Communities learn from each other at All-America City Award competition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

DENVER — Doug Linkhart, president of the National Civic League, repeated a quote from one of the judges during the awards ceremony at the 2016 All-America City Award Competition in Denver Colo., that spoke to the event as a whole.

He said with all of the bad things happening in the world, reading over and hearing about the programs from the 20 cities involved in the competition was a light in the darkness.

“Hearing what we heard this weekend gives us hope,” he said.

Salisbury was one of 20 finalists for the award this year. Although Salisbury was not one of the 10 winners, city officials, educational and organization leaders and parents were able to hear about the different programs other cities have implemented.

During the Festival of Ideas event, Salisbury and three other finalists were able to ask questions and find out more about the cities’ programs in a small group setting. Julie Morrow, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Bridget Dexter, associate executive director for the Saleeby-Fisher YMCA, and Josh Wainright, marketing director for Piedmont Players Theatre, presented information about the Knox Middle School co-principal program, the health program Fit for Motion and the Norvell Theater, the city’s all-youth theater.

Many were interested to hear about Asheboro’s second chance breakfast program. A high school principal talked about the difficulty teachers were having with keeping students engaged in the classroom. The principal said the school started looking at more basic problems students may have been experiencing.

“We did our research and we realized our kids are hungry,” he said.

The school started a “grab-and-go” breakfast that students can pick up mid-morning. Though there was fear at first about whether students would participate in the program, the principal said they give out more than 600 bags a week. The program is offered to students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, but all students can participate.

A person in the group asked how the principal got teachers who may have been hesitant to allow food and beverages in their classrooms on board with the program.

The principal said he told the teachers that they would not be able to have their breakfasts or coffee either, which drew laughs from the group. The principal encouraged his teachers to try the program and set high expectations for the students.

“I’d love to do the grab-and-go,” Julie Morrow said after the event.

Asheboro was one of the winning All-America Cities.

Another winner was Hartsville, S.C. One program representatives talked about was the Diva Den and the Dad Cave, funded by the Byerly Foundation. The Diva Den is a space for young mothers to receive childcare, mental health care and continuing education programs. The Dad Cave works to engage fathers and provide information to help them with fatherhood.

Charleston County, S.C., the only county that was in the running for the award, presented information about its Traveling Trunk Program. A curriculum was created to teach students about the historic inland rice fields once worked by slaves at what is now called the Palmetto Commerce Parkway. Program members take a trunk around to schools to show students different artifacts and give them information in an effort to preserve history.

Bridget Dexter said the trunk program would be a good one to take back to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

At the awards ceremony, Barbara O’Brien, Denver Public School Board member and senior consultant at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, said she was amazed by the work the communities were doing.

As the finalists did in their communities, O’Brien said cities and communities all over the country have to put aside differences in order to come up with solutions, even if those solutions are not seen right away.

“There are no quick fixes,” she said. “…Whatever we do in our cities and communities, we have to commit to a sustained effort.”

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.