New partnerships with Elevation Church, Hendrick Motorsports and other groups have brought much-needed hands, hearts and resources to the 900-plus students at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School. “I’ve been principal here for three years and taught here for a decade, and I’ve never seen or felt the level of support that I feel now from our community,” said Principal Lauren Fowler.
That support has included reading to students, painting the school office and lounge, running after-school carnivals and donating uniforms, sweatshirts and backpacks to hundreds of students, many from low-income families.
Elevation Church adopts Governors Village
Much of the new support has come from Elevation Church’s University City congregation, which moved into new quarters last spring just a half mile from the Governors Village campus on IBM Drive. Elevation University City is part of the Elevation Church, with more than 20,000 in attendance across its 13 locations.
The congregation has adopted the Governors Village schools as part of its extensive community service program. “There has been total involvement of pretty much all of our congregation,” says NaTasha Franklin, the church’s outreach coordinator.
“They’re impacting our school on a weekly basis,” Fowler says. That impact includes reading and sharing lunch with students, helping on curriculum nights, sponsoring needy families at Christmas, providing Halloween treat bags for all the students and even packing Halloween gift bags with candy and handwritten “sweet notes of encouragement” for teachers and staff.
Volunteers help Math Carnival grow
It took just 15 church volunteers, including Franklin, to help create the carnival portion of the Oct. 13 Fun Zone Math Carnival at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School.
Nathaniel Elementary began pairing parent nights with fun activities such as carnivals a couple of years ago. Many students come from low-income families whose parents often work long hours to make end meet. The carnivals have helped draw more parents.
“The math carnival is a yearly event, and we had done previous carnivals ourselves, on a much smaller scale – no Moon Walk, no cotton candy, none of that,” Fowler said.
“We did the fun part”
Attendance soared this fall to more than 400 adults and kids, thanks to the volunteers and additional resources from Elevation Church volunteers.
On Oct. 13, 15 church volunteers joined school staff and teachers to stage the annual learning event. Students and parents spent an hour in classrooms playing math games, learning math strategies and getting math materials to take home. Then the Elevation Church volunteers took over.
“We did the fun part,” Franklin said. “We set up games and the bouncy houses. We just loved on the kids. We had cotton candy and fresh popcorn for them to enjoy. And they had a blast to run around, have fun and games and not worry about anything.
“I was covered in cotton candy,” she said, laughing, “and we couldn’t get the popcorn popped fast enough!”
Many hands helping lift the school and its students
Other groups also are helping teachers and students at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary, including Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Lexus Northlake, online retailer Givingstream and Together We Feed, an arm of the nonprofit Second Harvest group.
The new support for Governors Village schools is largely the result of a group called University City Connect, and its guiding spirit, Rob Rogers, the owner of the University Place Chick-fil-A. Rogers employs many Vance High students and a few years ago began to realize that students at Vance and its sister schools in the Governors Village could perform much better in school if the many nearby businesses shared resources and volunteers. He launched University City Connect to rally those forces.
Hendrick Lexus Northlake has stepped up in a big way, Fowler said. The company and employees have helped provide supplies such as a toothbrush to go with the students’ Halloween treat bags, food for teacher work days and even special treats for staff, like ice cream. Hendrick Automotive is also a major sponsor of Together We Feed, which in turn has helped provide mobile food pantries for families that struggle to pay for groceries.
“Hendrick people are in the building right now,” Fowler said on Friday. “They brought healthy snacks and are reading to classes.”
Helping hands at other Governors Village schools
Other Governors Village schools have also benefited. On Oct. 1, 50 volunteers from TIAA-CREF spent the day at Vance High School, giving advice to 600 students on ways to prevent and cope with online cruelty, often called cyber-bullying. The volunteers also discussed the importance of maintaining a positive digital “footprint” – the first impression a potential college or employer might get when they conduct an online search of you. (Read the full article)
Next up: Holiday carnival and food pantry
The next major event at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary will take place 4-6:30 pm Dec. 7, when the school holds a holiday carnival and Together We Feed provides a mobile food pantry. Elevation Church members will provide cookies and milk, and take family photos for anyone who wants one.
All students will get books courtesy of Together We Feed, and the Givingstream online retail store is seeking individuals and business sponsors to help donate blankets to needy students, as well. A special purchase-matching program will provide one free blanket for a student, for every blanket someone buys. (See related article about Givingstream)
Fowler is grateful for the growing community support at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary. It does make a big difference in student achievement and parental involvement, she says.
“It is important for people to know how powerful these partnerships are for schools, especially Title 1 schools like Nathaniel Alexander Elementary that struggle with low student achievement and other aspects of learning,” Fowler says.
“Things have been improving every year at Nathaniel Alexander since I came here, and there is a direct correlation between that improvement and the community involvement we have at our school.”
Ways you can help, too
Contact Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – To learn how you, your group or your business can help our four Governors Village schools (Zebulon B. Vance High, James Martin Middle, John M. Morehead STEM Academy and Nathaniel Alexander Elementary), contact Lauren Fowler, principal at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary, at Laurenb.firstname.lastname@example.org or 980-343-5268.
Contact Elevation Church – Elevation Church University City invites the public to join church members as they volunteer at local schools and more than 100 other nonprofit programs. • Visit the Elevation Church outreach website to see details of upcoming community service events and how you can take part. • Learn more by contacting NaTasha Franklin at email@example.com.
Help provide blankets – You can partner with Givingstream and Together We Feed to provide free blankets and other support for deserving children at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School.
1. One for One blanket gifts – For each blanket you buy from Givingstream’s Sackcloth + Ashes collection, one blanket will be donated to Together We Feed for distribution to a child in need.
• USE THIS GIVING CODE you make your online purchase: “TWF one for one”
2. Donate 10% of purchase price to help Nathaniel Alexander students – Givingstream shoppers can also donate 10% of their total purchase price to meet student needs. The money will go to provide emergency food for weekends and breaks, clean and appropriate clothing, and other items that will help students feel confident and prepared for a successful school day.
• USE THIS GIVING CODE when you make your online purchase: “TWF 10%”
3. Host a Givingstream trunk show and donate even more! Givingstream will partner with you to stage a trunk show at your home or group event. Ten percent of proceeds from the day’s total sales can be donated to Together We Feed for distribution to Nathaniel Alexander Elementary.
• Learn more about hosting an event – Contact Givingstream at 704-919-1680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.