A Lotta Love makes over rooms in shelters

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two years ago, a friend suggested that Charlotta Sjoelin donate some pillows to HomeStart, a homeless shelter for women and children operated by the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Chapel Hill.

When she dropped off 20 pillows at the shelter, Sjoelin was taken aback by the bleakness of the rooms, which had bare walls and contained little more than metal bunkbeds with mattresses, worn-out bedding and towels, and dressers.

The experience inspired Sjoelin, an interior designer, to remake a bedroom in the shelter “so it feels like a home,” she says.

She bought and donated new bedding, pillows, decorative pillows, blankets, curtains and curtain rods, rugs, side tables, towels, shower curtains, bathroom shelves, shower products, wall art, a mirror, small decorative items, and an alarm clock — all for $500.

That effort led her to launch a program to recruit other donors and volunteers to remake other rooms in the shelter.

Initially called Donate A Room, A Lotta Love operates with its own advisory board and also supports emergency and homeless shelters run by Families Moving Forward in Durham, and Haven House Services and InterAct, both in Raleigh.

Supporting its partnership with Interact is a new chapter in Wake Forest of A Lotta Love. The organization also is developing plans to partner with Urban Ministries of Durham.

An all-volunteer group, A Lotta Love has enlisted about 200 volunteers and in its first year served nearly 130 women, nearly 170 children and 300 families.

At a cost of roughly $500 per room, it has provided about $120,000 worth of makeovers, including bedrooms, living rooms, teen rooms and playrooms, plus a flower and vegetable garden, and a playground.

A Lotta Love has developed partnerships with Lowe’s, World Market, IKEA and Sherwin Williams, all of which have donated products, and with Whitsell Consulting, Cisco and Spoonflower, all of which have provided volunteers and donated funds or products.

“We provide all the information you need to donate and do your own room,” says Sjoelin. “Anyone can lend a hand and be part of their donation.”

A Lotta Love provides donors with a one-page summary of the products and materials they can donate to a room in a shelter, including a description of the family, and the gender, ages and special interests of the children.

Often fueled by poverty or domestic violence, homelessness in the region is a serious problem, Sjoelin says, and the women, children and families staying in emergency and long-term shelters typically have jobs or are enrolled in school.

“When you walk into a shelter, you’ve basically lost everything, you’ve hit rock bottom,” she says.

“We don’t talk about making it beautiful,” she says. “We talk about respect and dignity and showing them that we care, that we believe in them, and giving them a place they can stay for a longer period of time to build themselves up. We’re creating a home away from home.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 10.28.16

CEOs plan to exit nonprofits but few tell boards

Nearly one in three nonprofit CEOs in North Carolina plan to leave their jobs in the next two years, but only three in 10 of those who plan to leave have shared their plans with their boards of directors, a new report says.

Based on a survey of over 640 CEOs by the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, the report says 67 percent of their nonprofits lack an emergency back-up plan in case of a short-term absence by the CEO, and 71 percent do not have a written, board-approved succession plan for the CEO position.

Among nonprofit CEOs who plan to leave, the report says, 37.1 percent say they are departing because want to retire; 29.5 percent say it’s time to leave; 18.6 percent say the support they get from their board, or the board’s performance, are inadequate; 13.9 percent say their salary or benefits, or both, are inadequate; and 13.3 percent say they are tired of raising funds.

The report, Countdown to the Inevitable: North Carolina Nonprofit CEOs in Transition, shows the need for boards to “embrace their governance responsibilities around succession planning and execute them in partnership with the CEO as a component of sound risk management and effective planning,” the Center says in a statement.

The report also “shows the need for North Carolina nonprofits to reach out to a more diverse pool of individuals — specifically around race, ethnicity and age,” the Center says.

Wealthy individuals give and volunteer at higher rates

Ninety-one percent of high-net-worth households donated to charity last year and 50 percent volunteered, compared to 59 percent of the U.S. general population who donated to charity and 25 percent who volunteered, a new study says.

