Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Real Life (IRL) is coming to Asheville Middle

What is your middle schooler going to do after school next year?

The Asheville City Schools Foundation along with many community partners will launch IRL this Fall 2010.

Every middle school student will have a chance to sign up when school begins. Students will receive a menu of after school programs offered 5 days a week. They can select to do a variety of low-cost activities with transportation provided to off-site programs like UNC Asheville and to home neighborhoods at the end of the day.

Programming will run from 3:30-5:15. Students will enjoy choosing from activities like African Dance, Debate Club, Basketball and more! Parents will enjoy one simple registration process!

Registration begins in August. Visit www.inreallifeasheville.org to join our IRL information email list and view a list of community partners here!

A big thanks to local designer Jim Julien for designing our IRL logo!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Support Blue Ridge Roller Girls this Saturday, April 24th and Support ACS Foundation!

Join us this Saturday, April 24th for the Blue Ridge Roller Girls' Sibling Rivalry Doubleheader at the Civic Center. 10% of proceeds from the bout will benefit Asheville City Schools Foundation!

This Saturday's first bout will feature the French Broads (the BRRG's B-Team) and then the second bout will be the BRRG's A-Team versus the Little City Rollergirls.

If you've never seen a BRRG bout before, you're really missing out! Come see what it means to be a "jammer" and what a "flat track" looks like.

Tickets are buy 3, get 1 free if you bring your ACS employee ID and for everyone else, tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Let the long lines at the last bout teach you a lesson - get there early to get great seats!

Keep an eye out for their sponsored organization table and look for Co-Director Leah Ferguson and PR VISTA Ashley McFarland who will be there tabling for Asheville City Schools Foundation.

Support the Blue Ridge Roller Girls (who were literally a big hit at the Field Day of Awesomeness) and support Asheville City Schools Foundation at another awesome event this Saturday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Field Day of Awesomeness fun-raiser for Asheville City Schools Foundation

Join us for this family-friendly event on April 18th! Bring an Adult Division Team (all members 18+) or a Family Division Team (with a member age 12+) or bring the whole family to cheer YOU on! Get active and have some fun in the sun with Asheville City Schools Foundation!

What is the Field Day of Awesomeness? It’s a team competition that takes your traditional ideas of Field Day and twists them into awesome! “Think the best part of spring at school, add a whole lot of laughs and you've probably got the picture,” explains ACS Foundation Co-Director Leah Ferguson. "And if you haven't heard, the winners will get to meet Chuck Norris!"

All proceeds will go to support high quality programming for kids in our public schools. Programs provide students with integrated arts, hands-on conservation education, seek to close the achievement gap and connect with 21st century skills.

Things to note: use alternative transportation (bike, bus, or walk) and receive a redeemable time reduction.

Come with a team theme costume and enter the team theme competition.

Registration is now open.

Quick Facts:

Date: Sunday, April 18 from 1-5, After Party at 5:30

Cost: $100 per Team of Four ($25 per participant)

Location: Asheville High School Field

Register online: www.acsf.org

For more information on the ACS Foundation or this event go to www.acsf.org or contact Leah Ferguson at 350-6134. More information about Richard Handy’s Race for Awesomeness, formerly the 12 Day Project, can be found online at www.raceforawesomeness.com.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Challenges of Choice

If you live in Asheville and have one or more children who'll be entering kindergarten next fall, it's time to start the process of selecting a school. It's a privilege to be able to choose from among a number of great schools, but to some parents, it might feel like a burden.

Growing up, most of us attended neighborhood schools. There was no choice: We took the bus to the same school where everybody else went. Now, however, Asheville residents have choices in spades – more than 14 all told, including public, public charter, private and religious schools.

Here are a few thoughts to guide you as you embark on this exciting journey:
Pick the best school for your child, but do consider your public schools with an open mind. I am a champion of public education in the same way that I champion public radio. Both are so important. Healthy, diverse public schools are the lifeblood of a thriving community — and a meaningful democracy.

Asheville's alternative spirit is a hallmark of our community, but our skepticism of all things traditional may prevent us from investing in one of the most progressive, equalizing and democratic institutions ever to grace our nation.

When you think public schools, are you seeing desks in a row? Consider the community gardens bursting forth each spring at our elementary schools, or the arts-integrated classrooms that teach Shakespeare to fourth-graders. If you worry about standards, investigate the opportunity to study Spanish at least three days a week by the third grade, or learn about the various services available to the hundreds of gifted and special-needs students in the Asheville City Schools, who come from every corner of our community.

In the city schools, kindergarten families can choose from among five magnet elementary schools, each with an overarching theme designed to draw kids in. That enables you to find schools that match your own priorities. In my family, we're very concerned about environmental responsibility, so we're staying close to home. (My vision of a perfect world includes walking or biking to school in the mornings.)

