Please join us at our signature event, Celebration of Champions! Attendees will enjoy cocktails and appetizers while participating in a silent auction, followed by a seated dinner during which our 2017 Champions will be honored. 

Tickets are on sale now!

2017 Individual and Community Champions

Sarah Reincke, Chair of the OLLI Civic Engagement Committee

Volunteering has always brought Sarah Reincke joy. As a 16 year old, she arranged her schedule to leave school twice a week and volunteer at a preschool for deaf children. Years later, in the community she retired to, Ms. Reincke gives her time in the Asheville City Schools through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). She coordinates OLLI’s Civic Engagement Committee, spreading the joy of volunteering to the over forty OLLI members who she helps match with school placements. Some tutor individual students, and others assist classroom teachers--increasingly crucial roles in a time when many assistant positions have been cut.

Ms. Reincke herself is in her fourth year of volunteering in the schools. During three years at Asheville Middle School, she formed such a close relationship with principal Cynthia Sellinger and language arts teacher Rebecca Aldridge that when they moved to Hall-Fletcher in 2016, she moved with them. 

Ms. Aldridge describes Reincke’s transformative impact on her classroom: “The instant smiles on the faces of the students the second that Sarah steps into our classroom each week confirms that the impact she has on the children's lives and learning is monumental. Whether sharing her latest vacation complete with souvenirs for each child, to working with small groups of students during reading group, or relaying a kind word or hug to a student who obviously needs it, Sarah enriches the educational experience for my students and myself. Her passion and compassion for students makes her one of their greatest supporters and advocates. I can't imagine our classroom without her.”

Multiple this impact by forty, and you have some idea of OLLI’s impact on the Asheville City Schools. Children smiling, reading aloud, connecting with a caring adult--Sarah Reincke and all the adult volunteers in OLLI’s Civic Engagement Program are helping to raise our community’s whole children. 

Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community

Janet Hurley and Tamiko Ambrose Murray met through their five-year old daughters, who went to Isaac Dickson Elementary School together. Janet and Tamiko connected as writers with a commitment to social justice and racial equity. Through her small business, True Ink, Janet was offering writing camps after-school and in the summer, and Tamiko was a teaching artist in the schools. They were appalled by the achievement gap in the city schools, and had a vision that creative writing could help to close that gap, especially by bringing artist-mentors of color into the schools. In 2011, along with poet Meggen Lyon, and supported by the National Writers in the Schools Alliance and the Asheville City Schools Foundation, they founded Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community (AWITSC).

AWITSC residencies bring artist-mentors into sustained contact with children and teenagers in Asheville’s schools. Because the residences are long-term, up to 26 weeks, artist-mentors establish trusting relationships with students that ground and inspire students’ creative work. Past residencies have included Jonathan Santos’ “Lyrics to Life,” featuring poetry, movement, and song; Tamiko’s “Middle School Magic”; Janet’s “Writing to Change the World”; and “Family Voices,” where parents write alongside their children. AWITSC residencies build imaginative expression, academic achievement, self-worth, community connections, and social change.  

In 2016, with funding from an anonymous source, AWITSC launched Word on the Street/La Voz de Los Jovenes, an online, bi-lingual multimedia magazine program. WOTS/LVDLJ is led by a “squad” of sixteen teens of African descent and Latinx teens who together decide among submissions, design, edit, and publish the magazine. Interpreters provide simultaneous translation for the teens’ meetings, opening their eyes to the power of bilingualism. Squad member Josue Ortiz explains, “Muchos pueden mandar su arte--si cantan, si escriben, si dibujan. Nosotros lo leemos, y después lo publicamos. Para que al igual como nosotros [editores] ellos también tengan una voz.” The teen leaders are mentoring the next generation of Asheville’s artists.

Al Whitesides-Lifetime Achievement

In 1950s Asheville, Alfred Whitesides, Sr., and Magnolia Kilgore Whitesides taught their children that the only way to fight segregation was with an education. Their son Alfred, Jr., took that message to heart. As a teenager, Al joined the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality. He graduated from Stephens-Lee High School and North Carolina Central University, where he met his wife Shirley, and served in the United States Navy. Al and Shirley Whitesides then began their long careers championing education for Asheville’s children as parents, grandparents, philanthropists, and civic leaders. 

Al Whitesides has fought for decades to ensure educational opportunity for the children of Asheville through our city schools and for the young people of North Carolina through our state university system. Dr. Whitesides served on the Asheville City Board of Education and the Board of his alma mater NC Central University, and he chaired the UNC-Asheville Board of Trustees. He currently serves as  Buncombe County Commissioner, and mentors boys at Asheville Middle School through his fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi. Dr. Whitesides also has had a long and successful career in banking, with First Union National Bank in Asheville, with Wachovia, and as Vice President of Mountain 1st Bank and Trust. 

In 2016, UNC-Asheville honored Al Whitesides’ legacy with an honorary degree and the dedication of Whitesides Hall. Still, among all his accomplishments, Dr. Whitesides is most proud of his role as a husband, father, and grandfather. He and Mrs. Whitesides, who taught in the Asheville City Schools for 34 years, have two daughters, Kimberly Wilson and Sherry Poole, and three grandsons, Patrick, Erik, and Adrian. It is not surprising that Al Whitesides’ commitment to his community begins with commitment to his family; in this way, the importance of education is passed from generation to generation.

Parent Champions in ACS

Luz Velazquez from Asheville City Preschool

Pat Hall from Claxton Elementary

Angelica Wind from Hall Fletcher Elementary

Joan Pinegar from Isaac Dickson Elementary

Gene Peyroux from Ira B. Jones Elementary

Allison Reece from Vance Elementary

Jessica Merchant from Asheville Middle

Alec Fehl from SILSA

Nancy Hutchins from Asheville High

These Champions exemplify what it means to support educators and students in our schools and have gone above and beyond to help Asheville City Schools achieve excellence.

Celebration Sponsorship

Asheville City Schools Foundation invited you to participate in this excellent opportunity to promote your business by helping us recognize exceptional leadership in our schools. This awards banquet will take place May 6th, 2017. We will be honoring a number of exceptional individuals, organizations and businesses that are champions for children in our community. 

FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT Celebration Sponsorship:

Nick Roberts
Development Director







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