The 2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy is based on a survey of 1,465 U.S. households with net worth of $1 million or more, excluding the value of their primary home, or with an annual household income of $200,000 or more, or both.

Fifty-five percent of wealthy individuals plan to give as much in the next three years, through 2018, than they have in the past, while 28 percent plan to give more, with women, African Americans and individuals age 50 or younger more likely to increase their giving.

Among wealthy individuals who volunteer, 60 percent plan to volunteer as much over the next three years and 30 percent plan to volunteer more, while 39 percent of those who did not volunteer last year plan to in the future.

Forty-five percent of wealthy individuals believe charitable giving has the greatest potential for positive impact on society and 31 percent believe volunteering has the greatest potential impact, compared to 13 percent who say voting has the greatest potential and one percent say contributing to a political candidate who shares their ideals on topics important to them has the greatest potential.

Cone Health Foundation giving $4.8 million

Cone Health Foundation in Greensboro is giving nearly $4.8 million grants to 42 area nonprofits.

The grants support agencies working in the Foundation’s four grantmaking focus areas, including access to health care, adolescent pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse and mental health, while some fall outside those categories and support community collaborations.

The median award was $122,000, and 42 percent of grants support access to care.

Since 1997, the Foundation has awarded over $82 million through 1,423 grants and contributions.

Community Health Clinic opening new facility

Charlotte Community Health Clinic will open a new facility, CCHC-West, on November 1 at 5301 Wilkinson Blvd. on the Leon Levine Opportunity Center on the new Goodwill Opportunity Campus.

EnergyUnited giving $40,000 to teachers

EnergyUnited in Statesville is awarding over $40,000  in education grants supporting innovative classroom projects to 47 teachers in nine of the 19 counties its serves.

ITG giving $25,000

ITG Brands in Greensboro is contributing $25,000 to the American Red Cross to help aid victims of Hurricane Matthew.

United Way gets $25,000

United Way of Greater Greensboro received a $25,000 grant from the Women to Women Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and will use the funds to increase the number of participants in the general-education-development, or GED,  program at its Family Success Center.

Piepenbring retiring at Duke Endowment; Hollowell named VP

Mary L. Piepenbring, vice president of The Duke Endowment in Charlotte and director of its Health Care program, will retired at the end of 2016.

Linwood B. Hollowell III, associate director of the Health Care program, will succeed her.

Novels joins North Carolina Community Foundation

Quinn Novels, former relationship manager for United Way of the Greater Triangle, has joined North Carolina Community Foundation in Raleigh as regional director for the Northern Piedmont.

Denny joins Rex Endowment board

Heather Denny, president and CEO of McDonald York Building Company in Raleigh, has joined the board of directors of the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh.

Cone Health Foundation adds board members

Cone Health Foundation in Greensboro added four new members to its board of directors, which also elected board officers.

New members are Omar H. Ali, interim dean of Lloyd International Honors College and professor of comparative African diaspora history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; the Rev.  Ches Kennedy, pastor of Emerging Ministries at Congregational United Church of Christ and director of development for the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-G; Sendil Krishnan, executive medical director of Triad Hospitalists; and Robert Pompey Jr., vice chancellor for business and finance at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Steve Sumerford, retired assistant director for Greensboro Public Library and a consultant to nonprofits, was elected board chair, and Margaret Arbuckle, retired executive director of Guilford Education Alliance was elected vice-chair.

NF Mid-Atlantic changes name

NF Mid-Atlantic in Charlotte has changed its name to NF Tumor Foundation and will host a golf tournament at Lonnie Poole Golf Course in Raleigh on November 14.

Reading Connections gets $5,000

Reading Connections in Greensboro has received a $5,000 grant from the Women to Women Endowment of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and will use the fund to expand its Family Literacy Program.

First Tennessee Bank gives $25,000

First Tennessee Bank of the Triangle has donated $5,000 to Foundation of Hope and $20,000 to The Daniels Center for Math and Science, both in Raleigh.

