Mebane Foundation Continues to Support the Inspiring Brookstone Schools Program

Three tables of kindergarteners are busily working away. Four children construct bridges for the Three Billy Goats Gruff, others are building houses for The Three Little Pigs, and the third group uses manipulatives to sequence Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

“The foundation of literacy is understanding the relationship between words and their meaning both literally and visually,” explains their teacher, Mary Snoke. “Basic reading comprehension is participating in story retell using the pictures of a given book.  A deeper comprehension of a text is developed when the child can visualize the ideas of a story and apply them through creative expression…These activities provided opportunities for student retell, creative design, understanding cause and effect relationships, and developing problem-solving skills. This is literacy 101!!”

Literacy Camp Develops Comprehension & Prevents Summer Learning Loss

Innovative activities like this are the hallmark of Brookstone Schools’ Straight to the Top Summer Literacy Camp, which strives to prevent the “learning loss” that often occurs over the summer, particularly for students without access to books or reading. 

Mary Snoke and her kindergarteners use manipulatives to retell Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you See?

The camp offered five weeks of fun, games, learning, and continued support during the summer months to 123 rising kindergarteners through rising 8th graders in Uptown Charlotte. Its main focus is to teach early literacy skills to rising kindergarteners, accelerate reading fluency, improve comprehension skills for all students, and build motivation and love for books.

“Research shows that students lose two to three months during the summer and that learning loss is cumulative over the years they are in school,” explained Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s director of major gifts. “However summer camp keeps their minds engaged and keeps them reading. Pre and post-tests show that, on average, our campers make at least a month to six weeks gain in reading fluency each summer. This summer’s camp is of even greater benefit, as it will help students regain some of the learning loss that may have occurred during this COVID year.”

Providing Quality Education for Twenty Years

Brookstone Schools, which opened its doors in 2001, is a non-denominational Christian school incorporating a biblical worldview into quality education for under-resourced families in Charlotte. Its students are equipped academically, socially, and spiritually for future lives of leadership and service.

The Mebane Foundation has supported Brookstone since 2012 when it awarded the school a three-year grant to launch the Straight to the Top summer literacy camp. Since then, the Foundation has invested almost half a million dollars in this inspiring program.  This year, the Foundation provided a grant of $85,000 to support the camp, subsidize a reading specialist to provide teacher training and in-class supervision, and fund diagnostic testing for reading difficulties by a licensed clinical psychologist. 

“Brookstone Schools has been a superstar in our portfolio of grantees ever since I met Suzanne back in 2012,” said Mebane Foundation President Larry Colbourne. “They continue to lead by example. Families and children who have benefited from their holistic approach to education have been extremely fortunate.  All that to say; Brookstone is never satisfied and is always looking for new ways to support their families and to improve. With the addition of John as the most recent head of school, I think Brookstone’s future is more promising than ever.” 

Wilson is grateful for the support, “The Mebane Foundation’s strategic philanthropy has been a game-changer for Brookstone over the years. The funding for programming and training has enabled Brookstone to develop a strong reading program, one that is producing excellent, sustainable outcomes year after year.”

Brookstone Schools Camp Contributes to Student Confidence & Fluency

Camp ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 14th through July 15th. Mornings were devoted to three hours of focused reading instruction with the goals of: 

  1. Giving rising kindergarteners a jump-start on learning to listen and early reading skills such as letter recognition, phonemic awareness, and writing their name.
  2. Strengthening students’ reading fluency to improve their comprehension and boost their overall ability to see themselves as confident readers.
  3. Offering children who have had limited opportunities for interacting with books, a literacy-rich classroom in the summer to encourage them to read good books.
Brookstone Schools’ kindergarteners design bridges for the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Instruction for elementary-age students centered on building early reading skills such as phonemic awareness, decoding phonemes, words, phrases, and reading age-appropriate text. Teachers of upper elementary and middle school classes helped students practice fluency, comprehension skills, and strategies. Time was allotted daily for silent reading and spelling practice.

