All Those Yankees Moving to South Carolina

All Those Yankees Moving to South Carolina

By Phil Noble

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of new folks moving to the Palmetto State. In fact, we rank second in the nation per capita after Washington state in the number of people moving to our state.

A lot of these folks are from up North – AKA Yankees.

Here’s the popular stereotype: they move here but for a long time still drive around with car tags from Ohio, Pennsylvania and such. They don’t change their cell phone numbers from 614, 309 or 315 to 843, 803 or 864. They walk around with sweatshirts from Ohio State and Michigan, not Clemson or USC.

When you see them out, you can spot them in an instant. At a restaurant, they order a ‘soda’ (they don’t like sweet tea), they order ‘hoagie sandwiches’ (not a sub) and they have no idea of what to do with grits. They are just as likely as not to put sugar on them.

And, when they get settled in a bit and begin to interact with us locals– they too often utter that most hated of all phrases, “Well, that’s not how we do it up North.” To which our natural overwhelming urge is to say, “Well if you don’t like it go back up North; I didn’t ask you to come here anyway!”

Like all stereotypes, there is some truth and some prejudice in all of this.

Well, I’d like to tell you about two Yankees I recently met and what they are doing here in South Carolina. In 2015, Carol and Arnold Hillman moved from Pennsylvania and re-located to the Sun City Retirement Community at Hilton Head. But unlike the stereotypes of newcomers who spend all their time playing golf and complaining with their fellow transplants about the locals, the Hillmans began to travel around the Lowcountry.

One day they found themselves in Jasper County where they struck up a conversation with some folks about the schools – they had both been in education in Pennsylvania. One thing led to another and after some conversations with Dr. Vashti Washington, former Superintendent of Schools, they began volunteering at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School mentoring students.

One can imagine the culture shock that followed. The nearly 100% African American students couldn’t understand why these old white folks from some place they had never heard of were hanging around asking questions. And the Hillman’s couldn’t understand the ‘cultural folk ways’ of teenagers in rural Jasper county – you get the picture.

But the Hillmans were committed, “We didn’t care if the kids were good students or even if they were well behaved; all we wanted was to work with students.”

Carol was soon meeting with a group of 10 girls. They talked about everything from the difference between credit and debit cards to how to choose a good college and the benefits of going into the military. They met right after the students ate lunch and Carol provided snacks. “Sometimes we weren’t sure if they came for the milk and cookies or to learn something, but we figured, ‘whatever works,” Hillman laughed.

Carol’s story about one girl is truly inspiring. “Lauren (not her real name) explained that she was 16, had a baby with cerebral palsy and was living with her grandmother who had raised her. Grandma had cancer and Lauren was trying to take care of her, care for her baby and go to school. By now she was crying. It seems her greatest desire was to graduate with her class in June 2017, but she had missed so many days in the past year that she was failing too many classes.”

All summer long Lauren and Carol stayed in touch by email as Lauren did not have a cell phone. “When she was down, I would remind her that she was smart and capable and that we would both be ecstatic when she graduated on time.  When she was happy, I’d celebrate with her and remind her of how proud I was of her. She passed both of her summer school classes! Here it is, October of her senior year and so far, she is coming to school on a regular basis. I’m delighted to report that Lauren is on track to reach her goal of graduating on time.”

Meanwhile, Arnold set up a program called Jasper Gentleman, 10 senior young men who could use some mentoring and who in turn helped younger students in fourth and fifth grade. Arnold explains, “Each of the young men were enthusiastic about doing the mentoring. They were also very interested in what was happening in the world and how they might achieve their goals.  We spent months talking about colleges, the military, job possibilities, community happenings and how they might improve the high school. We took a trip to the branch campus of the University of South Carolina in Bluffton, arranged for an etiquette lunch (which turned out to be lunch without etiquette) and concentrated on the next steps in their lives.”

“Carol and I attended 11 basketball games, both home and away. A number of the Gents were on the team, but it was the community that encouraged us to go to the games and later on to community events. You see, rural people have been taken advantage of so many times across our country and are naturally suspicious of outsiders. Sometimes, Carol and I were the only snowflakes in the gymnasium. We became fixtures and the folks seemed to welcome us. Sometimes, at away games, they even saved seats for us. They are wonderful people, as are their children.”

The Hillmans met with State Superintendent Molly Spearman about how their work in Jasper could be spread to other rural districts around the state. Spearman was encouraging to the Hillmans and they have since established the South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools to help others learn from their experiences. Go to their website and see how you can get involved.

The Hillmans are just one example of countless people who have moved to South Carolina and who are bringing new ideas, new energy and a new commitment to improving our state.

We should be very glad that they have come to our state and have chosen to work alongside those of us who have been here a while to make our state a better place to live.

I can even overlook the sugar on the grits.

Showing 6 reactions

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  • commented 2016-12-13 17:00:42 -0500
    I think you would do us a great service by changing your tone and rhetoric. First of all “Yankee” is a"label" / stereotype that is NOT necessary and divisive! Please STOP IT, NOW! Saying “100% African American” students… adds no value to your story. Perhaps, if YOU properly explained why the educators were there, to the students and you spoke of the culture to the educators, maybe there would have been clarity (HELLO). It would also behoove you to check yourself and stop the negative narrative. The ability to not be IGNORANT starts with the person in the mirror. Please READ and learn something yourself! Find someone who has compassion for all people to takeover this newsletter. Maybe, an educated northern transplant might be an improvement!
  • commented 2016-12-10 16:56:55 -0500
    Yes, Fred, you are showing yourself to be one of those folks who need to crawl back under the rock they came from. My argument for the New South is all about fairness, equality, and justice. If you do not like these ideals for everyone, then you are stuck in the 1850s. Oh, by the way, I am on the faculty of an international teaching center.
  • commented 2016-12-08 19:23:53 -0500
    BTW Jeff- As relates these old white guys with small minds, I guess I’m one he is talking about. After all, I retired from a university teaching job- as a Civil Engineer- about 10 years ago. Which university teaching job did you leave to come down South and instruct all the dumb Southerners?
  • commented 2016-12-08 19:16:52 -0500
    If Jeff can’t wait for the new South to get here, why did he leave the "wonderful north in the first place?
    I don’t want ANY of his new South, and I sure don’t want these smart yankees thinking they can tell we dumb Southerners that they know better what’s good for the South. BTW- You should never capitalize the word “yankee”- because your third grade teacher taught you that you only capitalize proper nouns, and there ain’t NOTHING proper about a yankee!
  • commented 2016-12-08 12:34:24 -0500
    I am a Yankee living in Columbia. The New South cannot get here soon enough! So much opportunity and greatness is squandered on the relentless embrace of the 1850s. South Carolina could be the Silicon Valley of the Southeast. It is rich in resources, beauty, history, and uniqueness. It is also deeply entrenched in bigotry and racism. If we Yankees could be a majority in SC, we could turn the 1850s into the 2050s by unleashing the economic powerhouse inherent in South Carolina. Unfortunately, too many old white guys with small minds control everything. It may be 2050 before the New South arrives.
  • commented 2016-12-03 19:48:39 -0500
    _Po’ old Phil. He is just one of those people born in the wrong place. If he was from Ohio or new York, or any of those yankee places he could go through life as a happy person. But he was born a Southerner, and he will never be a happy person, because he is one of us that has a cellular mutation that made him a liberal.
    PO’ old Phil.