Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Five Community Non-Profits Visit WCE in November

Monday, January 27, 2014

HeartsApart.org sharing their work with WCE students

Five community agencies visited the Watson College of Education in November as the fall initiative, “Connecting the Community Non-Profits with Student Learning and Outreach,” coordinated by WCE outreach liaison Deloris Rhodes and WCE faculty continued. The agencies that shared their work with WCE students include HeartsApart.org, Interfaith Refugee Ministry, the Harrelson Center, Communities in Schools, and the Centre of Redemption.

HeartsApart.Org, Military Photography

Joanne Nottingham, Leadership Studies – Nov. 5

Students minoring in Leadership Studies at UNCW have a long tradition of supporting non-profits that serve military families, and this fall LED class 311 welcomed Mary Heath of HeartsApart.org to campus.

HeartsApart.org provides soon to be deployed U.S. servicemen and women with photographs of their spouses and children. The agency was created in Wilmington in 2010 by world-renowned photographer Brownie Harris and Castle Branch CEO Brett Martin to honor the Armed Forces and keep families connected during times of separation.

Since 2001, 2.5 million U.S. men and women have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. An estimated 400,000 service members have been deployed three or more times. North Carolina, with six major military installations, is home to the fourth largest military population in the nation. Over the past 12 years, tens of thousands of families in the state have faced painful separations as N.C. has experienced the largest deployment of military personnel since World War II.

HeartsApart.org provides professional photography sessions free of charge, and gives soldiers a waterproof bi-fold card of their favorite family images to carry in their pocket while deployed.

In just over three years, the agency has grown from a local start-up to a national organization, assembling a network of 200 professional photographers in 46 states to assist with the effort. Their website features a gallery with hundreds of photos under the headlines “Portraits of Honor” and “Portraits of Courage.” According the Heath, HeartsApart.com’s commitment is simple. “As long as servicemen and women are in harm’s way and separated from their families we will be taking pictures.”

Opportunities for Students

HeartsApart.org relies on professional volunteers for photography, makeup and hair and wardrobe styling but they are also planning more large events like one held at Camp Lejeune where 42 families were photographed over the course of two days. Many volunteers are needed at these events.  For information visit www.heartsapart.org

Interfaith Refugee Ministry sharing their work with WCE StudentsInterfaith Refugee Ministry - Wilmington

Eleni Pappamihiel, English as a Second Language – Nov. 13

Sara Pascal, sub-office coordinator for the Interfaith Refugee Ministry (IRM) addressed a class of secondary education majors at WCE in November. Pascal began by asking students if they had encountered refugees from Burma in their work in the community. One mentioned Burmese students at New Hanover High School where he was interning, and another said a Burmese family recently moved into a nearby apartment.

Approximately 70,000 refugees escaping persecution in their home countries resettle in the United States every year but refugees are still relatively new to the Wilmington area. The IRM office opened in Wilmington in 2010, and Pascal said the agency has resettled 225 refugees from Burma in the greater Wilmington area since that time. Agency services include helping families secure affordable housing, assisting with school enrollments and job applications, and connecting people with resources needed to rebuild their lives. 

Refugee families face a steep learning curve as they assimilate to a new location and culture. Often, language barriers must be overcome as well. North Carolina is now a gateway state and more refugees are arriving who do not speak any English. Pascal says this poses particular challenges for students because many schools in New Hanover and surrounding counties do not yet have resources in place to accommodate student needs. In the meantime, IRM-W is trying to fill the gap, working with churches, organizations and individual volunteers who can provide the intensive English language instruction students and families need.

Opportunities for Students

Interfaith Refugee Ministry needs volunteers to help mentor new families and tutor them in English. Volunteers are also needed to help with transportation, apartment set-up and other logistics. For information visit www.helpingrefugees.org or visit them on Facebook.

Harrelson Center, Communities in Schools and The Centre of Redemption

Konstantine Kyriacopoulos, Early Childhood Education – Nov. 20

Three agencies visited the Watson College in late November to share how they work together in service to the community. The Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center, called “A Center for Nonprofits,” provides a place of collaboration for community agencies in the region. Executive director Vicki Dull explained that while most non-profits have a specific mission, the Harrelson Center’s purpose is to provide umbrella services in support to other organizations. These services include the coordination of collaborative fundraising, education and shared expenses.

