(L-R) Scott Mulwee, Burke County Commissioner Vice Chairman; Dr. Melanie Honeycutt, BCPS Chief Information Officer; Dr. Mike Swan, BCPS Director of Student Services/Community Liaison and BCUW Board Member; Jean VanNoppen, BCUW Board Member; Dr. Larry Putnam, BCPS Superintendent; Maureen "Mo" Schwind, BCUW Executive Director; Traci Reibel, Executive Director of Blueridge Healthcare Foundation; Rod Harrelson, BCUW Board President; Cheryl Shuffler, BCPS Public Relations Officer and BCUW Board Member.
Celebrating Success - Keep Learning Moving Forward
Burke County United Way (BCUW), with the help of community donors and sponsorships, has rapidly raised funds for internet hotspots during the months of July, August, and September. On September 11, 2020, BCUW presented the Burke County Public School system (BCPS) with funds to immediately purchase 100 hotspots.
County Commissioner Vice Chairman Scott Mulwee states, “I have been impressed with how the community has rallied to serve the needs of our students. These hotspots are needed in many of our rural areas. The county and school system have previously provided this critical infrastructure. Now our community partners like the United Way have made a serious commitment to our students' success. I would like to commend the staff and board of the United Way for this generous donation.”
Our campaign, Internet Hotspots for Education, started out with the goal of providing internet access to 1,100 families across Burke County so the students in those families could keep attending school online. Since the launch, a few very significant events occurred. In August, the Burke County Board of Commissioners announced that they would purchase 750 hotspots for the students in our communities. Along with the school system, BCUW is very appreciative to the Burke County Board of Commissioners. Their efforts have provided an expedient turnaround of receipt of hotspots, getting them to students in need. We continued our campaign efforts to raise money for the remaining hotspots not provided by the Commissioners’ funds.
On September 9, Governor Roy Cooper announced nearly $40 million in funding for NC Student Connect, a new partnership created to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for many North Carolina students. According to the press release by the Governor’s office, this investment includes funds for school systems to purchase additional hotspots, create internet-accessible sites in convenient locations (i.e. school parking lots, municipal areas, museums, etc.) for students, and professional development and training on effective remote learning for parents and educators.
On our community’s success in providing hotspots to families in need, Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, "Words cannot express how appreciative we are of the community rallying around our students during this time of remote learning. While we are welcoming students back in the classroom for limited, in-person instruction we are still in the midst of an unpredictable pandemic. Students will continue to benefit from these hotspots while working remotely at least three days a week for the foreseeable future. I know our students and parents who are benefiting from this form of internet connectivity appreciate the convenience the hotspots offer as they continue to navigate hybrid learning. I personally want to say thank you to Burke County United Way, the Burke County Board of Commissioners, the Blue Ridge HealthCare Foundation and everyone else who has contributed to this cause. We truly are in this together."
BCUW would like to especially recognize the Blueridge Healthcare Foundation for choosing to be a Champion of Education level sponsor for this campaign. The Foundation made a $10,000 contribution. Traci Riebel, Executive Director, said of the sponsorship, “we are excited to participate in this partnership as we know the needs are great and access to learning is critical.” Other top-level sponsors include Sossoman Funeral Home and Crematory Center, and Mr. Lloyd and Mrs. Helen Wallace at the Honor Roll level; Mr. Rod and Mrs. Pam Harrelson, Mr. Al and Mrs. Kelly Wood, Morganton Humanist Alliance, and Work in Burke, a Burke Development, Inc. supported initiative, at the Advocate level. Mr. William and Mrs. Georgia Collett are also recognized as generous donors to the campaign.
Rod Harrelson, BCUW President 2020-2021, states that “Burke County United Way is very thankful for the contributions of businesses and individuals that contributed to help our Burke County students continue to learn during these unprecedented times. We all recognize the importance of investing in our students’ education and both the short-term and long-term impacts for our community.”
We at Burke County United Way are continuing to work closely with the school system to identify remaining educational needs. From the much-needed support now collectively granted to BCPS to provide hotspots, we can adapt by working to fill other needs our students face to ensure no child is left behind. Now called the Keep Learning Moving Forward campaign, some of those needs we are exploring include additional technology needs, school supplies, and general support services. Donate to Burke County United Way’s campaign at www.bcuw.org/learning or call Maureen “Mo” Schwind, Executive Director, at 828-433-0681. Sponsorship opportunities are still available at www.bcuw.org/sponsor-learning.