Asheville Buncombe Middle Grades Network: Spring Luncheon

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by Emily Bradley, guest writer

United Way believes that great things happen when we LIVE UNITED. We know we can accomplish more together, as a community, than we can alone. This past Friday we celebrated another year of hard work, and accomplishments, by hosting a luncheon for the partners that are leading the way through our Middle School Success Initiative.

Those in attendance included representatives from current partners like Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools, Girls on the Run, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Boys and Girls Club and Juvenile Justice. Also in attendance were other critical community programs like OurVoice, AB Tech and Pisgah Legal Services. To kick start the event, each person went around the room and introduced themselves as well as used one word to describe their personality in middle school. Words like awkward, shy, quirky and overwhelmed were perhaps the most frequently used. Because let’s face it­ middle school is an extremely difficult time. Educators say it is the "last best time" to ensure that kids are solidly prepared to successfully navigate high school and make it to graduation. Remembering, even for a moment, what it was like for us during that time is a helpful exercise to ground us in our purpose.

This luncheon was a chance for partners to review the progress made, acknowledge a few setbacks and talk about the next phase of the work. Kay Lambe, Buncombe County Graduation Initiative, shared the latest on the steady development of the Early Warning and Response System and Wendy Cuellar shared her experience visiting the site of the Albuquerque NM Homework Diners. Starting in the fall, we will begin to replicate Homework Diners, first at Enka and then at Erwin and Asheville Middle Schools. They will take place once a week and feature a free, healthy meal from a local culinary program for the whole family. In addition, there will be paid teachers present to give students one ­on ­one attention for homework and academic needs. There will also be opportunities for parents to take classes on anything from GED and parenting classes to healthy cooking and financial literacy trainings. It really is a win­-win for both child and family and we could not be more excited with the progression of this program.

This luncheon was not only a great time to network with one another but also a wonderful opportunity to check in and update our partners. Middle School Success Director, Laura Elliot was ecstatic about Friday’s turnout; “We are really excited to have some new partners such as AB Tech and Our Voice around the table to hear everyone’s ideas to expand and evolve our collective work," said Elliot. "It is also great to be able to build up new resource teams at Asheville and Erwin and bring all of our partners on board. Thank you!” 

To see images from the event, click here.


Emily Bradley is a rising senior Communication major at Appalachian State University and will intern at United Way this summer: "I am thrilled to be interning with the Marketing department for the summer here at United Way. I will be taking over some blog posts during my time here - ­thank you for reading."


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