ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — On Tuesday, July 19, the City of Asheville's Housing and Community Development Committee reviewed and made its final recommendations for which organizations should receive funding from the city's Strategic Partnership Pilot Program to help close the opportunity gap.
The opportunity gap is "the way that uncontrollable life factors like race, language, economic, and family situations can contribute to lower rates of success in educational achievement, career prospects, and other life aspirations," as defined by the Close the Gap Foundation.
Thirty-one organizations applied for grants through the city's program between June 22 and July 12.
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Click here to see how all 31 organizations were scored by the city's Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Committee then sent a list of their top 8 recommended recipients to the Housing and Community Development Committee for review.
The Housing and Community Development Committee made some changes to the Evaluation Committee's list on Tuesday, like removing the YWCA from it. Committee members concluded the organization had other funding streams it could utilize to accomplish its proposal. The committee also added two organizations to their list of recommended recipients: Aspire Youth and Family, Inc. and Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective. This brings the total grant awards amount to $375,500, up $20,000 from the Evaluation Committee's initial list of recommendations.
Below is the list of the recommended funding allocations the Housing and Community Development Committee voted to send to city council for full approval:
Literacy Together plans to use the $36,000 they're recommended to receive for a program called "Igniting Superhero Readers." That involves using the anticipated grant money to hire local young adults to mentor and help young students in our community with their reading skills after school, one-on-one.
"We are able to provide a paid internship for these young adults," Julie Taylor, Program Director for Youth Literacy with Literacy Together. "So they are getting training on how to deliver quality phonics-based instruction. Perhaps we'll have some future teachers in the group! Wouldn't it be exciting to tap into that potential for the future?"
Taylor says the program is a win-win, benefitting both the mentors and the mentees.
"To see that role model, to be able to establish a consistent, really caring and kind relationship, and to be able to identify and articulate that path, of, 'I want to be you,' is really powerful," Taylor said.
Taylor said they're already doing a similar tutoring and mentoring program in their summer camp.
"When we saw this opportunity, it is just a perfect match to be able to extend this program into the school year," Taylor said.
The Christine W. Avery Learning Center plans to use the $25,000 it's recommended to receive for "The Village."
"We all know that it takes a village to raise a child, and that's what we want to do. We want to recreate that village," said Jasmine Bright, the business operations manager for Christine W. Avery Learning Center.
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Bright said this project is about supporting the whole child.
"It's for academic support for STEM and literacy. It's to bring additional academic tutors. It's also to bring in additional student advocates in order to help our children with social and emotional learning," Bright said.
She said part of this project is helping parents, too.
"It's called The Village Project because we're going to help more than just the student. We're going to reach out to the families," Bright said. "We can't continue to touch the surface of things and expect things to get better. We have to go a little deeper."
Bright said they're looking at sending enrichment resources home with students, so they can learn with their families. They're even considering offering adult literacy classes so parents can learn how to better work with their children.
Bright said Literacy Together would be their partner with the literacy piece of The Village.
"We're going deeper than the surface," she said. "We're touching the child exactly where they need assistance with the academic, with the social-emotional, and with that family support."
Asheville City Council is expected to vote on the funding recommendations at its next meeting on July 26.