Realtor group donates school supplies

The Realtor Community Resource Committee of the Greensboro Regional Realtors Association delivered 1,200 composition books, 400 folders, several boxes of pencils, dry ink markers, and floor rugs to Hunter Elementary School. The group bought the items with donations from members.

Getting South Bronx kids in tune for success

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

BRONX, N.Y. — Giving more at-risk children in the South Bronx hope and a better chance to succeed in school and life is the focus of a $25,000 grant to UpBeat NYC, a local nonprofit that provides free music training and orchestral instruction for kids in the Mott Haven neighborhood.

Founded in 2009 by a family of New York City musicians and operating in a public library and two churches, the nonprofit this year will serve 150 children, teens and young adults ages five to 21, as well as 10 to 15 parents and infants.

“A music program accessible to everyone in a community gives children and youth an opportunity to see the potential in their lives, shows them they have the ability to do whatever they set their minds to, and gives them a taste of creating beauty in a group through hard work,” says Liza Austria, executive director and co-founder of UpBeat NYC.

Mimi O’Brien, executive director of The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in Durham, N.C., which awarded the grant, says learning to play an instrument and perform in an orchestra “can help children in economically distressed neighborhoods overcome the challenges of low expectations and build the skills, confidence and teamwork that will help them thrive.”

This grant is made as part of the foundation’s celebration of its 60th anniversary. “Mary Duke Biddle, my great-grandmother, lived part of her life in New York City. She wanted her foundation to support programs in that city, and the board takes great care to meet her expectation,” said Jon Zeljo, chair of the board of trustees.

Making music

UpBeat NYC was inspired by El Sistema, an effort that began in 1975 in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, and now reaches millions of students throughout the world, including hundreds of thousands in Venezuela and 30,000 in 120 communities in the U.S.

Founded by Austria, a singer and dancer, and her husband, Richard Miller, a jazz saxophonist, UpBeat NYC operates with an annual budget of $200,000, and a paid staff of one person working full-time and one working part-time, as well as nine teachers who work on an hourly basis several times a week under contract, and seven volunteer instructors.

Children enroll on a first-come, first-served basis, with no auditions. Most students begin in a pre-orchestra class, learning basic music theory, not an instrument, and participating in a choir.

Next, students take classes that focus on a particular instrument like a violin or clarinet and how they work, followed by classes in which the students are part of a group receiving instruction on how to play a real instrument. Then, they become part of a string or wind orchestra. Eventually, they join an advanced orchestra that combines string, wind and percussion instruments.

Using some of the funds from the Biddle Foundation, UpBeat NYC will begin a new track for brass and woodwind instruments, and for percussion, beginning with pre-orchestra instrument instruction. The organization in the past has offered wind and percussion opportunities at the orchestra level only.

The new track will include a wind-instrument initiation class and then separate classes for clarinet, trumpet, trombone and percussion.

With 50 more students beginning to learn those instruments this year, UpBeat NYC  plans within the next year to form an intermediate orchestra, and then plans the following year to form a beginner orchestra.

This fall, UpBeat NYC also will begin a new class to initiate infants and parents into the world of music. The organization already offers a choir for parents.

It will use the remainder of the Biddle funds to buy new instruments and music supplies, and support its operations.

Music to thrive

For years, UpBeat NYC has taught classes for advanced wind and percussion players, who have shown significant musical and personal progress. They and their parents report that learning to play an instrument in a group with their peers heightens and improves students’ motivation, and helps build their confidence, self-awareness, capacity to focus, empathy, emotional stability and academic achievement.

“We believe that all children are innately musical,” Austria says.

Tapping that natural talent is critical in a community with failing schools, a scarcity of quality programs during periods when children are not in school, and a bleak outlook among families for the education, well-being and future of their children.

Looming over children in the community are ever-present dangers and negative influences. Local rates of teen pregnancy and juvenile criminality are high, and more than half the children live in poverty.

“All our activities are designed to address the root causes of the social exclusion and isolation of children in the South Bronx,” Austria says.

