Triangle Community Foundation, United Way of Chatham County and Chatham County Government announce the winner of their second grant focused on a collaborative approach to a major challenge in Chatham County. This year the grant focused on collaborative approaches to family stability.
The winning project, Learning Institute/Instituto de Aprendizaje, involves two nonprofits, Communities in Schools of Chatham County (CIS CC) and the Chatham County Literacy Council (CCLC). The project will receive $30,000 for 2017-18 to pioneer in-depth services for 20 families and 30 Siler City students in grades K-8 who are considered at risk for school failure.
“We are all so excited about funding a project that will allow two established nonprofits to work in tandem to serve the entire family, especially in a part of the county where this is greatly needed,” said Gina Andersen, Community Programs Officer, Triangle Community Foundation. “They will be demonstrating collaboration that will no doubt lead to other joint efforts.”
CIS CC and CCLC staff will coordinate The Institute, which will offer adult literacy programs, school events, guided exploration of community resources, access to healthy foods via CIS CC’s Youth Community Garden, and other positive multigenerational activities. Using this model, parents will be able to improve their own personal literacy skills and develop relationships needed to support children’s learning and the family’s stability. Many of the participating families likely will not be fluent in English.
The applicants noted several vital reasons why such “wrap-around” family services are needed in the Siler City area. Just a few include: limited education and social isolation of low-income parents; lower reading abilities and education levels than other parts of the county; a higher percentage of students (90%) at Chatham Middle School and Virginia Cross Elementary who qualify for free and reduced price meals; and 25% of Virginia Cross students who qualify for federal homeless services benefits.
“The Learning Institute will take aim at putting together all the pieces that go into stabilizing families, developing emotionally strong and healthy children, and preparing them to be active, positive members of the community,” said County Manager Renee Paschal.
United Way Executive Director Dina Reynolds added, “The model of collaboration outlined in this project is truly multi-dimensional and could be a great path for other nonprofits to consider in the future. The project also includes some potentially powerful measurable outcomes. We look forward to seeing where the Learning Institute leads us.”
CIS CC (formerly Chatham County Together!) has been around since 1989. It was primarily focused on delinquency prevention services for at risk-youth ages 6-18 referred by schools, social services, courts, parents and other agencies. When it became an affiliate of the national Communities in Schools program in 2014, the nonprofit began to also offer on-site services at Chatham Middle School and Virginia Cross Elementary.
Kim Caraganis, executive director of CIS CC, said, “Typically we focus our efforts on the youth we serve, with the exception for Family Advocacy program which focuses on families and youth referred through Juvenile Services. The Learning Institute will allow us to scale up our work with whole families in a way that benefits students being served through our CIS CC school model programs. Also, throughout this new effort, we will be learning so much from our families about barriers to their participation and how to overcome them.”
The Chatham County Literacy Council (CCLC) helps adults, living or working in Chatham County acquire the literacy and educational skills they need to function successfully in society. This includes adult basic education, high school equivalency preparation and classes for people to become more fluent in English. They also help prepare people to take the US Citizenship test and have recently started a program to teach “workforce soft skills, which includes communications, teamwork, networking, problem solving, enthusiasm and professionalism.”
The director of CCLC, Vicki Newell, said, “Working with CIS seems like a natural fit for both of us. This grant will allow CIS and Chatham Literacy the opportunity to provide services in a completely new and different way. This is truly a holistic approach to serving the entire family.”
All three grant sponsors provided $10,000 to support the $30,000 grant, which is the second such grant offered. A panel of volunteers from the three agencies came together to review applications before selecting the Learning Institute.