Asheville City Schools Foundation recognizes local volunteer champions

Here’s the press release form the Asheville City Schools Foundation:

(Asheville, NC) The Asheville City Schools Foundation will honor exceptional leaders of the Asheville City Schools district at the annual Celebration for Champions, to be held at The Venue on March 29th, in downtown Asheville at 6:00 pm. The awards chosen from a group of a dozen community-selected nominees, include: Lifetime Achievement Award to Arthur Kern Parker; Nonprofit Champion Award to FEAST represented by Cathy Cleary and Kate Justen; Grassroots Partner Champion Award to Read to Succeed represented by Isaac Coleman & Catherine Alter; Community Volunteer Champion Award to the Yale Alumni Association represented by Connor Fay; and the Parent Leader Champion Award to Kate Brewer Fisher for her volunteerism at Isaac Dickson Elementary and Asheville Middle School.

About the Champions:
Lifetime Achievement Award- Arthur “Kern” Parker will be the first to tell you his favorite joke, “If I don’t come in here, Betsy {his wife} will make me vacuum!” Kern’s modesty when it comes to his massive amounts of volunteer work speaks volumes about him. He has worked harder in his retirement than many folks do during their career. He has continually reinvented his volunteer time based on the needs of the teachers and students whom he has served. His services to students at Asheville Middle and Asheville High Schools have spanned all demographics. Bundling all his volunteerism together, both directly with students and at the ACSF, it is estimated that he has donated time approaching, if not surpassing, 10,000 hours. Kern is the proud parent of three children who all are graduates of the Asheville City Schools. His service began during their school careers and kicked into high gear following his retirement from UNCA in 2004. Since that time, he has been a tireless volunteer at Asheville Middle School and Asheville High School — serving in numerous capacities including: MathCounts Coach, National Geo Bee Moderator, Math Tutor for a visually impaired student, Asheville Spelling Contest Pronouncer, Morning Tutorial Sessions Tutor at Asheville Middle, Asheville High Tutor during Afternoon Academy, Debate Booster, and substitute teacher for Mrs. Garrison, Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Landreth. Additionally, Kern has served as volunteer book keeper for the Asheville City Schools Foundation since 2007, giving between 20 and 25 hours of his time each week. He served as a member of the ACSF Board of Directors from 2006-2012 and was treasurer and member of the Executive Committee of the Board from 2009-2012.

Nonprofit Champion- FEAST (Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable & Tasty) represented by founders Cathy Cleary and Kate Justen. In the spring of 2010, FEAST received its first seed money from the Asheville City Schools Foundation with an Innovation Grant to start programming at Asheville Middle School in the Exploring Life Skills & Career Decisions classes for the 2010-11 school years. FEAST annually impacts approximately 325 students. Today, FEAST classes are a part of IRL (In Real Life) at Asheville Middle School, as well as the “I Have A Dream” Program and the 21st Century Community Learning Center. Taking lessons from the classroom to the home is one of the program’s chief aims, according to FEAST Director Kate Justen. “Children are likely to choose healthy food if they have helped prepare it,” she says. After the completion of a series of classes, students should know how to follow a recipe, understand which foods are in season locally and choose moderate portions, Justen says. They often figure out the types of food that are good for their bodies. As they cook, students practice kitchen safety rules, and incorporate elements of math, science, language arts and health.

Grassroots Partner Champion- Read to Succeed represented by Isaac Coleman & Catherine Alter. Read to Succeed Asheville (R2S) was created in 2010 through the collaboration of community activists and the Asheville Housing Authority. The founders were rightly concerned that the reading achievement gap between wealthier and lower income students in Asheville City Schools would have long-term negative consequences for our community. The program’s mission and goals are based on data indicating that for some groups of Asheville children only 25% to 40% gain proficiency by the third grade. This puts them at considerable risk for failure to graduate from high school, and sets them at a disadvantage throughout their lives. Read to Succeed is an entirely volunteer program, from the hard working board of directors to the Reading Coaches who commit to providing two 45-minute sessions per week and continued coaching in the summer. Coaches are encouraged to build a positive nurturing relationship with their student in the belief that these connections will increase children’s motivation to learn as well as their self-esteem that flows from greater academic confidence. This year, over 37 students are being coached in reading throughout the Asheville City School district.

