Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear Pen Pal, Let's meet at Queens!

About 120 pen pals from Sedgefield Elementary and Park Road Montessori Elementary (first, second and third-graders) met face-to-face for the first time Wednesday at Queens University.

Photos courtesy CMS
On Wednesday, the students had a picnic lunch and enjoyed team-building and outdoor activities.

The pen pal program is part of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Schoolmates program, said Yaviri Escalera, a CMS spokeswoman.

The two schools started the pen pal program six years ago to encourage diverse friendships: Sedgefield is a Title I school, and Park Road Montessori is a magnet school.

Nijel Cook, a Sedgefield third-grader, said he was friends with his pen pal before they met. "He is really into Harry Potter books, so I started reading them," he said. "I had a pen pal last year too and after we met, we started hanging out. We tell people we are cousins."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Carmel Middle students earn President's Volunteer Service Awards

Six members of Carmel Middle's National Junior Honor Society will receive a President's Volunteer Service Award.

The President's Council on Service and Civic Participation established the national awards in 2003, according to the award's website.

Casey Watkins will receive the gold award for 100 hours of service, and Barbara Euripides, Erin Furney, Andrew Gardner, Ashley Grice and Lindsey Noonan will receive the bronze award for completing 50 to 74 hours of service.

Kym Furney, the school's leadership team chairwoman (and Erin's mother), said the six students who will be recognized are honor roll students who are active in athletic and academic teams.

Overall, 32 of the school's National Junior Honor Society members, including the six, completed at least 25 hours of community service in the past year, she said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Charlotte teens to be honored at GoodWorks Youth Awards

Five Charlotte teens are being recognized for their good deeds at the 2013 GoodWorks Youth Awards tonight.

The students will be recognized in two categories.

The first is diversity. Samantha Del Vecchio, from Providence Day School, created Girls Aid to empower young women to start entrepreneurial ventures.

From Charlotte Latin, Simona Gupta created a program to raise money and awareness for human trafficking victims. She was inspired by stories of young women who were victims from India and Nepal.

In the education category, Savannah Smith of North Mecklenburg High is being recognized for tutoring autistic students at Blyth Elementary. She chose to help the students instead of taking an elective course at school.

At Vance High, Hailey Sammons formed TRU Club, which provides information to youth about preventing the use of tobacco.

Bailey Brooks, who has been featured previously on Young Achievers, created a child-abuse prevention campaign called NOTICE, which Mecklenburg County adopted in April for Child Abuse Awareness Month. She attends North Mecklenburg High.

The event, at UNC Charlotte Center City, is 6-9 p.m. To attend, tickets cost $20 for youth and $30 for adults. Debra Plousha Moore, the chief human resources officer and executive vice president of Carolinas HealthCare System, is the keynote speaker.

For more information, visit

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Country Day 8th grader raises money for Crohn's Disease research

Country Day eighth-grader Caroline Funderburg has worked hard to raise money for Crohn's Disease research, and she and her friends will be participating in the Charlotte Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis Walk June 1.

The cause is personal for Caroline. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2009 when she was in the fifth grade. The diagnosis explained why she kept getting stomach aches (and had to miss 80 days of school that year).

The disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. The Mayo Clinic says it's treatable but not curable.

Caroline is into her third year of remission, but she decided in the sixth grade to start doing something to help find a cure.

To fundraise for research, Caroline, who attends Country Day, sold Cookies-in-a-Jar -- dry cookie mix -- to classmates and had some success. The next year she decided to hold a bake sale in her neighborhood, and with the help of her friends, raised more than $800.

Caroline and friends at a bake sale that raised money for
Crohn's Disease research.
Photos courtesy of Patty Funderburg
This April, Caroline had an even more successful bake sale, raising more than $1,200. "I felt so lucky to have such an incredible community around me," she wrote in an email.

Caroline and her family have also raised money on teams -- about $50,000 -- for the Charlotte Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis Walk and Team Challenge Half Marathon.

Caroline said she hopes the money raised will help the search for a cure, and that there's been a silver lining to her diagnosis.

"Not only am I stronger than when I was diagnosed three years ago," she wrote, "but my relationships with my friends and community are stronger as well."

For more information about the Charlotte Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis Walk, visit

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Students: Set up a successful blood drive and win $1,000

The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas is inviting high school and college students to participate in the fifth annual Students Saving Summer Scholarship program.

The top five students whose drives collect the most blood -- they have to collect at least 25 units to be eligible -- will win, and each will receive $1,000 toward college tuition.

Students must hold their blood drives (they are allowed to host multiple blood drives if they choose) between June 1 and Sept. 30. They are responsible for choosing a location, recruiting donors and collecting the minimum 25 units. Each student will be paired with a CBCC representative who will help with the planning.

"Students make up more than 20 percent of our donor base, so this program is a great opportunity to keep them engaged with blood donations during the summer when blood supplies tend to drop," said Martin Grable, CBCC president and CEO, in a release.

For more information or to register, call Kim Jones at 704-972-4727 or email her at

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Olympic High to dedicate fifth Habitat house

Olympic High students will dedicate the school's fifth Habitat for Humanity house built by students Friday.

