A meeting of the minds

Even though many Asheville-area students first attend A-B Tech, then transfer to UNCA to earn a bachelor’s degree, the two schools have tended to operate independently.

Recently, however, both schools announced plans to create a “bridge program” in which selected A-B Tech transfer students can enroll in one of UNCA’s required general-education courses while still attending the community college. A UNCA instructor will teach a UNCA class — Humanities 324: “The Modern World — Mid-17th Century to Mid-20th Century” — at A-B Tech next spring. Students who enroll in the course will be in their final semester at the community college, and will already have completed the school’s humanities requirements. This will allow students to adjust to the more rigorous expectations of a junior-level course, while helping them develop a deeper relationship with the bigger school across town. A 1997 agreement between the N.C. Community College System and the University of N.C. system, intended to facilitate the transfer of students from the former to the latter, paved the way for the new program.

Dr. Margaret Downes, the chair of UNCA’s humanities program, is pleased about the bridge program. “UNCA’s humanities classes underscore our belief that knowledge is something we continue to shape in a community of learners,” she said in a UNCA media release. “We’re very pleased that this community now can include A-B Tech students.”

For more information about the bridge program, call UNCA’s Merianne Epstein at 251-6676, or A-B Tech’s Mona Cornwell at 254-1921, ext. 117.

Messing with the gene pool

Every day, millions of Americans eat genetically altered foods without knowing it, according to the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, a Colorado-based environmental group. People with restrictive allergies, or with religious or ethical dietary principles, are unwittingly consuming foods that contain genetic material from other species, the group notes.

At least 44 different genetically engineered foods are now being sold. But the Food and Drug Administration does not require any pre-market testing or special labeling of these products, which are said to be present in such popular food items as major soy-based baby formulas and corn-chip brands.

Late last month, however, the FDA announced that it will begin holding public hearings and soliciting public comments about genetic engineering; meetings are slated for Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Oakland, Calif. According to the Alliance, the meetings were scheduled, in part, because of overwhelming public concern, as well as concerns raised by the FDA’s own scientists. One scientist, quoted in an AWR press, said that “undesirable effects such as increased levels of known, naturally occurring toxicants; appearance of new, not previously identified toxicants; increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g. pesticides or heavy metals); and undesirable alterations in the levels of nutrients may escape plant breeders’ attention, unless genetically engineered plants are evaluated specifically for these changes.”

The FDA is accepting comments from the public until Jan. 13, 2000.

Send your written comments to the FDA by visiting, or write to: Commissioner Jane Henney, FDA Dockets Management Branch, Attn: Docket No. 99N-4282, 5630 Fisher’s Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.


For many area residents, the dream of owning a home here is getting further and further out of reach as prices continue to rise. There is some good news for low- and moderate-income residents, however: The Affordable Housing Coalition still has a number of vacancies in one of its most popular programs.

The Homeownership Individual Development Account Program is designed for families earning up to 80 percent of the median income for the area, meaning a family of four must make less than $35,000 a year; a family of three must make below $30,600; a family of two less than $28,000, and a single person less than $24,000. The program is based on the matched-savings model, in which a family agrees to save up to $1,000 in a nine-month period, which the Coalition matches with an additional $2,000 toward a first-home purchase.

“We’re targeting low- to moderate-income families, families that are having a difficult time reaching home ownership,” explains Program Coordinator M. Helen O’Connor: “The idea is to encourage people to save. If you’re able to save for nine or 12 months toward your goal of home ownership, hopefully you’ll then become a lifetime saver. We think the difference between the haves and the have-nots is that a lot of the haves own assets, and one of the major assets in the U.S is owning a home. So the idea is to help people begin to own assets.”

Though it may seem like easy money, other stipulations help ensure that participating families understand what they’re getting into. “They’ll have to take the Homebuyer Education class,” says O’Connor, “and they’ll have to take a wonderful class called “Manage Your Money,” through the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, which is what we call an economic-literacy class. Then, they’ll have to take a home-maintenance class through the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. They get a little ‘classed out,'” she confesses with a laugh. “And they’ll also participate in one-to-one counseling with us or with other agencies, if needed.” Only families that live in Buncombe County outside the Asheville city limits are eligible for the program, because the city has its own IDA, which is already full. The AFC’s program was funded through the Community Foundation of WNC’s New Leaf Fund, the Asheville Board of Realtors, The Mortgage Bankers Association, and was secured by Buncombe County government.

“The county government are the ones who actually got the grant,” says O’Connor. “They just passed it through to us.”

For more information on the Individual Development Account Program, call O’Connor or Gigi Melendez at 259-9518.

Take the challenge

Asheville is widely recognized as an athletic mecca, but most of that activity is undertaken purely for private, individual enjoyment.

In the first annual Warren Wilson Poly-Pro, however, coed teams of four will vie not just for glory, but to benefit the Western North Carolina Alliance. The $50-per-team pledge/entry fee for the biking/running/bushwacking triathalon will help the grassroots environmental organization promote awareness and conservation of WNC’s forests and streams. The college’s group-process class will host the Dec. 12 event at Cedar Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s an excellent way to get your blood running, while helping preserve our local environment to boot. Can you beat that?

For more info, call 298-5209, ext. 479, or e-mail or

Something from nothing

Though the laws of physics tell us that energy cannot easily be created or destroyed, the kids enrolled in the YWCA’s Support Our Students after-school program are out to prove them wrong.

With the “Making Something Out of Nothing” art exhibit, due to open in December at Pack Place, the program’s students — primarily from low-income, single-parent homes — hope to show that learning and creativity know no limits. The SOS program provides tutoring and enrichment for middle-school-age kids, helping to prevent juvenile crime “by rallying communities around young people, helping to steer them away from trouble into positive, constructive activities,” according to a recent YWCA press release.

The state-funded program works to improve academic skills and increase self-esteem, while encouraging community involvement on the kids’ behalf.

“In the program, we help our kids do their homework, or do educational activities such as going to universities,” says the YWCA’s Laura Williams.

“For instance, we’ve been working with the Asheville Art Museum in a structured, six-week program, where they learn everything from graffiti to cartooning.”

And for many participants, the SOS program seems to be making a difference. “These kids were failing in the system,” Williams explains, “but of over 60 kids in the program, a majority … have brought their grades up at least one letter grade; a number of them have moved up to the A/B honor roll.”

In the future, Williams hopes to involve the kids even more, by making the SOS program completely youth-run. For now, however, creativity is its own reward.

To learn more about “Making Something Out of Nothing,” call Williams at 254-7206, ext. 12.

— coquettishly compiled by Paul Schattel

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.