The Roanoke TimesThe Alleghany Foundation has awarded grants totaling $1,261,654 to nine organizations or government entities from August 2017 to June 2018 for 11 economic development, educational, health and wellness or community initiatives.Grant recipients included the Alleghany Highlands YMCA, the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation, Alleghany County Public Schools, Joint School Systems (Alleghany County & Covington City Public Schools), the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, the Alleghany Highlands Arts Council, Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center, Garth Newel Music Center and the Unified Human Services Transportation System.“These grantees represent dedicated leaders and organizations working hard every day to improve the quality of life in the Alleghany Highlands,” said Dr. Michele Ballou, President, Board of Directors, The Alleghany Foundation.“Though funding for these projects tends to blend foundation funds and other sources of funding,” added Ballou, “the foundation’s board has tried to focus its resources in recent years on efforts that build a healthy community through increased job opportunities and educational excellence. We are pleased that over 87% of the grants awarded focus on increasing our community’s capacity to implement both of these strategies.”In the focus area of Economic Transformation, the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation received a grant of $397,000 over three years to support funding for the executive director’s salary, professional development and program leadership.The Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism received $144,000 over two years for marketing the area.The budget for this project consists of annual media plans and event marketing for 2018-2020, including both digital and print ads aimed at specific demographics to create tourism growth within the Alleghany Highlands.“In order to continue to draw visitors from surrounding major markets, we need to continue with foundational marketing efforts through a robust media plan and enhanced event marketing,” said Teresa Hammond, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. “This will help to promote the area’s various tourism assets and continue to strengthen brand recognition as one of Virginia’s premier destinations for arts and culture and outdoor activities.“It is also essential to continue marketing our downtowns to achieve economic growth and not only help our local entrepreneurs but encourage new business opportunities in our region,” Hammond added. “By doing so collectively, we have, and will continue to present the region to potential visitors as a compelling and unique travel destination.”The Chamber also received a grant in partnership with the US Forest Service to develop engagement and educational software through Agents of Discovery. “In a world where more and more people integrate technology into daily activities, we will be exploring ways to engage youth and increase activity levels and learning around the community,” said Elizabeth McNichols, District Ranger, James River and Warm Springs Districts, USFS. “One of the most exciting components of this initiative is that local residents will have an opportunity to develop games connected to unique areas around the county. Interested volunteers can contact Matt Blees at (540) 839-2521.”Toward building educational excellence in the region, the foundation awarded three grants that span the continuum from early/pre-school learning to high school teaching.The Alleghany Highlands YMCA received a grant of $156,000 for Early Learning Program financial assistance in addition to a $50,000 grant for its 2018 annual campaign match.The Early Learning Program assistance helps the YMCA offset the cost of early childhood development and care for children of underemployed working families in the Alleghany Highlands.The YMCA also conducts a partnership with Head Start to provide preschool education for seventeen 3-and 4-year-olds at the Central Learning Center. Gap funding is needed to offset the $43 per week, per child difference between federal reimbursement and the YMCA’s tuition rate. This gap must be funded locally in order to access the federal grant.“The importance of this work goes back to the correlation between strong early childhood development and a child’s long-term health, wellness, and ability to earn a living and contribute to his or her community,” commented Jennifer Unroe, Director, Alleghany Highlands YMCA.In support of professional development for teachers in the primary and elementary schools, a grant was awarded to Covington City Public Schools on behalf of the Joint School Systems (Alleghany County & Covington City Public Schools) for $91,000 over two years for continued implementation of the Responsive Classroom model.The budget for this project includes summer training for 60 elementary educators and preschool teachers in the area. Additionally, 15-20 lead teachers/coaches of all Alleghany Highlands elementary schools will receive coach training in 2019, providing sustainability of Responsive Classroom.“All area teachers in grades preschool through grade 5 will be Responsive Classroom trained, providing a systemic early childhood/elementary focus on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional skills,” said Melinda Snead-Johnson, superintendent of Covington City Public Schools. “As a joint schools project, the professional development completed through this grant will provide consistent expectations among all schools in the Alleghany Highlands.”At the high school level, Alleghany County Public Schools received a $290,000 grant over three years to support professional development to implement the New Tech Network at Alleghany High School.As part of its Vision 2020 plan, Alleghany County Public Schools is transforming teaching and learning into a student centered, technology enriched, project/problem-based learning environment.To accomplish this goal, the school system is partnering with the New Tech Network. The New Tech Network model provides a comprehensive school model, a proprietary learning management platform, tools, resources, training events and implementation plans delivered by an exemplary team of coaches that enable school divisions to reinvent schools with their local teachers through a multi-year partnership.The New Tech Network’s approach creates and sustains changes to instruction across an entire school by also helping change the conditions that surround teaching and learning — the school culture.“The purpose, why and what we want to accomplish for our students is simple but important — we want all of our students to be either career ready and/or college ready upon graduating from high school,” explained Superintendent Eugene Kotulka.“So much is expected of our schools, and the foundation is excited to support our teachers and administrators in implementing these initiatives,” commented Ballou. “We know that our students will need to graduate from high school ready to compete in a 21st Century economy, and the leadership from both our school systems and our YMCA is providing an excellent foundation.”For a complete list of grantees, visit the foundation’s website at www.alleghanyfoundation.org.
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