Afternoons included an additional hour of academic support and a variety of enrichment activities. Local churches provided Vacation Bible School and volunteers offered a wide range of activities including arts and crafts, music, and outdoor games. Middle school students participated in Mission Possible, a Christ-centered program of mission and outreach to the urban community.  This summer adults served alongside young people to help those in need at The Harvest Center, Bright Blessings and Dove’s Nest. 

“What a beautiful thing it was to see how our middle school students gave back to the community this summer,” said Wilson. “This is the eighth summer that Davidson United Methodist Church has led a service-oriented program for teens in our camp. Brookstone kids learn firsthand that even if your resources are limited, mission work is not impossible. You can still give the gift of your time and your heart to help others.” 

More Than Academics

Brookstone’s new incoming students are required to attend the summer camp, free of charge, which introduces their families to both the benefits and the rigor of the program. 

“Summer camp allows the families to have some “skin in the game” and gives our teachers an opportunity to meet new students and begin to assess their needs,” explained Head of School John Murray, who joined the school in July 2020.

Those needs are often more than academic. During his tenure, Murray has expanded the school’s whole-child approach to education, including adopting a trauma-informed teaching approach, which factors in how trauma impacts learning and behavior. This has been particularly timely considering the negative impact COVID has had on families’ stability and well-being. 

“Trauma can slow down or completely stop our ability to learn. Kids experiencing trauma are more likely to fall behind in class or get in trouble for behavior issues,” said Murray. “Our students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs must also be met in order for them to learn.” 

Research has shown that children with adverse childhood experiences (ACES) struggle more with learning and participating at school, with language development, communication, attendance, and excelling academically. They have a higher likelihood of dropping out early or choosing not to pursue higher education.

Last year, all of the teachers took ACES training to help them better identify the signs of distress in children and to give them strategies to address those needs in the classroom. 

Additionally, the school received a grant to provide trauma therapy and counseling services through Christ-Centered Community Counseling (C4), an urban counseling & mental health awareness practice. If needed, counselors also provide families with referrals to organizations that can help with rent, utilities, and food. They had a caseload of 33 by the end of the first month. This year the school will also add a nurse to the staff. 

“Over the past six months, we have witnessed numerous students’ lives changed for the better through the important work of C4,” Murray shared. “With the addition of a full-time nurse, as well as our partnership with the Mebane Foundation, we look forward to watching our students grow spiritually, socially, academically, this coming school year.”

Judy Brooks’ 4th graders read Judy Blume’s Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing.

About Brookstone Schools

Brookstone Schools is a non-profit Christ-centered school serving urban children and families since 2001. Brookstone offers an opportunity for parents who want a choice in how they educate their children but are unable to afford private education. Students learn not only facts but how to use this knowledge for future lives of leadership and service. Brookstone is located in Uptown Charlotte (301 South Davidson St., Charlotte, N.C. 28202). All gifts made to Brookstone Schools are tax-deductible. For more information, please visit www.brookstoneschools.org. or contact Suzanne Wilson, director of major gifts, at (704) 392-6330 or Suzanne.wilson@brookstoneschools.org.

Brookstone Graduates “Giving Back” by Returning as Camp Counselors

Former Brookstone student Nataevia Dowling returns to Brookstone as Camp Counselor

Former student Nataevia Dowling returns to Brookstone as Camp Counselor

 

By Jeanna Baxter White
Ohana is Hawaiian for family, and for camp counselor Nataevia Dowling, that family includes the students and staff at Brookstone Schools in Charlotte, NC.

“What I love about Brookstone is the feeling of being connected to a big family,” said Dowling, who started attending Brookstone in the 4th grade. “Here everyone knows one another. It’s an environment where students care for each other and everyone loves each other.”

