Thursday, January 12, 2012

Giving Green Partnership with Schools Shares Hope, Inspiration

Many people have heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This year, the University is putting that proverb into action.

In August 2011, TIAA-CREF, a leading financial services provider, and UNC Charlotte announced a partnership to provide educational to over 4,700 students and 500 faculty members at Governor’s Village schools. Governor’s Village is comprised of four Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS): John M. Morehead STEM Academy, Nathaniel Alexander Elementary, James Martin Middle, and Zebulon B. Vance High.

“We have been working with CMS and the principals at each school to identify specific needs and areas in which we can help,” said Ashley Oster, director of community affairs at UNC Charlotte. “These schools are in our backyard, and as a university, we have access to a multitude of resources that can help the students and teachers at these schools.

TIAA-CREF and UNC Charlotte have looked for strategic ways to create excitement for this partnership. “We have created a theme for each month and designed activities around it. For example, the theme for December was literacy, and it was quite exciting to come up with a fun way to encourage reading,” added Oster.

For the literacy event, UNC Charlotte and Penguin Publishing donated 300 copies of Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact to students at Morehead STEM Academy and James Martin Middle School. Dr. Andrew Hartley, author of the book and Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at UNC Charlotte, signed each copy and read portions of his book to the students at Morehead STEM.

“It was a special moment to see the children’s faces light up when they were given a brand-new book, signed by an author, to keep,” said Oster.

The teachers at the schools were pleased too. AnStarie Sessoms McKinnon, a seventh-grade teacher at Morehead STEM Academy said,”Several of my students, who are reluctant readers, began reading Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact at lunch the day they received it, and I am so proud to say they finished it the same day!”

In addition to the literacy event, a number of programs and initiatives will take place throughout the school year including a professional development conference, a job shadow event at TIAA-CREF offices, a financial literacy employee volunteer program, and various athletics, arts, and cultural events. Moreover, volunteers from both TIAA-CREF and UNC Charlotte have been serving as mentors, tutors, and lunch buddies since September and will continue with these volunteer efforts throughout the year.

Although the events have created excitement among all involved in the partnership, Katie Suggs, assistant director of community affairs at UNC Charlotte, thinks the project represents something even bigger: Hope. “I keep thinking that at least one child is being inspired to do something more with their life. Maybe they heard Dr. Hartley speak and thought, ‘I want to write a book’ or ‘I want to be an author.’ Maybe they work with one of our volunteers in the Levine Scholars program and think, ‘I can go to college too.’ This partnership is about education, but it is also about giving hope, inspiring kids to be the best they can be, and introducing them to some of the opportunities that await them.”

To get involved with the Governor’s Village Project, please visit:

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