On the evening of May 24, 2023, the event space and rooftop bar of the Restoration Hotel was filled with lively conversations. Old friends caught up, new connections were made, and United Way staff mingled with our community partnership representatives.
The 2023 Community Impact Awards Dinner is an annual event where United Way brings partners and supporters together to recognize those who give their time, talent, and treasure to further our work and provide an opportunity to dig a little deeper into an aspect of our work or connect with our community partners.
A highlight of the evening was the joint speech given by Michael Hayes, founder of Umoja Asheville, and Travis Collins, principal at Cylde A. Erwin Middle School. Together they shared the harrowing data that at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Erwin Middle had a racial disparity concerning likely hood of suspension - black and brown students were five times more likely than white students to receive student discipline. “It scared me quite frankly,” said Travis Collins, “and I wanted to know why. So I shared that with Mr. Hayes together, we looked at the data and said what can we do.” Collins proudly announced that with the help of partners like Umoja, Erwin is on its way to reducing the racial disparity of student discipline to three percent. And in the words of Travis Collins, that is wonderful because “this is just the first chapter” of the work essential to improving the lives of all our students. In addition, both Hayes and Collins shared about the partnership and work it took to ingrain Umoja and their resiliency circles into the culture of Erwin Middle.
“It’s beautiful to me,” said Michael Hayes, “because we do it together. We[Umoja] have our role, the teachers have their role, and the administration has their role, but we understand it’s for the betterment of our students.”
The impactful relationship between Umoja and the administrative staff at Erwin Middle is just one example of the power of Community Schools and United for Youth, both of which United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County acts as a convenor for community partners and resources to support our Buncombe County students so that every child lives is able to achieve their goals and dreams. In fact, the story that Hayes and Collins shared was the perfect example of what was illustrated in the video, The Power and Promise of Community Schools, that was debuted at the event just before their speech.
United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County would like to thank our generous award sponsors DMJPS, Asheville Regional Airports, Hatch Coworking, Northwestern Mutual, and AB Tech. Along with our wonderful sponsors, we would like to thank the presenting speakers, Heather Goldstein, Michael Hayes, and Travis Collins.
Inspired? Take a Deeper Dive
- Meet the 2023 Community Impact Awardees HERE
- Save the Date: 2023 School Supply Drive happening June 26 — July 21. In the meantime, get a jump start by creating your own team to participate. Watch this video to learn how.
- Save the Date: United for Youth Block Party — August 17, 2023, 5 pm at Pack Square Park. Keep an eye out for more information as the date nears.
- Interested in touring a Community School? Place your name on this interest form.