We believe education begins at birth and lasts throughout life. Education can be a key to unleash the potential of opportunity for everyone, especially for those whose communities have been marginalized. Therefore, education should be equitable, excellent in its delivery and accessible to all regardless of place, gender, ability, income or ethnicity.
Equitable, high quality early care and more productive, fulfilled, education starts children on a solid path to become lifelong learners, leading to healthier lives as engaged, fulfilled adults. However, too many WNC families cannot access affordable care – a circumstance made more challenging by a shortage of teachers and the barriers they experience entering or remaining in the field. In 2022, Dogwood completed research on the early care and education (ECE) landscape capturing those issues for our region. In 2023, Dogwood launches a multi-year effort with partners focused on growing and sustaining the ECE workforce for WNC communities.
During the K-12 years, what happens outside of the classroom can have a huge influence on a student’s overall learning and development. Dogwood’s 2022 commissioned report on the K-12 landscape of our region found that students with disabilities, students of color, specifically African American students, and students in our lowest wealth communities had less access and success in our K-12 classrooms across DHT communities. Disproportionate access to accelerated coursework, absenteeism, suspension and expulsion, and dropout rates point to challenges our community and schools must address and resolve together. One in 5 students in our region is chronically absent. If we are committed to eliminating gaps in achievement, retention, and graduation rates for the most underserved among us, then exploring the root causes, sound interventions, and responsive supports for these issues in service to our K-12 learners is critical for all districts across WNC.
Within our overarching Goals and Objectives (see below) our 2023 Education focus areas and activities include:
More details about 2023 grant opportunities will be coming soon. Please join our mailing list for updates or check this webpage.
Even before the pandemic, area school systems were experiencing the need for additional mental health and social and emotional learning support. One of the largest areas of need centers around the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), a framework that focuses on meeting students at their levels. MTSS focuses on social-emotional learning, and educator professional development in this area is key. WRESA (Western Region Education Service Alliance) and Dogwood realized this need and created an avenue for educators to receive the training they require to serve the students of WNC. As a result of the Dogwood and WRESA partnership, 12 WNC school districts trained 200 educators.
To increase reading scores, students need to have an interest in reading. LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Essential sets provide relevance and interest in literacy. With funding from Dogwood, STEM West created the infrastructure for collaborative learning and a curriculum to align reading texts and literacy skills through engineering and coding with LEGO® sets.
In Henderson County, 3,318 children are eligible for subsidized child care. Finding high-quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education and care for infants, toddlers and children under five can be challenging. For this reason, Dogwood is partnering with WNCSource, a leading provider of early childhood education programs in Henderson County, to renovate a 70-year-old facility in Henderson County. The retrofitted building will provide Early Head Start, Head Start and NC Pre-K early childhood education programs to 94 children and future generations of Henderson County families.
A Regional Cohort of Smart Start Local Partnerships is helping young children, their families, and early childhood educators increase resiliency and reduce trauma throughout Western North Carolina. The approach includes Resilience Academies to develop personal and organizational resilience cultures with Smart Start leaders, Reconnect for Resilience trainings for early educators and families, and the expansion of Sesame Street in Communities’ successful programs and Family Engagement Tool Kits to support young children’s social and emotional resilience and development. Each community within the Cohort starts at its own level of readiness, but all are working in a regional and collaborative way.
Opened in 2010, St. Gerard House (SGH) provides therapy, training, social skills classes and a wide array of additional services for individuals with autism and their families. Dogwood responded to SGH’s call for operational support to create scalable growth to serve more waiting families. Since receiving the Dogwood capacity grant, SGH has hired a full-time revenue cycle manager and a full-time “Feed The Need” program administrator. These changes have improved efficiency in their billing and utilization departments as well as placed SHG on a path to provide more autism therapy in the community.
For more than seven years, Youth Transformed for Life (YTL) Training Programs have supported participants struggling academically, socially and emotionally. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued, YTL strengthened its efforts to provide a safe place for participants to learn, grow and engage in academic and social activities with support in a safe environment. Dogwood supported YTL as it provided at-home learning support for Asheville City and Buncombe County students, summer programming with academic tutoring, outdoor activities, art programs and STEM enrichment.
Invest in an improved early childhood education ecosystem with the resources and sustainability to provide developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible education and care to support ages birth to five, so that all children in WNC enter kindergarten ready to learn
Support K-12 learning experiences with the resources and sustainability to provide an excellent academic and social-emotional education, so that all students graduate ready for college or career
Work in tandem with Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority to invest in career readiness at the community college and university levels