The themes for the five magnet schools are as follows: technology and science, ecology and diversity, experiential learning, arts and humanities, and global scholarship. But that doesn't mean that other key areas are excluded. The arts-and-humanities magnet, for example, also teaches math and science, and all the schools encourage hands-on, experiential learning. Magnet themes are really a hook to engage families and kids in exciting and expressive ways.

All this choice, however, means that to secure a kindergarten slot in the Asheville City Schools (http://www.ashevillecityschools.net), you must apply by Monday, March 15. And keep in mind that while the district will work hard to ensure you get your first choice, each school's racial makeup must also be considered when placing students, because the system is still operating under a desegregation order.

Nonetheless, last year, every child whose application was complete and submitted on time (complete means including the required additional documents: Read the back of the application carefully!) was placed in their first-choice school.

Relax — all the schools are staffed by excellent teachers who are ready to delight in your child's unique qualities. Our district serves more than 3,700 students in 10 schools (one preschool, five elementaries, one middle school, two high schools and one middle/high school combination). Talking with parents whose kids are already in these schools can give you good on-the-ground information. But don't get caught up in the hype: School spirit is infectious, after all, and it's easy to be swayed by all the talk you may hear about the "best school."

And whatever you may ultimately choose, you're not stuck with it. If you find you aren't getting what you want or need for your child, you can make a change. Switching schools should not be done capriciously, but it's important to remember that you do have options.

So what's the best way to ensure that your child is nurtured and successful in school? Get involved, become an advocate and volunteer. Your child will thrive — and so will our community.

And if you're feeling a little freaked out, it's a sign that you care deeply — and that means your child has everything he or she needs. At my son's preschool, they sing a version of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" to prepare for graduation. It goes like this: "Don't worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right in kindergarten!"

I strongly encourage you to take those words to heart.

To learn more about some of our local programs, take the Asheville City Schools Foundation's Tour of Excellence on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon. RSVP online at acsf.org.

Leah Ferguson is co-director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation.
Healthy, diverse public schools are the lifeblood of a thriving community — and a meaningful democracy.

Direct Link

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Asheville Learning Links VISTAs volunteer for MLK Day of Service

A group of five Asheville Learning Links VISTA volunteers, sponsored by Asheville City Schools Foundation, came together for an MLK Day group service project on Monday, January 18th. AmeriCorps*VISTAs across the nation celebrated the day of service by volunteering in their communities.

The five VISTAs, Alexa Hardy (serving at NC Stage), Rachael Bliss (WNC Alliance), Courtney Gauthier (Center for Diversity Education) and Hanna Woody and Ashley McFarland (both at Asheville City Schools Foundation), met Ellen Shaw, the director of local non-profit Second Bloom at Care Partners on Sweeten Creek Road.

Second Bloom collects perfectly good flowers that are headed to the landfill and spreads them around to appreciative residents in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and Hospice.

VISTA group supervisor Joanne O’Sullivan, Asheville City Schools Foundation co-director Leah Ferguson and another community member also participated with their children at Hospice.

The volunteers gathered beautiful donated flowers and created 50 arrangements for the residents at the two centers. After creating the bouquets, the groups split up and individually delivered the flowers to each patient’s room, taking a moment to greet them and wish them a happy day from Second Bloom and AmeriCorps*VISTA.

The beautiful weather on Monday complemented the beautiful folks we met at Care Partners and Hospice. Thank you to Second Bloom for allowing us to complete a rewarding service project on MLK Day this year.

If you are interested in volunteering with Second Bloom, contact Ellen Shaw at (828) 252-4232 or visit secondbloom.org. For information on becoming a VISTA, visit americorps.gov.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ACS Foundation Co-Director Leah Ferguson's Asheville Citizen-Times commentary

Vibrant public schools are building blocks for nation's future

Asheville is a town that prizes its independent spirit. So many of us relocated here because we wanted to create a life; not live someone else's idea of the American Dream. The education system serving our children mirrors our diverse community. We have a thriving home-school community, charter schools, private schools and the Asheville City Schools magnet system.
These options represent a wonderful collection of choices for parents.

I am a huge fan of choice, but there is something distressing going on that is worth our careful attention. There has been a shift from a collective sense of the value of public education to mistrust and distaste for public schools. Our attention has been turned inward toward our own families; many of us are losing the ideal of collective responsibility for educating all children through public education.

Countywide, just more than1,500 children are home-schooled. That means the vast majority of local children attend publicly funded schools. The public education system we've created is great, not perfect. But as saying goes, we must not let perfect be the enemy of good.