Community Volunteer Champions- The Yale Alumni Association represented by Connor Fay. Connor Fay has led the Yale Club to make serving the children of Hall Fletcher Elementary School their mission. Hall Fletcher Elementary School principal Gordon Grant recently praised Connor saying, “By organizing this group of well-connected, skilled individuals, Connor has brought an abundance of resources to our school. Together, Connor Fay and the Yale Alumni Association have contributed 1,000 hours of volunteer time and $5,000 for the library. Their work has included implementing two book fairs, contributing to the Hall Fletcher Student Activity Fund, and soliciting over $4,500 of landscaping plants for the school from a local nursery. Under Connor’s leadership, this group of motivated individuals has made a tremendous impact at Hall Fletcher Elementary School.”

Parent Leader Champion-Kate Brewer Fisher for her volunteerism at Isaac Dickson Elementary and Asheville Middle School. The longevity of Kate’s many years of volunteerism represents her incredible commitment to all children. She says, “Sometimes, all you have to do is show up and be there for them. Even though they are out of elementary school, they still need someone to be present once they reach middle school, and I try to be that person for them.” Parent Kathleen M. Mosher says “Our kids have been blessed to have their school experiences greatly enhanced by the dedication of Kate Fisher. “Miss Kate” as some of the kids called her, was present whenever someone needed help or encouragement at Dickson. From digging in the dirt to making a mean fresh salsa, she inspired them. We were so excited that our daughter could have that experience with Kate continue through AMS Cross Country. She puts her whole heart into these kids and her impact on them is evident. She is their biggest cheerleader and they know that.”

Parent Champions- This year, ACSF extended its annual Celebration of Champions to include awards to parents at each school. The 2014 Parent Champions include Deirdre Gilmer & Misty Miller as Co-Presidents at Hall Fletcher Elementary whose energy has increased participation at the schools PTO meetings by 40%. Lockie Hunter has not only raised thousands of dollars for Claxton Elementary over the last six years, but she has also helped the Lego League team advance to the state level competition. At Ira B. Jones Elementary, the Dads On Guard (DOGs) volunteers Tim Plaut & Frank Ungert have added a sense of humor to the thankless job of directing traffic and keeping children safe. April DeLac’s quiet but dedicated service for Vance Elementary has spanned seven years. She has helped the PTO become a nonprofit, served as treasurer of the PTO, and has been a tireless fundraiser for the school. Chris Lenderman has been the AHS/SILSA PTO president for the past five years. Her duties have included planning multiple yearly fundraisers, coordinating teacher hospitality events and school wide events such as the PTO Open House and writing the AHS PTO newsletter. A fellow mom spoke of Chris recently saying, “She is consistently trying to balance the needs of all families by addressing the issue of communication. She knows the administrators, social workers, the counseling staff and many in central office by name and consistently keeps in touch with them to ask how the PTO can help the students and/or families who seem to get lost in the cracks.”

The public is invited to celebrate the entire group of nominees, which includes First Baptist Church, UNCA, Nick Haskell, Elsa Berndt, and Tracy McCormack. ACSF would like to recognize ALL of these volunteers who give back so much of their time to Asheville City School students.

About the Event:
Celebration for Champions is the Asheville City Schools Foundation’s signature annual event. Celebration has raised money for the Foundation’s cornerstone programs: professional development opportunities for teachers, IRL (In Real Life) afterschool program, TAPAS (Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville Schools), and the Equity Fund. The Celebration of Champions award encourages individuals and organizations to engage with city schools and recognize the value a thriving public school system provides for the whole community.
Join the Asheville City Schools Foundation to honor and elevate the volunteerism of nominated parents, community members and agency partners who truly inspire admiration. The event will take place at The Venue in downtown Asheville on March 29th from 6-9pm. Ticket holders will enjoy dinner at The Venue, a live auction with auctioneer Ben Martin, live music, short films honoring the volunteers (by Rod Murphy of Industrious Productions) and an awards ceremony. There will be a cash bar. Tickets are $50 for individuals, $85 for a pair, $500 for a table seating ten, and limited bistro tables at $200 seating four. Link for tickets:

The ACSF Celebration of Champions-Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence is made possible by two of our premier sponsors- The Omni Grove Park Inn and Mosaic Realty.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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