Endowment supports ECU program for students with learning disabilities

A large endowment from the Harold H. Bate Foundation will support an East Carolina University program for students with learning disabilities.

The Harold H. Bate Foundation has pledged $333,000 over five years to endow a distinguished professorship for Project STEPP (Supporting Transition and Education through Planning and Partnerships) in the ECU College of Education. The program pools community and university resources to provide academic, social and life-skills support for students with identified specific learning disabilities who have shown the potential to succeed in college.

Dr. Sarah Williams, associate professor and Project STEPP director, said the program helps students “who have historically fallen through the cracks in terms of university access and retention.”

The program boosts STEPP students through guidance in the transition from high school to college. It includes courses in self-advocacy, time management, study skills and note taking. Participants have individualized plans including set study hall hours and assistance from a network of advisers, mentors, assistive technology specialists, tutors, counselors, instructors and other experts.

The extra attention is getting results, Williams said.  “The students…are holding their own and doing well.”

“We have a strong retention rate…stronger than the university retention rate in general, and remembering these students weren’t even supposed to be here, that’s saying something,” she said.

The program’s success has attracted attention in Chapel Hill. STEPP staff members have been asked to work with the UNC System to implement customized learning differences programs at other universities in North Carolina.

Beyond its success in student retention, the ECU STEPP program is unique because it is affordable.

Williams said that many university-level programs exist to help students with learning disabilities, “…whole colleges established and organized around teaching individuals with learning disabilities.” The problem is that “many of them are private colleges and very, very pricey,” she said. The ECU program is offered at no additional cost beyond the normal university fees and tuition.

“Nationally, we have not found other programs that provide this comprehensive level of support to students who are very deserving and very capable of being successful in the college setting without any additional cost,” she said.

“That piece, not charging students extra, is part of our foundation and not something we’re interested in compromising on.”

The Bate Foundation endowment will help keep the STEPP program from charging extra. The $333,000 commitment will translate to even more funding, because the State of North Carolina matches $1 for every $2 donated to endowed professorships. That could result in a $500,000 endowment for Project STEPP.

For additional information about the STEPP program, contact Williams at (252) 327-1101 or williamssar@ecu.edu. The program’s web site is available online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-educ/stepp/index.cfm.

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The Bate Foundation has contributed more than $3 million to ECU. It was founded through the generosity of Harold H. Bate, a philanthropist, investor and retired lumber executive to enhance education, youth and recreation and quality of life for the communities of Craven, Pamlico and Jones counties and East Carolina University.

Grant supports Pitt County youth enrichment

A $5,000 grant will support academic and cultural enrichment activities for Pitt County youth at the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center, an East Carolina University partnership program.

Provided by the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation, the donation will support the YES (Youth Excelling for Success) Summer Bridge Program, which targets children in grades 3 through 5 with activities to help them stay engaged and prepared for success when school resumes in the fall.

Held Monday through Thursday from June to early August, YES offers mathematics, language arts, science, martial arts, chess and other board games. Participants enjoy activities on the Wii along with physical education, gardening, computer lab and other cultural enrichment activities.

Academic enrichment follows the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and is taught by qualified teachers. Campers are served breakfast, snacks, and lunch daily.

YES program director Shawan Sutton expressed gratitude for the donation. The foundation’s members “clearly understand the importance of quality summer programs for youth,” Sutton said. “The YES staff is excited about helping the youth keep their academic skills sharp while promoting positive social growth and development. We have lots of great activities planned for participants and even some for their parents and families.”

Lee Watson, market president for Wells Fargo in Greenville, said the foundation was pleased to present the donation in keeping with its mission of building strong and vibrant communities, improving the quality of life and making positive differences.

“It helps demonstrate Wells Fargo’s ongoing commitment to the Greenville community…,” Watson said.

“We’re responsible for being leaders to promote the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”

The Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center, at 1100 Ward Street in Greenville, is a partnership among the City of Greenville, East Carolina University, Pitt Community College and multiple community-based agencies. The Center is committed to identifying and addressing the health and wellness needs of the community through innovative programs designed for all individuals across the life course.

For additional information about the center and its programs, call 252-328-5800 or visit http://www.ecu.edu/che/igcc/.

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Grant supports digital access project at Joyner Library

The State Library Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources announced today an award of $104,719 to Joyner Library at East Carolina University for the third year of the “Ensuring Democracy Through Digital Access Project.”

One of 123 projects selected, the Joyner Library project provides online access to 360,000 pages of historical materials offering a view of the state’s development in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The funding was made possible through a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal grant-making agency.

North Carolina is one of no more than 10 states that disseminate at least 50% of federal library funds through competitive grants to local libraries. The remaining 50% of the funding is directed to statewide programs and resources that benefit all libraries, such as the popular “NCpedia.”

In spite of a reduction of 14% of federal funds in 2010-11, North Carolina’s State Library continued this program.

“Federal grants awarded by the State Library to public, academic, school and community college libraries are critical during this time when libraries across the state are pinched for dollars, facing shrinking budgets but increased demand,” said State Librarian Mary Boone.

A complete list of awards is available at  http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/lsta/AwardsList11-12.htm.

 

ECU engineering program receives $600,000 NSF grant

A $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will fund scholarships for East Carolina University engineering students and underwrite critical student research and collaboration with national scholars.

The 5-year NSF grant is a milestone for a 7-year-old engineering program, said Dr. Hayden Griffin, department chair for engineering. It will be an asset for the program, helping address financial need and open additional academic doors for students, he said.

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