Nationally, we have a very successful public education system; locally, we have one of the best in the state. Our elementary schools have community-supported gardens; our school cafeterias partner with organizations such as ASAP to implement farm-to-school initiatives; corporate entities partner with us to enhance and support renewable energy and conservation education, and students learn by doing.

So, what's the price tag for such an enterprise? Locally, we invest only $27 a day on each student (2008 Asheville City Statistics of PPE, NCDPI). The special tax has allowed us to provide social workers and assistant principals who help case-manage the nearly 45 percent of Asheville City Schools students who live in poverty, including those in our seven city housing projects. With that nominal investment, children have access to thousands of dollars worth of technology, materials, interaction with at least two highly trained adults, health and wellness screenings, and interventions that address speech, language or mental health issues. Our money is well-spent.

The value of a public education system is immeasurable because it permeates every aspect of society. An educated population is essential for maintaining a quality community. What concerns me are conversations I am privy to where the speaker laments the state of public education while simultaneously abdicating responsibility for its improvement. My generation has in large part opted out of the grand ideal of public education. We see ourselves as innovators not investors. Perhaps our status as Reagan-era youths has something to do with our general mistrust of the quality of the education system. We experienced underfunded schools strapped with the responsibility of “accountability” that still seems too complicated to be trusted.

There are many who just feel that the “system is broken.” However, what I have seen has renewed my faith, not in an institutionalized system, but in the individuals and community that comprise our public system. Teachers and administrators have transformed bureaucratic rules and regulations into a process that, for the most part, has helped shine a light on previously dark areas of underachievement. This isn't to say that “accountability” doesn't need some serious revamping, it's just that it isn't surprising educators have been able to study and implement these accountability measures in the most beneficial ways.

By choosing not to opt out, but to opt in, the Asheville City Schools Foundation is helping to transform the system. The foundation does more than act as a conduit for community funds that are dedicated to educational purposes: we allow community members to be agents of change. From a broad perspective, they are able to work toward creating a better system, not just for their own child, but for all children in our community. Still we can't create the best system unless we have the buy-in of our entire community. What can you do? You can support the city schools by participating in events, educate yourself about our challenges and successes, champion the cause of excellent education for all children and support efforts like the ACS Foundation. In essence I'm asking you to Go Public. To get out there and say, “Heck yeah, I support public education,” because you are essential to the success of this grand experiment in sustaining our democracy.

Leah Ferguson is the co-director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation. More information about how you can Go Public! can be found online at acsf.org.

link to full article on Citizen-Times.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homeless Persons' Memorial Service

By Emily Ball, AmeriCorps*VISTA at the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative.

I went to the see The Blind Side last night. And say what you will about cheesy movies and Hollywood emotionalism: I cried through the whole thing.
It’s based on the real-life story of Michael Oher, who made his way from the projects to a wealthy private high school, where a family whose kids were students there took him home one night after driving by him walking in the cold and discovered he didn’t have a place to stay. The rest of the story is predictable, in a Hollywood, fairytale way: he became part of their family, ended up going to Ole Miss on a football scholarship, got drafted to the NFL.
Except that it’s not a fairytale. It’s a reality, because one family was brave enough, compassionate enough, generous enough, convicted enough to get involved in someone else’s life. To notice him. To recognize that they had enough to share. It’s a reality because one family had enough humanity to see the humanity in someone else who was suffering, and to act on it.
Will we do the same? In Asheville tonight there are about 550 people living like Michael Oher was: human beings, fellow men and women, who lack resources but don’t lack value. Will we act on it?
On December 19th, we have the opportunity to come together as a community around some of our most vulnerable neighbors. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, in partnership with the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, is holding Asheville’s 3rd annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service, to commemorate the lives of the 19 community members who died while homeless in Asheville this year. It’s a public recognition of their humanity. A chance to grieve. An opportunity to show support of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. A time to reflect on homelessness in our city and on what we’re each doing individually to help end it.
Deaths in the homeless community are usually the result of preventable causes: hate crime violence; overexposure to harsh weather; inadequate access to medical treatment for chronic or acute conditions. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council reports that people experiencing homelessness are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than people with housing. And that while the average age of death in the general U.S. population is 78 years old, that average for people without housing is closer to 50.
This December, in a month filled with family gatherings, gift-giving, buzzwords like peace and joy, let’s take an hour to remember people in our community who died alone this year. People just like us, who were born to families who cared about them, who laughed and cried and loved and had friends and jobs and community…but who didn’t have housing at the end of their lives. Let’s honor their memories at the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service and pay tribute to their lives by working to end homelessness in Asheville. Let’s recognize the humanity we share with them, and let’s act on it.

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service
December 19th at 2 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville
(Potluck to follow!)

For more information, contact Emily Ball at the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative: 259.5733 or eball@ashevillenc.gov.