Those causes include the lack of positive social activities open to everyone, social acceptance of low achievement, and the absence of opportunities to pursue challenging, long-term endeavors that promote personal growth and change.

“Music can play a powerful role in preparing children to shape their own lives and become agents of improving their community,” Austria says. “Through long-term musical training and experience in performing, our students develop the patience and persistence required to excel as individuals and to learn to contribute as supporters and leaders in the context of collaborative music-making.”

El Sistema

UpBeat NYC has plugged into El Sistema and its network of programs in the U.S.

The organization collaborates on student workshops and shares best practices with four other El Sistema-inspired programs that serve Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, where UpBeat NYC initially was launched.

In the summer of 2015, it took 34 of its students to Caracas to take lessons and perform with their counterparts in El Sistema’s main orchestra there, while some of its teachers participated in teacher training.

Teaching artists from El Sistema in Venezuela have visited UpBeat NYC to work with its students and provide training for its teachers, some of whom plan another visit Venezuela to receiving more training.

And this summer, five of its students participated at Bard College in the National Take A Stand Festival of El Sistema USA.

Family affair

As struggling artists living and working in New York City, Austria and Miller saw a big gap between the cultural opportunities within their reach and the lack of options for children living in poverty. And her family helped her see the need to create opportunities for at-risk kids.

Austria’s mother, a long-time New York City public school teacher who taught her to play piano as a young child, had long been concerned about budget cuts for arts education and the growing emphasis on testing. Austria’s older brother Ruben Austria, also a musician, is executive director of Community Connections for Youth, a South Bronx nonprofit that provides alternatives to incarceration for youth.

So when her late father, classical bassist Jamie Suarez Austria, learned about El Sistema and its impact in helping children throughout the world lift themselves out of poverty, he inspired Austria and Miller to launch UpBeat NYC.

Austria works on a pro-bono basis. Miller is one of the organization’s two paid employees. Her younger brother John Austria, formerly a volunteer instructor, is a paid instructor. And her mother, Christine Austria, is a volunteer instructor.

While UpBeat NYC still is a small organization, the Biddle grant will allow it to continue to grow from its startup in a storefront in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“My father’s passion about El Sistema showed us a model for this kind of work,” Austria says. “For my family, after my father died in 2010 from lung cancer, we continued to do this work and grow it. We’re a little in awe sometimes by how far this has come.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 10.21.16

Philanthropists, fundraisers to be honored

Marshall B. Bass of  Winston-Salem, Ned and Katherine Covington of High Point, and

Gerald H. Davidson of Greensboro have been named “Outstanding Philanthropist” by the Triad Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Executives, while Susan Gies Conley of the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina has been named “Outstanding Fundraising Professional.”

The awards, along with others for giving and fundraising, will be handed out at the Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on November 21 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro.

Keynote speaker for the even will be Ursula Dudley Oglesby, president and CEO of Dudley Q Products.

Other awards and the winners are:

* Lifetime Achievement Award — Elms and Harriet Allen.

* Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser — Reggie and Hope Chapman, Greensboro; Brenda Sloan, Winston-Salem; Kem Ellis, High Point.

* Outstanding Business in Philanthropy — Replacements Ltd., Scott Fleming.

* Outstanding Philanthropic Organization — Home Builders Association of Winston Salem.

* Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy — Lathan Verwoerdt.

* Outstanding Emerging Philanthropist — Spencer Bennett.

Women’s Leadership Council honors leaders

Regena Wiley of BB&T was named “Outstanding Volunteer” and Reynolds American received the 2016 Corporate Award for the largest number of new members in the 2015 campaign year by the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Forsyth County at its annual celebration and awards banquet at the Millennium Center on October 12.

Other awards and winners include:

* Outstanding Educator — Joan Deely, Philo-Hill Magnet Academy.

* Outstanding Youth Award — Demus Ramsey, Philo-Hill Magnet Academy.

* 5th Annual Susan Cameron award — Barbara Duck, BB&T.

Founded in 2007, the Women’s Leadership Council has recruited over 1,050 members and raised over $4 million to support United Way’s effort to increase the graduation rate in Forsyth County to 90 percent by 2018.