Since 2006, Olympic students have been raising the money for constructing a house and then, with the help of construction students, building them, said Mike Realon, an Olympic spokesman.

Olympic students have been building Habitat houses since 2006.
Pictured here are students from an Olympic Habitat project in 2008.

The project has increased proficiency test scores by more than 100 percent, he said. The project was also honored by Microsoft Corporation as one of the country's top-five school projects because of its innovation and ability to provide students important life skills.

The celebration will take place 11 a.m. Friday at 1921 Weststone Drive in Charlotte. Guest speakers will be Ann Clark, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools deputy superintendent; Frank Spencer, president of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte; Carly Suddreth, an Olympic graduate and project manager of the school's first Habitat house.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

High school girls invited to apply for Young Elites Leadership Summit

Courtesy: Young Elites
High-school aged girls are invited to apply for the Young Elites Leadership Summit, which is a free one-week program this June that empowers girls to be strong leaders.

The week, from June 17-21, will feature themes surrounding organization, presentation, debate, health and wellness and goal-setting.

The program takes place at Davidson Day School and has 19 local partners and sponsors.

To apply, girls must send a registration form, letter of recommendation and list of extra-curricular activities by May 31. Acceptance or regret letters will be emailed June 3.

This is the second year of Young Elites (Elite for Excellence, Leadership, Initiative, Tenacity, Execution). Thirty girls attended last year, said organizer Jennifer Shiley, and this year, the program will be capped at 90 participants.

To apply, visit, hover your mouse over Young Elites and click Young Elites Leadership Summit.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

South Meck, Lake Norman Charter need votes for Vans shoe design contest

South Mecklenburg and Lake Norman Charter students are semi-finalists (that means among the country's top 50) in the Vans Custom Culture contest. The competition is for high school students who have created four designs for Vans shoes.

(Click on the photos to see the designs in better detail.)

Lake Norman Charter's shoes. Photo courtesy
South Mecklenburg's shoes.
Now the two schools need votes online to make it to the finalist round for the top five designs. If one (or both) of the schools become finalists, students will fly to New York City and are guaranteed to win money for their school's art program. The grand-prize winner will receive $50,000 for the school's art program and a chance for the winning shoes to be produced and sold in Vans retail stores.

Lake Norman Charter and South Meck were chosen from 1,500 schools that applied. Each school has to create four differently-themed designs: art, music, action sports and local flavor.

Voting ends May 13. To vote, visit

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Vance junior interviews Michael Jordan

This March, Bobcats Sports and Entertainment and FOX Sports Carolinas/SportSouth announced a $200,000 donation to Y Achievers, a YMCA of Greater Charlotte program that partners with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

In addition to that, Y Achiever Amanda Hall, a junior at Vance High, had the chance to spend the day with the Bobcats' media team and meet Michael Jordan.

She interviewed him for an exclusive for the FoxSports Network, said  Michael DeVaul, the senior vice president of organizational development at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

"I was overwhelmed with excitement," Amanda wrote in an essay about the experience. 

She asked Jordan about the importance of education and what kids should do to be successful.

"Mr. Jordan was very kind and calm and seemed to have a genuine interest for the children of the Charlotte community," Amanda wrote.

She said she's interested in journalism and communications and was thankful for the opportunity to learn about the profession.

"If I had the choice, the day would have never ended," she wrote.

Three other Y Achievers were awarded $5,000 scholarships from BSE and FOX:
Ken'Dajah Chaplin-Green, Vance senior
Jewel Jeffries, West Charlotte senior
Selena Cortez, West Mecklenburg junior

See Amanda's interview:

Photo: Charlotte Bobcats

Read more here:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cornelius Boy Scouts sow seeds of good will at garden

Boy Scouts from Troop 72 recently planted vegetables at the community garden across from Bethel Church in Cornelius.

Photos courtesy of Lori Owens

The church charters the troop.

The troop has been tending the garden for the past three years, and gives its produce to Loaves & Fishes food pantries in Davidson and Huntersville, and Angels & Sparrows and Bread of Life soup kitchens, said Lori Owens, the communications director for the troop.

Owens said that for the past two years, the troop has produced about 4,500 pounds of produce each year. This spring, the scouts planted tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupe, corn, watermelon and okra. There's also an area for herbs on the quarter-acre plot. 

And at the request of soup kitchens, the scouts learned how to grow garlic last fall, which they'll harvest in this month and in June.

The troop also participates in the annual Scouting for Food drive, which helps local Loaves & Fishes pantries. 

The troop, along with Cub Scout Pack 72, collected more than 11,000 pounds of canned food this past February for the drive.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Catching up on Rebecca Combs


I featured Rebecca Combs, a senior at Providence, this March for the Young Achievers page. Rebecca has cerebral palsy but doesn't let that stop her from excelling in school and leading a full, active teenage life.

I recently heard from her as she's wrapping up her senior year. 

Rebecca decided she'll be attending the University of Alabama in the fall. She got straight As for the third quarter and is now prepping for AP exams next week. 

This weekend, she got her prom dress. "It's so exciting!" she wrote in an email.

Rebecca was nominated for the Presidential Scholars Award, but did not receive it. "I'm just proud to have been nominated," she said.  "All in all, things are going wonderfully for me."