A long time volunteer and Peaks Society member, Hometrust Bank President and CEO Dana Stonestreet served as the chair of our 2010 Focused Initiative Task Force.
It was through critical research, analysis and decision-making through this task force of fourteen local community leaders, that a foundation for United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County’s community school strategy was laid. This collaboration involves school systems and more than forty local service providers to support students, families and communities in Asheville and Buncombe County.
We recently sat down with Dana to ask him to share his perspective on the role he played in this effort eight years ago and how it feels to watch this work in action today.
What do you remember most from your experience as the chair of the 2010 Focused Initiative Task Force?
When I think of my time on this project, I immediately think of how engaged the committee was in the work. It involved a great group of diverse leaders who had been deeply involved in many facets of our community for decades. We were tasked with “addressing a critical need that would make a sustainable difference in our community in the areas of education, income or health.” We started with a blank sheet of paper, a passion for the work of United Way and a sense of deep responsibility to select the most beneficial focus possible for long-term impact.
We identified potential areas that could be our focus and, after much research and debate, the Committee determined that Education, specifically Middle School Success, should be the focused initiative of United Way. The committee felt that better support for middle school students would lead to better high school graduation rates and that would lead to better future income and also healthier lives for local children long term. The work was weighty, but I was most impressed with how each committee member actively contributed to the process through meetings, surveys, and data analysis. It was exciting to experience the collaboration and to see it all come together.
At the time, did you think you were laying a foundation for United Way to find new ways to do its work?
We hoped it would have a long-lasting impact, but I don’t think any of us realized just how this work would transform over time. United Way really committed the resources and continued efforts to Middle School Success to take it to where it is today; a partnership of more than forty local institutions committed to supporting student, family and community success. We have all been thrilled to see the goal of long-term, life-changing, community impact being achieved.
When you look at our work today, what is most exciting to you?
I believe this work is accomplishing great things in the lives of middle school students and their families. These investments are starting to pay great dividends in our community. United Way is providing the leadership and working with community leaders to assemble resources to help ensure that more at-risk students have the tools, resources and support they need to graduate high school and pursue additional education to create prosperous lives personally and for their future families. Successful families and equally successful communities.
I have continued to follow the growth and impact of the Community School Initiative and Middle School Success and am proud of how our schools, nonprofits, and community have come together to make this happen. The momentum is growing and I am excited to see how it continues to expand and change lives in the coming years.
If you’re inspired to be a part of the Community School Strategy in our community, we invite you to participate as a volunteer or mentor at one of four local schools.
If you’re able, you can also donate to support the continuation and evolution of this work.
Together we are stronger. United we make a difference.