Written by Connie Larkman
Fifty children and their families in North Carolina are learning about the power of literacy, thanks to a collaborative project hosted by the UCC's Franklinton Center at Bricks (FCAB).
The conference, retreat and education center in Eastern North Carolina hosted students, parents and staff of the Inborden Elementary School this week, as part of FCAB's first Summer Literacy retreat.
"We are extremely pleased to work with Inborden Elementary School in this outstanding demonstration of how faith-based organizations, schools, families, and community organizations can leverage their resources to help transform students' lives by strengthening literacy skills," said Franklinton Center director Vivian Lucas. "The family literacy retreat is just one part of our ongoing plan to address community disparities in this region."
The school was invited to partner in this on-site literacy retreat because of a special relationship between Franklinton Center at Bricks, one of four Centers for Education and Social Transformation of UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, and Inborden Elementary. It is named for Thomas Inborden, hired in 1895 by the American Ministry Association to establish the state's first accredited school for African Americans. After the UCC's reorganization, the former AMA became part of Justice and Witness Ministries.
For four-plus days this week, students, parents and school staff learned about the historic ties between the center and the school. Students also went swimming, rode horses, explored ways to choose healthy foods and learned about environmental advocacy as they tended the center's garden, part of a recently-launched 'Just Food' project. In June, two of the center's 97 acres of crops were planted by the staff for use at the center, and for distribution to needy families throughout the area.
The project took shape when the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, JWM executive minister, asked Lucas to launch an "aggressive literacy campaign to address the looming disparity affecting children and youth who are overlooked because of race and economic marginalization." The Halifax County Public School district, where Inborden is located, has some of the lowest performing schools in the state and the highest teacher turnover rates.
The inaugural theme for this retreat,'Growing Our Gifts; Planting Seeds for the Future' proved very appropriate. Lucas said when school Principal Masa Kinsey-Shipp visited Franklinton Center, she was amazed by what she saw and what students could learn on site.
Kinsey-Shipp identified several goals for the experience. "We hope to inspire parents and equip them with the necessary information and resources to assist their children in school," she said. "While enjoying nature and learning fun ways to interact with literature, students and parents will leave with a renewed appreciation for life-long learning."
Enfield, North Carolina mayor Barbara Simmons, an FCAB board member, visited during the retreat and said the experience benefits both students and parents.
"It is providing a wonderful opportunity for families to bond in a different setting," said Simmons, whose adult daughter and granddaughter took part in the activities. "For some, this is their first exposure to swimming and horseback riding."
The participants also kept a daily journal, and visited Wesleyan College, several community colleges, a community garden and the Rocky Mount Tree Museum.