On what should have been the last week of school for Buncombe County schoolchildren, we are thrilled to announce the 15 educational and literacy non-profits across our state that will receive $200,000 total in unrestricted Parsec Prize grants.
Last fall we made the decision to dedicate the 2020 Parsec Prize grants to education in honor of our 40th anniversary. Little did we know then how vital this funding would be for our community partners. We are humbled by the work they do and honored to play a small part in the large impact they have across our state. We hope you enjoy learning a little about each organization in our recap below.
2020 Parsec Prize Winners by Office:
This year completes Parsec’s 4-year $100,000 grant to OnTrack Financial Education. “We are forever grateful for Parsec’s ongoing support,” said Executive Director Celeste Collins. “Our services are more vital now amidst the economic turmoil so we appreciate Parsec’s ongoing help to ensure we can continue providing financial literacy programming (albeit remotely for the time being) to our community members.”
“Because of Parsec and other funding, we are supporting 7,000 individuals every year,” Celeste said. “We have a variety of programs to provide supportive accountability, such as helping people learn how to pay their bills so they don’t file for bankruptcy and helping people learn about affordable housing, which is the difference between being housed and being homeless.”
Literacy Council of Buncombe County received a $15,000 Parsec Prize. “The staff and board of the Literacy Council of Buncombe County are immensely grateful for the award of the Parsec Prize! Particularly in such uncertain times, we greatly appreciate Parsec’s recognition of the important work we do to enhance English reading and writing skills of our residents of all ages, in all walks of life,” said Board Chair Barbara Kolack Veach.
Their initiatives support people such as Molly, who in her mid-20s was still struggling to read. “The Literacy Council has changed my life,” she said. “Without it, I don’t think I would have ever found the tools or the emotional strength to learn to read. One of the reasons I wanted to learn was so I could become more independent. Simple tasks for you – like making a grocery list or reading a recipe – have been almost impossible for me. But now these tasks are less overwhelming. Now I can dream about a future I never thought I could have.”
Children First of Buncombe County received a $10,000 grant. “We are excited and honored to be awarded a 2020 Parsec Prize,” Executive Director Natasha Adwaters said. “Parsec’s decision to focus support on educational and literacy programs for their 40th anniversary will ensure many organizations like ours can continue helping children and families reach their full potential.”
This funding for Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County will support the sustainability and future growth of their Student Support Specialist program, which surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Student Support Specialists serve in five Title 1 schools in our community based on need. They address school-wide goals and also work with 5-10% of the school population to address individual goals related to attendance, behavior, coursework, and parent engagement.
Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County received a $10,000 Parsec Prize to help fund Brain Gain, a daily summertime offering that promotes youth literacy and mitigates summer learning loss for Club members, and its sister program, Power Hour, which is a mandatory homework tutorial offered daily throughout the academic year.
These programs have helped many students, including Vanessa. “I graduate this June, and all I can say is I am grateful for this program because I no longer hesitate to read out loud or struggle while taking my English exams. I read fluently and will always be thankful for the Boys & Girls Club for going above and beyond to encourage students and always being so helpful,” she said.
Smart Start Transylvania received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “While Transylvania County has made significant strides in many of our early childhood community goals and progress in our kindergarten readiness data, we intend to intentionally grow our early literacy programs and augment the other programming areas that we support,” said Executive Director Deb Tibbetts.
“When families read together, it promotes healthy brain development, furthers language acquisition, and helps build meaningful bonds. Our early literacy programs include Reach Out and Read, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and an early education resource library.”
Asheville Museum of Science received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “We are grateful to Parsec for enabling us to advance our mission by increasing access to quality science educational program in our community,” said Executive Director Amanda Bryant. “Sparking early interest in STEM fields is now more important than ever to equip our younger generations with the skills to succeed in the modern world that increasingly requires science, technology, engineering, and math.”
While AMOS has had to make changes to its normal summer initiatives due to the pandemic, with our grant they will be able to continue providing discounted and free field trips and outreach to area to teachers and students through WNC. They are updating their current field trip curriculum to be more accessible through a digital classroom format and to more easily bring their outreach programing (lab equipment and materials) to the schools as travel restrictions remain.
St. Gerard House received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “This has been a challenging year for everyone, and we are no exception,” Executive Director Caroline Long said. “St. Gerard House is so grateful for the support from the Parsec Prize as it is vital for us to return to our pre COVID-19 operations of serving an autism community in crisis. This money will help us provide much needed therapy for children with autism and their families.”
Our grant will help more families like the Komperday family, who moved to Hendersonville in 2019 to take advantage of the services that St. Gerard House offers. Their eldest teenage son is on the autism spectrum, diagnosed before his third birthday. “By second grade the workload increased in the public-school setting and so did his behaviors. Third grade only lasted three weeks. He was having a tantrum every day causing him to miss work,” his mom said. After enrolling their son in St. Gerard House, she said “we were immediately impressed by the amount of time put into the reports we received from the programs. Through the programs at St. Gerard House Eddie has formed real friendships. We’re grateful for him to have that opportunity. Eddie is also much more independent in the home now making small meals and doing tasks.”
MusicWorks received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “The generous grant from Parsec will help us teach life skills to elementary school students through music,” said Julie Leever, secretary of MusicWorks’ board of directors. “The Parsec Prize will allow us to repair musical instruments, purchase sheet music and other teaching supplies, as well as provide additional support to our teaching artists and academic enrichment specialists. MusicWorks Asheville’s mission is to teach a variety of essential life skills, including perseverance, cooperation, and patience. This gift makes it possible for us to continue to provide music education to all students, regardless of their access to instruments and instruction.”
As one mother said of their programming, “MusicWorks has been an amazing outlet for Analise as it has taught her that it is ok to try. She always wanted to do things but was so afraid someone would laugh at her, but in the last year I have seen her stand strong in her ability and step forward and say, ‘I can do this, I have got this.’ In the last year she has been a GEO girl in Girl Scouts, qualified for swim team, maintained an A honor roll and aced her end of grade exams. Never once did I hear her say she could not do it. For that I thank MusicWorks because without this vital program I do not feel Analise would be the well-rounded, strong, intelligent, and amazing girl she has become.”
Appalachian Wildlife Refuge received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “Protecting nature begins with educating the community and these funds will enable us to purchase the equipment, materials, and supplies we have sorely needed for our community tabling events,” said Board Chair D Smith.
They work closely with educational partners such as the Cradle of Forestry to rehabilitate injured animals and then coordinate with them to incorporate these animals into their educational programming, as they recently did with two male turtles.
Serve to LEAD received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “Serve To LEAD is honored to receive this grant! Together, Parsec and Serve To LEAD are invested in advancing youth leadership and alleviating poverty in our local community and around the globe,” said Executive Director Jessica Tripp.
With this funding, they will be assisting youth and families who are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will help support their summer camp in the Hillcrest community. Serve To LEAD and their community partner Youthful HAND will lead a seven-week summer camp to advance academic achievement for children ages 5-11 who need support due to the disruption in education brought on by the global health crisis. This camp will equip at-risk children with the knowledge and social-emotional skills necessary to enter kindergarten this fall and will provide older elementary age children with tutoring and field trip experiences to empower them for success.
Read Charlotte received a $20,000 Parsec Prize. Read Charlotte is a ten-year (2015-2025) community initiative that unites families, educators and community partners to improve children’s literacy from birth through third grade with the goal of doubling the percentage of third graders reading on grade level from 39% in 2015 to 80% by 2025. “We are sincerely grateful to Parsec Financial for this support,” Executive Director Munro Richardson said. “Our work is more important than ever as we tackle the reading recovery following new challenges that COVID-19 has created in our community.”
Reedy Creek Elementary Principal Orlando Robinson said, “Read Charlotte has taken on the heavy lift of building partnerships with families and community partners without placing extra work on teachers and staff. This has definitely played a part in our success by helping our parents understand and embrace their role in their scholars’ literacy success. Our scholars feel that school and learning to read is more important because they see their parents as stakeholders.”
The YMCA of Greater Charlotte received a $20,000 Parsec Prize for its Y Readers program. Y Readers provides a six-week summer program for K-3 students in Title I schools who are reading below grade level. The program includes both literacy instruction and enrichment activities to ensure a fun and impactful summer camp experience. CFO Dean Jones said, “with funding from Parsec Financial, we will be able to continue offering this program at no cost to families, reducing one of the primary barriers that low-income families face when making summer plans. We will be able to help close the opportunity gap that exists in the summer months and provide critical academic support for some of our community’s most vulnerable youth.”
In 2019 their camp helped 947 students from 12 nearby schools. 87% of students improved or maintained their reading level, with 52% experiencing measurable gains in their reading proficiency.
Bookmarks of Winston-Salem received a $20,000 Parsec Prize. “We were absolutely thrilled to receive the Parsec Prize in support of our final year of Book Build. The timing was perfect and will provide over 1,200 new and diverse books to our local public-school libraries,” said Ginger Hendricks, Bookmarks’ Executive Director. “This support will provide our youngest citizens of our community with the tools to create lifelong readers.”
Part of the “Book Build” program is inviting authors of donated books to visit with students where the books will be utilized. Hendricks notes that the bonds formed between authors and young readers is magical. She recalls the third grade drummer who believed she “hated to read” until a novel about a budding musician opened her eyes to the joy of reading, and the kindergartener who heard and met multi-award winning illustrator and author Javaka Steptoe and told his grandmother he wanted to be an artist, too.
By the end of 2020, they are on track to donate 25,000 new books to Forsyth County school public libraries.
KidSenses received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “This generous grant from Parsec Financial is a validation of the importance of the work that we do, which is to provide fun, hands-on learning experiences for thousands of children each year,” said Executive Director Willard Whitson.
Despite the pandemic, they are upholding their mission of helping children of all ages develop a rich understanding of themselves and their world through fun, hands-on learning in the areas of science, art and culture.
“A family quarantined on an island in Thailand recently posted their gratitude on our museum’s Facebook page,” Whitson said. “Their young daughter was enjoying the activities we had provided online during the COVI-19 pandemic. Isolated from her friends, she was nonetheless able to engage with the world because of our commitment to help children learn, even with our doors temporarily closed.”
Moore County Literacy Council received a $10,000 Parsec Prize. “Our board, staff and students are delighted to receive this year’s Parsec Prize,” said MCLC Executive Director Stuart L. Mills. “We were aware of Parsec’s many good works in our community, but we never dreamed of receiving this recognition ourselves, or such a generous donation. The funds received will be critical to our goal of transforming Moore County into Read Moore County, leading North Carolina in literacy.”
President of the MCLC’s Board of Directors Rev. John G. Talk IV said that “the Literacy Council makes the most of every gift received to improve the reading and writing of residents of Moore County. A large gift like this one will empower our staff to recruit, train and equip many volunteer tutors who will sit with residents of Moore County and teach them to read and write. Those residents will themselves become better students, parents, employees, businesspeople and community members. The timing of this gift, announced during the Covid-19 pandemic, is critical – it will help the Literacy Council to keep its doors open.”