Valley.

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