Expanding Childcare Options for Local Families with NC Pre-K

14 Aug

YWCA Is On A Mission to Nurture Children and Empower Women and Families

Providing childcare for our community helps working families, especially working mothers, continue their careers and increase the economic viability of their families. Research also shows that high-quality early education is also the best long-term investment to make in a child; preparing them for success in elementary school and beyond.

In support of local families and children, YWCA of Asheville is expanding their Early Learning Program beginning with two new classrooms opening this month. Going one step further to make sure some of the most vulnerable families can access early care and education, one of these classrooms is dedicated to NC Pre-K.

Preschool children

“There is an ongoing child care crisis in Buncombe County and opening two new classrooms this summer, serving 36 additional children, helps to alleviate this issue for local working families,” says Beth Maczka, CEO of YWCA of Asheville. “NC Pre-K removes a barrier to low-income working families by providing six hours of free high-quality care from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm, with additional wrap-around hours available at a reasonable cost.”

At its core, YWCA of Asheville is dedicated to empowering women, eliminating racism, nurturing children and promoting health. At the intersection of these goals is the YWCA’s Early Learning Program. Community-centered childcare aimed at supporting working women while caring for young children through a compassionate, whole-child approach.

“The first 2000 days of life are critical to a child’s lifelong development,” says Denise Purcell, Director of Early Learning at the YWCA. “Early experiences actually influence brain development. These connections provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem-solving, social skills, behavior and emotional health. A child’s earliest experiences and environment set the stage for future development and success in school and life.”

To increase the school readiness of children throughout the state, North Carolina is funding NC Pre-K classrooms to offer free, high-quality early care and education to eligible children and families. Locally administered by Buncombe Partnership for Children, NC Pre-K qualifying families’ have at or below 75% of the state median income and priority is given to 4-year-olds who are not already enrolled in care.  Other factors that contribute to a child’s eligibility, regardless of family income, included identified disabilities, chronic health conditions, or developmental or educational needs such as speaking limited or no English.

“The YWCA’s commitment to racial and social justice is reflected in our classroom composition, the diversity of staff and an overall welcoming environment for all types of families,” says Maczka. “Opening an NC Pre-K classroom at the YWCA is a perfect fit for our organization.”

To make sure childcare and early education are accessible to any parent and child in our community, the Early Learning Program accepts state childcare subsidy vouchers and serves 50% voucher families throughout their center. In 2016, YWCA also opened two Early Head Start classrooms in partnership with Verner Center for Early Learning to provide not only childcare but extended wrap-around education, resources, and services for families with the lowest incomes in our community.

YWCA of Asheville believes that every individual deserves the support necessary to get an early start on learning, to succeed through school and graduation, to continue education and provide for their family.  Through the Early Learning Program, YWCA is working to improve the lives of women, children and families, and our community as a whole.

“Learning begins long before a child enters public school,” says Purcell. “It has been proven that participants in high-quality early childhood programs have higher earnings, pay more taxes and are less likely to rely on government assistance. This means better jobs, better educations, and better lives – and in terms of dollars returned from the investment in early education – society is the winner.”

YWCA is actively enrolling students for their NC Pre-K classroom opening August 27, 2018. Applications are available at the YWCA located at 185 S. French Broad Avenue in Asheville or you can access the NC Pre-K application online through the Buncombe County Partnership for Children website.

 

Stand Against Racism: Our Power, Our Mission, Our Future

5 Apr

The YWCA believes everyone has a role to play in the fight for racial justice. Throughout the month of April, community members in Asheville and Buncombe County will have a multitude of opportunities to connect with others in anti-racism work to learn, understand and collaborate as part of YWCA Asheville’s annual Stand Against Racism.

“Every year, YWCA Asheville and our local Stand Against Racism partners coalesce on a national campaign to raise awareness around the negative impacts of institutional and structural racism, and our community continues to be one of the most active Stand sites in the country,” said Gerry Leonard, YWCA Asheville Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist.

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“YWCA Asheville has been participating in Stand Against Racism since 2011 and our goal is to build off of the momentum of previous years, rallying around a specific theme each year.” Said Leonard. “Last year, our theme was Women of Color Leading Change and we sought to elevate the voices and visibility of Black and Brown women in leadership roles. This year continues centering Women of Color in our movement work – with the focus around political representation and civic engagement.”

Voting rights and civic engagement are and have always been, core components of the YWCA’s racial justice work. During this pivotal time, as civil rights continue to be attacked and eroded for communities of color, YWCA is focusing this year’s Stand Against Racism campaign Our Power, Our Mission, Our Future on supporting full access and engagement for women and girls of color in the political process.

At the core of the YWCA’s work is the recognition that not all women or all people of different races are treated equally. Our mission and history are a direct embodiment of a movement that is intersectional, working from the inside out to abolish discrimination. In 1965, the national YWCA Office of Racial Justice, led by civil rights icon Dr. Dorothy I. Height, worked to ensure that integration was a requirement of all YWCA Associations nationwide. And, in 1970, the YWCA adopted the One Imperative, committing itself to “the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary.”

“There is a saying amongst YWCAs across the country, ‘We’re not new to this, we’re true to this,’ and that notion certainly holds true for YWCA Asheville as our leadership and commitment to racial and social justice has been at the forefront of our work since 1907,” said Leonard. “In an ever-changing social and political climate, we understand that any paradigm shift requires our organization to be nimble in our approach to direct service, issue education and public policy when working to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy.”

YWCA USA March for Black Women and March for Racial Justice

This common thread unites YWCA associations across the country in a commitment to racial justice and civil rights. Through the combination of programs and advocacy YWCAs work to dismantle discrimination and expose prejudice in policy and practices. YWCA Asheville is committed to this racial justice work at the local, state and national level.

During the 2017 YWCA National Conference, YWCA Asheville was recognized as one of three finalists for the YWCA Association of Excellence Award for Racial Justice. The nomination, out of more than 220 associations nationwide, drew from their work on the local level including the development of a monthly Racial Justice Workshop, a robust Stand Against Racism campaign, and leadership with the Racial Justice Coalition – fourteen organizations working together to become a national model for best practices and improved police-community relations.

North Carolina is one of three states to pilot the YWCA Statewide Advocacy Initiative. The YWCAs of North Carolina includes leaders from YWCA Asheville, YWCA Central Carolinas (Charlotte), YWCA Greensboro, YWCA High Point, YWCA Lower Cape Fear (Wilmington) and YWCA Winston-Salem. The aim of these sister associations is to use their unified voice to identify, address and advocate for the communities they serve across the state. The YWCAs of North Carolina 2018 Advocacy Agenda, focuses their collective efforts on the unjust treatment and criminalization of people of color with the belief that when community members come together, they can come up with solutions that benefit everyone and create safer communities for all.

As part of a larger racial justice strategy, YWCA Asheville joins associations across the country each year on the Stand Against Racism campaign; building community among those who work for racial justice and raising awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism. Last year, more than 54 partners hosted a Stand Against Racism event in Asheville and Buncombe County. Together as a community, we hosted more than 86% of the total Stand events in North Carolina, which totaled over 10% of the events nationwide!

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“The construct of racism has been around for centuries, and we, unfortunately, do not undo that overnight,” said Leonard. “Our goal is to make racial justice an orientation and framework for everyone, because the ways in which structural racism has been held up and perpetuated over time influences our attitudes, values, beliefs and cultural representation – so we have to constantly reorient our minds to this work, and Stand Against Racism is one aspect of changing that narrative.”

Although Stand Against Racism events vary year to year, examples of what’s been available in the past give community members an idea of the types of opportunities they will have this April. Public events, most of which are free, include panel discussions, lunch-and-learns, nationally recognized speakers, and artist workshops. Last year, Francine Delany New School for Children held a film screening of the documentary “13th”, which focuses on the intersection of race, justice & mass incarceration in the US. The film was followed by a facilitated talk-back to encourage conversation among those who attended. And, the MLK, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County and Residents Council of Asheville Housing Authority honored local women of color leaders during “Standing on the Shoulders of African-American Women Pioneers.”

Some events are not open to the general public but are designed for internal discussion and learning within a specific business or organization. This past spring, Carolina Day School professional development days focused on Implicit Bias and Micro-Aggression training. Since then, the Carolina Day School community has continued to take a stand, educating and empowering staff, students, and parents to take a lead in dismantling racism in our community. Also in 2017, the Asheville Jewish Community Center invited their members, including students and families, to learn about Kavod (honor, dignity, respect) through music and to pledge their support to stand up for Kavod in our collective community.

The YWCA has been working for justice for 160 years, and 110 years right here in Asheville and Buncombe County. While not new to this work, the organization acknowledges that our country and communities are experiencing a watershed moment in the fight for racial justice. YWCA Asheville calls on each person to get involved now to promote racial equity in their schools, businesses, organizations and community as a whole.

Visit our website for a continuing list of upcoming Stand Against Racism events in the area. For more information on hosting a Stand Against Racism event, email Gerry Leonard, YWCA Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist.

A conversation with Beth Maczka, CEO and Alesia Summey, Director of Empowerment Childcare

19 Mar

Alesia and Beth

In her position as the Director of Empowerment Childcare, Alesia Summey helps families access short-term childcare and other resources needed by working families in our community.  Beth Maczka recently sat down with Alesia to talk about her program and personal dedication to the mission of the YWCA.

BM: Tell me a little about your background and history with the YWCA.

AS: I’ve been working in childcare for almost 21 years, 16 here at the YW. I volunteered at the YW in high school when it was the old childcare program and came to work at the YW when the new childcare center was opening. At that point I was new and I was young, I learned a lot – I’ve been through 4 levels of ratings. I worked as a teacher for 11 years and then I was promoted to the program coordinator and then to the Director of Empowerment Childcare.

BM: How does the Empowerment Childcare (ECC) program relate to the YWCA’s mission?

AS: Being able to provide free childcare to parents, who have not had opportunities to grow, so they can go to school to get their GED or get their degree, or find a job. Without childcare they weren’t able to do that. We have empowered a lot of women and families through this program.

BM: What is your approach and vision for ECC in the coming year?

AS: To help out as many families as we can. Getting out in the community, going to different meetings in Asheville to get our name out. Doing whatever I can do to promote and increase enrollment, that’s my goal.

BM: Can you tell me more about ECC’s pay-by-the-hour childcare?

AS: For parents that are working and need care – if they have a doctor’s appointment, court appointment or an appointment that has to do with their job and they work from home – we have pay-by-the-hour, which is set up to provide up to 4 hours of care at a time. We’re able to serve all families with short-term care. It is a very critical need.

BM: Anything else you would like to share?

AS: Coming to the YW, seeing the work that we do as an organization and then being given the chance to empower myself – as a young mother, going to school, working – I consider myself a success story. There is a lot that this organization does that I don’t think people see. And I’ve had the opportunity to experience that. I can’t thank the YWCA enough.

We Demand Accountability

1 Mar

The video of an Asheville Police Department officer harassing, beating and tasing Johnnie Jermaine Rush is sickening and disheartening. We stand with the victim and his family through this traumatic experience. This type of racial discrimination and abuse of power cannot be tolerated. We will not normalize racism.

YWCA Asheville has been and will continue to advocate for use of force policies and de-escalation training with Chief Hooper and the Asheville Police Department. However, the violence and racism displayed in this video, and complicity by all officers on the scene, make it painfully obvious that much more work needs to be done. Our community needs assurance that officers are accountable for upholding the dignity, rights, and safety of People of Color.

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Visit Asheville Citizen-Times to view the body-worn camera footage and read more.

Where Are All the Black People?

20 Feb

Fellow 3 insideBy: Lexus Walker, Tzedek Mission Advancement Fellow

Asheville – a progressive city known for its beautiful mountain views, skilled artisans, vibrant food scene, and a large selection of craft breweries – has attracted many progressive thinking families and individuals over the years who have made Asheville their home. Our beloved city is now a tourist hotspot, drawing visitors from all over the country, and now – the world.  One question native Ashevillians often hear from both tourists and transplants alike is “where are all the Black people?”.

Born and raised in Asheville, with family roots dating back generations,  I’ve seen areas like Montford, East End and Southslope transform from Black neighborhoods, into gentrified, wealthy white neighborhoods. I’ve heard stories about Eagle Street and the Black business district before it was stripped to nothing. And, today I see gentrification continuing to reach its claws deeper into Asheville’s remaining Black neighborhoods. “There are no black people in Asheville,” is a lie I’ve heard  – and a lie I’ve told.

This language of erasure used to talk about Black Asheville is dangerous and damaging. Over time I’ve internalized the deceptive untruth that there are no Black people in Asheville. This very lie contributes to the shrinking of Black Asheville. This lie also keeps Black folks from moving to Asheville. This lie was enough to keep me disconnected from Black Asheville for many years.

It was not until I began my year as a Tzedek Social Justice Fellow that I was able to truly see the ways that this kind of language was harmful to me and my community. Internalized oppression happens when folks with marginalized identities begin to believe the negative messages they hear about their marginalized identity. In my case, internalizing the message that there are no Black people in Asheville kept me from seeking connection with other Black Ashevillians.

During my orientation with Tzedek, I was reconnected to Black Asheville. In meeting other Black fellows who were new to Asheville, I became aware of the importance of seeking connection with the Black community here.  As a group, we went on a Hood Huggers tour and my eyes were opened to even more of our history as we learned about the community building still happening through the Burton Street Community Garden, the Edington Center, and the Shiloh Community Garden. Through a connection with the Center for Participatory Change, I learned about Black Love Day, a monthly gathering at the Edington Center and a healing space for Asheville’s Black community. There is food, music, sometimes dancing, and sharing of what amazing work is being done by our community.

Black Love Day

Black Love Day – Hosted by Center for Participatory Change at the Edington Center

My fellowship placement with the YWCA has also taught me about the long history the YWCA of Asheville has in serving our Black community and I see every day the ways in which the YW has built and continues to build community. Through our Foster Grandparent program, I’ve met folks who have been involved with the YW for many years, who remain involved with the YW because of the strong connection they feel. As a child, I took swimming lessons at the YWCA of Asheville and as I walk through these halls today, as I work in my office, as I help our after school students with their homework, as I attend our Community Dinners, I am reassured that in fact there are Black people in Asheville. We are here and we are seen.
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Honoring the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

18 Jan

By: Gerry Leonard, Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist

To honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., YWCA Asheville hosted our annual MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 15, 2018. To emphasize MLK’s passion for service of others, we invite volunteers to spend the day with our Primary Enrichment Program (PEP) students. Together they work on activities that emphasize the importance of the civil rights movement, MLK’s lasting impact on our society, and YWCA’s continued work to eliminate racism.

For 12 members of our community, this MLK holiday was very much a “day on” where they chose to give their time and make a lasting impression in a child’s life. Volunteers worked with our PEP students to create posters that included images of MLK, inspirational quotes, and whatever creative desiIMG_3598gns and drawings the students were inspired by!

As they worked on these posters a wonderful dialogue between our PEP students and volunteers took place. As students wrote out quotes from MLK, the volunteers would ask, “What does that quote mean to you?” Rich conversations took place around why MLK, and black and brown people, were treated unfairly and PEP students shared that they are having conversations about race and racism in their schools. In our current social and political climate, it feels of the greatest importance to provide a space for our youth to build a greater understanding of the role MLK plays in our lives to this day, and how much work must still be done to achieve his dream of equity, justice and fairness.

IMG_3612Next our PEP students and volunteers carried their posters as they participated in the MLK Peace March & Rally in downtown Asheville. Thousands gathered to hear speakers galvanize the crowd with speeches of justice and peace and there was a strong sense of unity and symbolism to have young people marching proudly side-by-side, chanting “we shall overcome.”

In many ways, the MLK Day of Service encapsulates what the YWCA works to achieve every day through our mission-based advocacy and programs. With a major component of this work being the empowerment of our youth, we hope to foster love and resiliency, and empower students to be a part of the movement towards racial and restorative justice.IMG_3608

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

 

To learn more about the YWCA’s Racial Justice work, contact Gerry Leonard, Racial Justice & Outreach Specialist, at gerry.leonard@ywcaofasheville.org

A conversation with Beth Maczka, CEO and Amanda Read, Director of Women’s Empowerment

17 Oct

Amanda and Beth

Amanda Read leads our Women’s Empowerment department, which includes two programs: MotherLove, mentoring and support for pregnant and parenting teens, and Getting Ahead, empowerment for low-income women working towards economic self-sufficiency. YWCA CEO, Beth Maczka recently sat down with Amanda to talk about the important role these programs have in our community today.

BM: Tell me a little about your background and how you came to the YWCA.

AR: I’m from Greensboro, NC, got my Masters in Social Work from USC, and the day I was walking across the stage, I got a call saying I got the [MotherLove Coordinator] position here at the YW. I was so excited and said, of course, I would take it!

BM: Tell me how your department relates to our mission of Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women.

AR: Both of our programs, MotherLove and Getting Ahead, focus on Empowering Women by really trying to meet people where they are. In both programs, you see these ladies who see the end goal for where they want to be and they just don’t know what it looks like to get there. Our programs offer information, give women the opportunity to learn to build upon their skills and connect them to resources so that they can empower themselves. When it comes to Eliminating Racism, we work to alleviate some of the barriers that these women are facing on a daily basis…where their neighborhood is, if they have a language barrier. I honestly think the department really encompasses our mission fully.

BM: What do you think makes our Women’s Empowerment programs unique to our community?

AR: As a small staff we are able to develop strong relationships and I feel that our participants get to know each other within our programs and connect on a deeper level. They get to build their own community within the YW.

BM: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

AR: I’m excited for Getting Ahead with our new Coordinator, Giannina Callejas. We did more marketing out in the community – knocking on doors, giving out flyers, meeting people face to face. I would say most of our referrals and new participants are coming from the different public housing developments in Asheville. We have a lot of ladies who have never stepped foot in the YWCA before. It is great to expand our reach.