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Originally published: 2012-06-14 14:03:04
Last modified: 2012-06-14 14:03:43

Support for Avery YO! — Just one click away

Sherrie Norris / (news@averyjournal.com)

For Jennifer Woodruff, serving as the director of Avery Youth Opportunities is as much a personal honor as it is professional.

“It seems that my life has come full circle,” she said. “My family has benefited from some of WAMY's programs through the years and now, I am able to help give back by helping provide some of that same kind of assistance to others.”

The afterschool program she leads, more commonly known as Avery YO!, is one of the many programs sponsored by WAMY Community Action Inc., — designed to positively impact the lives of elementary and middle school students and to encourage their potential for success through a variety of activities and experiences.

With concerns that Avery YO! is facing a 40-percent cut in funding next year, “due to reductions in federal and foundations grants,” she said, Woodruff is making it her personal mission to protect the future of the program. She is hoping for community support in a unique effort that will help sustain it for the foreseeable future.

Woodruff is asking readers to join her in supporting a current opportunity the program has been given to win a $50,000 community grant through Cultivate Wines.

“We are currently competing with 29 other nonprofit organizations for $50,000 through ‘The Give,’” she said, “which, if we win, will provide scholarships for 30 students to attend Avery YO! At a cost of $11 a day for five days a week, that’s 30 weeks of participation and $500 to be used for supplies.”
Through “The Give,” Cultivate Wines donates the first ten cents of every dollar made through its products to nonprofits supporting education and basic human needs.

“The revolutionary twist,” the company described, “is that we do not direct the funds — instead, nonprofits submit their cause and we allow customers to vote on our website, with a goal to allow customers to express their values through their purchases, which means they need a voice in determining where the money goes.”

Cultivate gives away $100,000 per quarter to nonprofits, via the democratic voting system. The winner receives $50,000 and the five runners-up will each receive $10,000.

To help Woodruff and the students in her program, through the end of June, click to Cultivate's website ( http://www.cultivatewines.com/give), scroll to "Avery YO!: Youth Development in Rural NC" and follow the prompts. To participate, you must be enrolled in Facebook.

Users will know their vote has gone through when the "vote for this" button they clicked has turned gray.

Avery YO! offers additional educational opportunities to at-risk youth after regular school hours, during the 3 to 6 p.m. timespan, Woodruff said, “when it is more likely for adolescents to engage in risk-taking behaviors if left in an unsafe or unsupervised environment.”

Not only are the students in a safe place with caring leaders, they are in a program, she said, that focuses on cultivating healthy lifestyles through arts and culture exposure, physical fitness planning, energy conservation awareness and community involvement.

“Students not only receive homework assistance, tutoring and academic remediation,” she said, “they are also benefiting from the additional mentoring services provided by our partnership with the Appalachian State University education department, along with plenty of hands-on activities through the 4-H curriculum, guest speakers, and more.”

Woodruff can barely contain her own excitement as she describes how the students are getting energized and active, and learning to master ultimate challenges, “especially through the new and exciting ‘Survivor: The Ultimate After School Adventure’ and learning and exploring by designing, creating and experiencing the world of technology through the use of computers and cameras,” she said. “We are working together and continually growing smarter, healthier and making a positive difference in our community.”

Woodruff takes seriously her responsibility to direct the program, its staff and to coordinate collaborative efforts with several partnering agencies.

“We are all committed to teaching, nurturing and encouraging the whole student to grow in a safe, caring setting — and all within the strict guidelines of the N.C. Child Development Division,” she said.
Receiving her diploma from Avery High in 2005, Woodruff went on to graduate magna cum laude with a double major in sociology and psychology from Lees-McRae College.

With an interest in nonprofit management, she was “fortunate,” she said, to complete two internships with WAMY during her senior year of college.

To be a part of “creating opportunities for individuals in our communities,” she said, is one thing. “But, to help them become more self-sufficient, which in turn, strengthens the communities, in general, makes it all worthwhile.”

It’s much the same with the success of Avery YO!, which was created with the student in mind and the tools to help them realize their success as productive individuals in their communities.

Avery YO! is available to all Avery County kindergarten through eighth grade students at all of the county’s elementary schools and at the middle school.

Fees are based on a sliding scale, depending on family size, income and academic eligibility with limited academic scholarships available each school year.

The program operates from the time of dismissal until 6 p.m. and follows the annual school calendar; extended care on early dismissal days is also provided.

For more information about the Avery YO! Afterschool Program, call Woodruff at (828) 737-0057 or click to http://www.wamycommunityaction.org.

In addition to the continuous support of WAMY Community Action Inc., Avery YO! is also made possible by Avery County 4-H, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Avery County, Avery County Schools and High Country United Way.