That love and sense of belonging are the irresistible forces that have drawn the rising senior at Charlotte Secondary School back to Brookstone for the past four summers to serve as a camp counselor. She began immediately after graduation from the K-8 program in 2016 as an apprentice, followed by two summers as a junior counselor. Now she is a full-fledged counselor, a role she welcomes as it has given her more responsibility. She works alongside the classroom teacher and helps manage a class of twenty 4th graders.

Brookstone Schools, which opened its doors in 2001, is a non-denominational Christian school incorporating a biblical worldview into quality education for under-resourced families in Charlotte. The goal of the school is to equip urban students spiritually, academically, and socially for lives of future leadership and service. The camp will provide six weeks of fun, games, learning, field trips, and continued support during the summer months to 150 children in Uptown Charlotte.

“I think the summer camp is incredibly valuable,” said Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s director of advancement. “Research shows that students lose two to three months during the summer, and that learning loss is cumulative over the years they are in school. However, summer camp keeps their minds engaged and keeps them reading.”

The Mebane Foundation’s involvement with Brookstone Schools began in 2012 when the school was awarded a 3-year grant to launch this Summer Learning and Adventure Camp. Since then, the Foundation has invested more than $315,000 in Brookstone. This year the Foundation provided a $25,000 grant for the camp. The funds were used to subsidize the program, as well as to provide technology, materials, and professional development for teachers.

“Our Brookstone relationship has been a long-standing one. As I’ve said to Suzanne on so many occasions, they seem to have the “secret sauce” that ensures families and their children are afforded the opportunity to succeed at Brookstone Schools and then in life,” says Foundation president, Larry Colbourne.

Camp begins each day at 9 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. with before- and after-school care available. Mornings are spent practicing math and reading skills to help students stay on target for the upcoming school year, as well as practice specific skills at a slower pace. Teachers use Summer Success: Reading, a six-week summer school reading program, to provide engaging instruction in reading, vocabulary, and writing.

Afternoons offer enrichment and fun as local churches provide Vacation Bible School and a wide range of activities including arts and crafts, tennis, soccer, kickball, and other outdoor games. Campers enjoy field trips to the Cane Creek Park, Ramsey Creek Park, Niven Park, and Lazy 5 Ranch.

The summer camp is equally beneficial for Brookstone graduates who serve as counselors. Beginning the summer after 8th grade, they can apply to serve as junior counselors, volunteering their time the first summer and getting paid for subsequent ones. Some, like Dowling, have younger siblings attending camp. Others are simply excited about the opportunity to return to the school and serve. This year there are 27 Brookstone graduates involved with camp, sixteen as paid counselors and eleven as volunteers.

The use of these former students as counselors is one of the camp’s most unique features and a win for everyone, according to Steve Hall, Brookstone Schools’ head of school.

“Three or four summers ago, three of our recent graduates were hanging around because they had younger siblings attending camp, so we decided to put them to work as volunteers and it worked out great,” said Hall. “Initially, our policy was to hire only college students as counselors, but it has been so neat to have our former students here. They do a fantastic job! They already understand the Brookstone culture and expectations and their level of leadership and responsibility sets a wonderful example for our campers. Having our graduates serve as counselors also allows us to stay connected to them and to provide a continuum of care beyond 8th grade.”

Wilson agreed, adding, “Our mission statement is to equip urban students spiritually, academically, and socially for lives of future leadership and service, and that includes now.”

Dowling is a perfect example.

“Nataevia has a quiet confidence about her that far surpasses her age,” says Judy Brooks, the classroom teacher she assists. “I was shocked when I found out recently that she is only a senior in high school. The students, understandably, love Ms. Nataevia. She is kind, compassionate, and understanding. She is able to maintain a healthy balance between fun, maintaining order, and keeping the kids on task. She always has the kids’ best interest in mind. This positive young woman is a role model and treats students as the unique individuals they are.”

Dowling says that serving as a counselor has been a way to reconnect and give back to the school that means so much to her.

“I enjoy working with the kids and helping them have the same sense of family and loving care that I always had at Brookstone. Brookstone invested so much in me and made me the person I am today. That’s why I want to give back here.”

