Center for Health, Education and Opportunity Looks to Transform Charlotte's East Side

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The UNC Charlotte Colleges of Health and Human Services and Education are partnering with the nonprofit Aldersgate retirement community to establish The Center for Health, Education and Opportunity, an outpost directed at reshaping Charlotte’s eastside community.

The 6,000-square-foot Center is the first venture of an overall master plan to improve he physical and economic health of the area.

Slated to open this fall in the existing Shamrock Senior Center on the Aldersgate campus, the facility will be an education center, and will also provide caregivers and families in the surrounding area access to community-based health and disease-prevention services.

The first program to roll out is a four-week, all-day summer reading camp pilot. The project, which will take place at Aldersgate from July 11 through August 5, is a joint effort involving Aldersgate, the UNC Charlotte College of Education and the Johnston YMCA. It is designed to support Read Charlotte’s efforts to double the number of third graders reading on grade level by 2025 (That number is currently at 40 percent; Read Charlotte aims to increase it to 80 percent).

"The summer reading program is designed to foster a love of books while also offering an intensive, research-based reading intervention,” said Ellen McIntyre, Dean of the College of Education at UNC Charlotte. “The reading component is just one part of a summer camp experience filled with sports, games, swimming and a healthy living curriculum. Together, Aldersgate, UNC Charlotte's College of Health and Human Services and the YMCA are going to make a significant difference in the lives of the children we reach this summer."

Teachers from Windsor Park Elementary – a Title I CMS school – along with UNC Charlotte literacy faculty and students majoring in education will implement a research-based intervention designed to meet the needs of 30 to 40 Windsor Park students. An especially innovative aspect of the reading camp is that Aldersgate residents are involved. They will be trained on effective strategies for reading aloud to children and supporting the students as they practice reading skills.

The children’s reading progress will be monitored throughout the study and their outcomes documented. Ultimately, the summer pilot will lead to a new model for summer literacy programs. The goal is to secure the needed resources to establish a year-round, permanent reading and teacher preparation clinic serving east Charlotte elementary students.

“Our Summer Reading Camp is as much for parents and caregivers as it is for children,” said Suzanne Hodge Pugh, Aldersgate’s CEO. “Helping support parents with the skills and resources they need is part of our mission. Breaking generation cycles of poverty – as is our aim – can only happen when we educate entire families and offer them support.”

This Center, and ultimately, the entire Aldersgate campus, will be a model of multigenerational living and caregiving.

For the College of Health and Human Services, the center provides both an opportunity to impact the city’s east side and an ideal training ground for the next generation of health and human services professionals.

“It provides a place, but also, the conceptual platform required to yield the collective synergy to drive and test creative programming designed to improve the longer-term health and educational achievement of children and their families in the neighborhood,” said Nancy Fey-Yensan, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

“We don’t think it’s a stretch to call the Center for Health, Education and Opportunity a game changer for Charlotte’s east side,” said Tim Rogers, director of mission advancement at Aldersgate. “We regard it as our responsibility – and also a privilege – to take care of our neighbors. We are fully dedicated to our residents and their families, and part of that dedication means making our entire neighborhood – not just our 250-acre enclave – as healthy as possible.”