UNC-Chapel Hill gets $20 million challenge

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a $20 million challenge from an anonymous donor to match donations for need-and-merit-based scholarships.

SECU Family House raises $220,000

SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals raised over $220,000 and attracted a record-high 382 guests at The Carolina Ball on September 16.

Miller joins  Forsyth Tech Foundation

Corey Miller, former director of philanthropy at Crisis Control Ministry in Winston-

Salem, has been named executive director of development at Forsyth Tech Foundation.

Daniel Center names program administrator

Keturah King, a graduate of Winston-Salem State University with a master’s degree in education from Liberty University, has been named program administrator at The Daniel Center for Math and Science in Raleigh.

Foundation Source names managing director for South

Hugh S. Asher, former managing director at investment management firm, Cedar Capital, been named managing director of the southern fegion for Foundation Source in Fairfield, Conn.

High Point University gets $500,000

Harold and Kate Reed of North Palm Beach, Fla., are donating $500,000 to establish the Harold and Kate Reed Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will be awarded to students based on financial need.

Miracle League raises $280,000

Miracle League of the Triangle raised over $280,000 and attracted 400 guest at its Ten Year Celebration on October 18 at the The Pavilion at the Angus Barn in Raleigh.

Kroger donating $60,000 in goods

Kroger’s 14 stores in North Carolina will donate over $60,000 worth of goods to ares of the state affected by Hurricane Matthew, including the Triangle and surrounding counties.

Kroger has teamed up with the American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina to provide the supplies.

Biogen Foundation to make grants to schools

The Biogen Foundation is launching a $135,000 micro-grants program designed to support science education in North Carolina’s public schools.

Grants will be awarded to teachers and schools that serve students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Teachers may apply online through the North Carolina Community Foundation for grants up to $2,000, and schools may apply for grant up to $5,000.

United Arts to hold dining event

United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County will hold its 12th annual “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” event November 3-5 to benefit its “Artists in the Schools” program.

The event will feature 10 individual dinners the first two nights in private homes or other locations, each with a featured artist, and a 180-person dinner with 20 mystery artists the third night at Burning Coal.

Fidelity Charitable gives $2.3 billion

Fidelity Charitable made a record-high $2.3 billion in donor-recommeded grants in the first nine months of 2016, up 15 percent from the same period last year, while the number of grants grew 12 percent to more than 489,000 made to over 90,100 nonprofits.

Schwab Charitable gives $830 million

From January 1 through September 30, Schwab Charitable account holders recommended roughly 145,000 grants totaling $830 million, up from 129,000 grants totaling $670 million in the same period last year.

Wildlife Federation to benefit from event

North Carolina Wildlife Federation will benefit from an event on November 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Urban Garden at Bank of America in Charlotte.

Junior Achievement honors firm, volunteer

Ernst & Young received the “Outstanding Corporate Service Award” and Louis Pratt, technical marketing engineer at Cisco, received the “Outstanding Individual Service Award” from Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina at its Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast on September 28 sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

Women’s Network names committee chairs

Amy Horgan, a System of Care coordinator, has been named grants committee chair for Women’s Impact Network of New Hanover County, a program of the North Carolina Community Foundation, while Carol Kennedy, a health-care professional, has been named membership committee chair, and Jenny Callison, a communications professional, has been named communications committee chair.

Two join Goetz Foundation board

Heather Campbell, director of finance and operations at The Raleigh School, and Rhiannon Michalski, senior clinical data associate at INC Research, have joined the board of directors of the Noah Z.M. Goetz Foundation.

Leadership seminar for nonprofits

Crumley Roberts’ Education Advancement and Leadership Center, in partnership with the Guilford Non-Profit Consortium, is offering a seminar this spring for 16 emerging nonprofit leaders. The deadline for registration is October 31.

High Point University giving $10,000

High Point University is giving $10,000 to a program that aims to provide swimming lessons free of charge to every second-grader in the city of High Point, or over 500 students.

StudentU working to equip more Durham students to succeed

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

DURHAM, N.C. — Preparing more kids in Durham to graduate from high school, enroll in college and graduate, and then find ways to help other students succeed in school and life is the focus of a $25,000 grant to Durham nonprofit StudentU.

With the funds, from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in Durham, StudentU aims to double — to 30 — the number of college students it employs who work with middle-school students in its summer and year-long programs.

It also plans to double — to 40 — the number of internships it provides for high school students who work with middle- and other high-school students and at local nonprofits.

“We want to see a Durham where all kids can succeed,” says Dan Kimberg, founder and advancement director of StudentU. “We believe the way to get there is for our students to actually be the leaders who change the system.”

Mimi O’Brien, executive director of the Biddle Foundation, says StudentU is preparing students to thrive.

“With support and encouragement,” she says, “students who face difficult odds in school and in life can believe in themselves, find a path to success, and give back by looking for ways to create greater opportunities for kids like themselves.”

The Foundation made the grant as part of the celebration of its 60th anniversary.

Preparing for college

Inspired by a summer job in New Orleans after his freshman year at Duke that paired college students with middle-school students, Kimberg founded StudentU after graduating from Duke in 2007.

Operating with an annual budget of $2.1 million, a staff of 18 people working full-time and up to 150 working part-time, StudentU is serving 450 students this year, a number that will grow to 500 in its new class that begins next March.

It works with students at all 18 middle schools and all 12 high schools in Durham, and partners mainly with students at Duke and North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

All public school students participating in StudentU begin in sixth grade, most qualify for school lunches that are free or at a reduced price, most are students of color, and most are the first in their families to go to college.

Among students who began StudentU in sixth grade, 110 currently are pursuing bachelors’ degrees, including a few who transferred after graduating from community college. In 2017 the first of those students will graduate from a four-year college.

School-year program

StudentU offers school-year and summer programs.

During the school year, 150 students in grades six, seven and eight participating in StudentU visit the W.G. Pearson Center five days a week after school for three hours a day. Learning specialists teach them literacy and math. Students also participate in dance, orchestra and arts clubs, and get help with homework.

About 190 students in grades nine through 12 participate in StudentU at their schools. StudentU hires and pays a stipend to teachers and guidance counselors already working at the schools who serve as advocates for the StudentU students in their schools.

Each advocate works with a group of four students who meet one-on-one with the advocate every week to make sure they are on track to graduate and enroll in college. And once a month, all the StudentU students and advocates in a school meet to talk about their progress and challenges they face.

During the school year, StudentU students visit about 15 colleges in North Carolina. Before applying to college, each StudentU student visits a total of about 35 colleges.

StudentU employs full-time college advisers who provide support through the application process to its high school juniors and seniors, along with their parents.

Summer program

During the summer, 150 middle-school students attend a six-week StudentU summer program at Durham Academy five days a week, eight hours a day, while 100 ninth-and-10th-graders attend a five-week summer academy and spend another week visiting six or seven out-of-state colleges with high rates of retention of students who are the first in their families to attend college.

And 90 11th-and-12th-graders hold StudentU internships, either at its campus, supporting the operations of its middle-school and high-school academies, or at local nonprofits.

Student support

StudentU employs a full-time social worker to help address the individual needs of students and families, and to manage health partnerships. The social worker works to make sure each student has a primary care doctor, helps arrange or directly provides psychological therapy for those who need it, and arranges for annual vision screening for each student, with those who need prescription eyeglasses getting a free pair.

StudentU also employs one full-time learning specialist who work directly with individual students with the greatest academic needs.

College students

StudentU employs college students to teach middle-school students. And it provides support for college students who began participating in StudentU in sixth grade.

Each semester, the full-time StudentU “college success coordinator” meets one-on-one on campus with each StudentU college student. And each August and winter break, StudentU students participate in a retreat that features experts who talk about key factors for college success, such as time management; getting the most from college advisers; racial identity at white institutions; and dealing with drugs, alcohol and sex on campus.