She credits the school with giving her the study skills and discipline she needed to succeed. She learned to challenge herself. She has taken AP classes in math, English, Biology and History.

If she maintains her high GPA, Dowling can apply for a college scholarship through the Beta Club. Her life’s ambition is to major in biology and pursue a career in veterinary medicine. “I’ve always loved working with animals – dogs, frogs, fish, and pets of all kinds!”

She also enjoys seeing fellow graduates who serve as counselors because they attend many different high schools and don’t get to see each other regularly.

“Most of my friends come back as counselors, too. For six weeks during the summer, we get to be together and be a part of the Brookstone family once again.”

About Brookstone Schools
Brookstone Schools is a non-profit Christ-centered school serving inner-city children and families since 2001. Brookstone offers an opportunity for parents who want a choice in how they educate their children but are unable to afford a private education. Students learn not only facts, but how to use this knowledge in all aspects of their lives. Brookstone is located in Uptown Charlotte (301 South Davidson St., Charlotte, N.C. 28202). All gifts made to Brookstone Schools are tax deductible. For more information, please visit www.brookstoneschools.org. Or contact Suzanne Wilson, director of advancement, at (704) 392-6330 or Suzanne.wilson@brookstoneschools.org

Brookstone Schools Learning and Adventure Camp – Building Future Leaders!

By Jeanna White

“Who would like to tell our visitors about your invention?” asked the teacher. Every student’s hand lept into the air.

My machine is the “mime machine,” Taylor eagerly explained. “You go through the machine and then you can make your mime do the things you have to do so that you can do the things you want to do.” Cameron described his “holiday chime” which would zap a person to Christmas or whatever holiday they thought about. Each fourth-grader designed their own invention after reading an article about gizmos, gadgets and gears.

Such enthusiasm is unusual in many classrooms, but not surprising at Brookstone Schools Learning and Adventure Camp.

The summer camp offered six weeks of fun, games, learning, field trips, and continued support during the summer months to 150 children in Uptown Charlotte. The goal of the camp is to equip urban students spiritually, academically, and socially for lives of future leadership and service.

This unique camp is a collaborative effort involving local churches, teachers, and dedicated volunteers.

Brookstone Schools, which opened its doors in 2001, is a non-denominational Christian school incorporating a biblical worldview into quality education for under-resourced families in Charlotte. Students learn not only facts but also how to use this knowledge in all aspects of their lives. They are encouraged and challenged to be respectful, mature, disciplined leaders who live in accordance with Judeo-Christian values.

The Mebane Foundation’s involvement with Brookstone Schools began in 2012 when the school was awarded a 3-year grant to launch their Summer Learning and Adventure Camp. Since then, the Foundation has invested more than $213,000 in this inspiring program. This year the Foundation provided a $25,000 grant for the camp and a $20,000 matching grant. The funds were used to subsidize the program, as well as to provide technology, materials, and professional development for teachers.

“I was introduced to Brookstone Schools by an old friend from my days at Wachovia,” said Mebane Foundation President, Larry Colbourne. “I visited Brookstone for the first time at the old location off of Lester Street. Since then the school has grown and relocated, but in the process has maintained its quality. In fact, the educational programs and curriculum are stronger than ever. Their approach is truly one that other schools should strive to model.”

Camp began each day at 9 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m. with before- and after-school care available. Mornings were spent practicing math and reading skills to help students stay on target for the upcoming school year.

“I think the summer camp is incredibly valuable,” said Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s Director of Advancement. “Research shows that students lose two to three months during the summer and that learning loss is cumulative over the years they are in school. However summer camp keeps their minds engaged and keeps them reading.”

Afternoons offered enrichment and fun as local churches provided Vacation Bible School and a wide range of activities including arts and crafts, tennis, soccer, kickball, and other outdoor games. Campers enjoyed field trips to the Bechtler Museum, Jetton Park, Cane Creek Park, and the Cordelia Pool.