The Harrelson Center sharing their work with WCE Students Founded in 2005, the Harrelson Center is located in the old New Hanover County Detention Center building on North 4th Street. The center’s initial focus was renovating the structure.  Today, the building is home to 10 partner non-profits the agency helps to support with below-market rental rates, free utilities and a synergistic environment that fosters collaboration on projects and services in a way that allows them all to operate more efficiently.

The Harrelson Center’s goal is to eventually become rent-free and to provide services such as social media strategies that free up time for partner organizations to focus on their core missions. Currently the agency’s primary need is to raise awareness and attract financial support. For more information see story by Amanda Greene in the January issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine http://www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com/article.asp?aid=981&iid=124&sud=27 orvisit www.harrelsoncenter.org

Communities in Schools Cape Fear (CIS) is a Harrelson Center partner agency focused on dropout prevention. Executive director Louise Hicks provided an overview of the extensive array of services offered by CIS to area students and families. Programs include student mentoring and tutoring at the elementary, middle and high school levels; a Baby FASTÔ program to support teen parents with a goal of keeping both parents in school so they can build a better life; a summer reading program for students at nine area elementary schools, and the Wilmington Youth Center for Inspiration, Recreation and Education (WIRE) where CIS provides a safe environment and daily support to at-risk middle and high students and families.

CIS partners with targeted area schools including Williston Middle School, New Hanover High School, Laney High School and the Mary S. Mosley Performance Learning Center. They also provide services directly to students and families. During the 2012-13 school year, CIS provided free programs and supports to 13,120 area students. In addition, the agency sponsors programs such as Stuff the Bus, which in 2013 collected $70,000 worth of school supplies for students in need in our region.

Opportunities for Students

CIS needs volunteers to tutor and mentor students at the K-12 levels during the school day, after school and over the summer. The agency also needs volunteers to support promotional programs such as Stuff the Bus. For information visit www.ciscapefear.org

The Centre of Redemption

The Centre of Redemption (COR) is another agency affiliated with Harrelson Center. MaLisa Johnson, a former educator, created COR after learning that human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the U.S.  Johnson was even more surprised to learn that Wilmington is not immune to this offense. 

COR provides local outreach to women being trafficked for sex or labor. Their goal is to establish trust and connect local victims with the services they need. Specifically, the agency provides a toll-free anonymous hotline and tangible immediate support that includes food and transportation. COR also provides counseling and connects women to individuals in the community that can help effect a successful re-entry into society. 

Johnson said N.C. now has a safe harbor law that views women as trafficking victims, not criminals. She acknowledged this is a taboo topic but said the problem is very real and she’s beginning to build connections with people who want to help address it.

Opportunities for Students

The Centre of Redemption needs help spreading the word that the human trafficking problem exists in communities throughout the U.S., including Wilmington, and help raising awareness that their agency exists to combat this problem. For more information visit www.centerofredemption.com

Faculty and Students Talk about the Non-Profit Series

Following the presentations Konstantine Kyriacopoulos told students why he supported the Non-Profit series offered by WCE’s outreach office.  He said as a beginning teacher he didn’t understand why parents weren’t showing up for meetings and why students weren’t showing up for school. He said it was eye opening when he called the phone number for one mom and reached a homeless shelter. Kyriacopoulos advised students, “It’s important to build a knowledge base of community agencies.  You need to know who they are, where they’re located and what services they provide because you never know when you’ll need them.”

Kyriacopoulos’s remarks closely track the sentiments of WCE outreach liaison Deloris Rhodes.  When she first envisioned creating a series to bring community non-profit leaders into WCE classrooms Rhodes hoped to help broaden the horizons of pre-service teachers by showcasing both problems in the community and work underway to solve them.

The Community Non-Profit Series will continue in the spring semester.  For archived presentations and the spring schedule of events visit www.uncw.edu.ed/community