StudentU also makes gifts up to $500 per family to help keep their children from leaving college because of a financial emergency.

Parents’ role

The parent of every high-school student and middle-school student in StudentU receives a phone call at least every three weeks or two weeks, respectively, that focuses on the student’s progress and on what the organization can do to better support the family.

A parents council, known as Guardians for StudentU, works to support the StudentU staff, and the council head serves on StudentU’s board of directors.

Other communities

Twenty-three communities throughout the U.S. have asked StudentU to consider expanding to their communities. While it has declined because it wants to focus on Durham, it shares with them for free a 515-page document outlining how its programs work. This summer, based on that model, Gaston County in North Carolina launched a program starting with middle-school students.

Long-term goals

StudentU aims over the long-term to help students achieve educational success; gain the knowledge they need to achieve financial security as adults; make progress toward reaching their full personal potential; and become traditional and non-traditional leaders in Durham and other communities who are equipped to help make long-term systemic change happen.

Consider Casey Barr-Rios: She enrolled in StudentU as a sixth-grader and now is a junior at North Carolina Central University and the first person in her family to go to college. She also is the full-time executive assistant at StudentU, and a member of the board of directors of Made In Durham, a community partnership that aims to help Durham youth complete high school, get a post-secondary credential, and begin a rewarding career by age 25.

“As a result of structural racism and systemic inequalities, the odds are against students of color in the Durham Public Schools,” Kimberg says. “We want to see a Durham where all kids can succeed. We are helping students discover their best selves so they can change the system around them.”

Conn Elementary partners with volunteers

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — At 3:45 p.m. every weekday during the school year, nearly 100 students gather in the gym at Conn Elementary School in Raleigh, remaining there until 6 p.m. to do their homework, with breaks for recreational activities and recess outside.

Operating the after-school program is YMCA of the Triangle, which also provides free child care for monthly meetings of the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

The partnership with the YMCA is part of a larger effort by Conn to generate voluntary and philanthropic support to supplement the public dollars it receives.

“As a school, we’re always looking for ways to expand what we do to support our teachers and students, and the community support we get helps us,” says Gary Duvall, Conn’s principal.

About 580 students are enrolled at Conn, and about half of them qualify for lunch that is free or provided at a reduced price. With such a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, the school receives federal dollars through the Title I program for schools serving low-income families.

To supplement the public dollars the school receives, Conn’s PTA last year increased to $35,000 from about $15,000 the funds it raised during its annual fall fundraising campaign.

Those dollars were used to pay for playground renovations, and to help fund 30 programs at the school, including mini-grants of up to $500 to teachers for special projects, such as buying books and materials for the school library to supplement what students learn in the classroom.

Conn also is developing partnerships with a growing number of organizations that provide volunteers for the school.

Starting this fall, three members of Lawyers 4 Literacy, a program of the North Carolina Bar Association, are visiting Conn once a week at lunchtime, each working with one or two students in second or third grade on their reading.

And once a week after school, about 10 volunteers visit Conn through a partnership with Cary nonprofit Read and Feed, which provides a meal for about 18 students in first through fifth grade. Each volunteer then works on reading with one or two students, who also receive two books each week to take home and keep.

And thanks to Amy Dameron, a literacy teacher at Conn and a member of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, volunteers from the congregation are scheduled to visit the school on October 15 for campus beautification and painting.

Another seven volunteers from the church also have applied to work on reading once a week with two students each.

And before the school year began, more than a dozen managers from Whole Foods on Wade Avenue visited the school for day of painting and beautification.

This fall, through two separate partnerships, 12 students in the College of Education at North Carolina State University will be visiting Conn once a week to mentor individual students in fourth and fifth grade on topics ranging from goal-setting and self-awareness to character development, while another 10 to 12 students from the College of Engineering at N.C. State will be visiting once a week to work one-on-one with students on science and math.

“We want to make sure all our students are succeeding,” Duvall says. “By having these small reading groups and small programs, we able to serve a broad range of student needs.”