Teachers used Summer Success: Reading, a six-week summer school reading program, to provide engaging instruction in reading, vocabulary, and writing. The program’s weekly themed magazines motivated students with high-interest fiction and nonfiction articles. Interactive Read-Aloud Books were used to build reading skills and to introduce students to wonderful authors and genres. The program included assessment options for monitoring progress with pre- and post-tests and weekly self-evaluation.

This curriculum proved to be easy to teach while also fun and engaging. Topics and activities were tailored to meet each grade level’s needs. For instance, while first graders were singing and marching to a song about ants, third graders were completing a word building exercise in which they and a partner had five minutes to take an envelope of letters and make as many words as possible.

The summer camp also benefitted some students who have graduated from the Brookstone Schools program and are now enrolled in high school. Beginning the summer after ninth grade, they can apply to serve as junior counselors, volunteering their time the first summer and getting paid the next. Some have younger siblings attending camp. Others are simply excited about the opportunity to return to the school and serve.  

“Our junior counselors have done a fantastic job,” said Steve Hall, Brookstone Schools Head of School. “We are in our fifth week and they are still energized and excited and the younger kids are watching them and thinking, ‘I want to be a summer counselor, I want to do that.’”

“Usually we would say that a person needed to be in college to be a counselor, but it has been so neat to have our former students here. Their level of leadership and responsibility has set a wonderful example for our campers.”

Half of the campers do not attend Brookstone Schools, so the camp also provided their families with the opportunity to learn firsthand what the school has to offer.

“We hope many of these families will enroll in the school, which would a great plus from the camp,” said Suzanne Wilson, M.Ed., Brookstone’s advancement director. “We would love for the school to operate at full capacity so that we can touch as many students’ lives as possible.”

For more information about Brookstone Schools’ mission and summer program, contact Suzanne Wilson Suzanne.wilson@brookstoneschools.org.  

Private and Charter School Literacy Initiatives

Isaiah

by Jeanna White

In its ongoing effort to find the best means to help all students learn to read and succeed by the third grade, the Foundation continues to make investments in partnerships with schools other than traditional public schools and systems. Partnerships with private and charter schools have seen tremendous success in student growth and have provided valuable information toward developing literacy best practices.

For example, in 2015, the Foundation partially funded a private-public school partnership between Triad Academy at Summit School with teachers and students from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina. Camp Pathfinder, a five-week session held on the Summit School campus, brought together ten public school teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham reading methodology with thirty struggling students who otherwise would not have been afforded the opportunity to attend such a beneficial camp on a beautiful private school campus. Results from the camp were so positive that the Foundation agreed to fund $50,000 for an expanded camp for ten new teachers and fifty students during the summer of 2016. A private donor also pledged an additional $60,000 in support of the 2016 camp.

Over the past five years, the Foundation has also invested more than $125,000 with Brookstone Schools, a small private school serving some of the most needy school children from the downtown Charlotte, North Carolina area. Every year it’s “Straight to the Top” summer learning and enrichment camp has grown and produced great results. In 2016 it will serve approximately 120 children from its school enrollment as well as students from surrounding neighborhoods. The strong success of Brookstone has attracted many funding partners. In fact, in the spring of 2016,  the Leon Levine Foundation issued a $150,000 challenge grant to school supporters so that Brookstone might add a second kindergarten class in the fall. The Mebane Foundation pledged an additional $20,000 to help with the challenge portion of that grant.

Most recently,  the Foundation committed $25,000 to Horizons National; an award-winning, tuition-free, summer academic program serving low-income, public school students on the campuses of independent schools, colleges, and universities across the country. The Horizons partnership with The Oakwood School in Greenville, North Carolina will be the first of its kind in the state. The Foundation hopes to learn from this private school outreach model used by Horizons National, that has shown great success and promise elsewhere in the country.

The documents linked below provide additional details and background information on these important initiatives: