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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

A Day at the North Carolina General Assembly with Student U

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

March 23, 2023

The halls are bustling at the North Carolina Legislative Building and offices as legislators and staff members continue their important work this session, including reviewing bills, drafting our next budget, and listening to constituents – like us – who’ve come to share what’s important to them.

On March 21st, Book Harvest team members, Isabel Geffner and Mary Mathew, had the opportunity to join our partners at Student U in Raleigh to advocate for funding that will allow our organizations, and 17 other nonprofits across the state, to continue promoting student’s learning recovery during school hours and in out-of-school time.

Student U and Book Harvest team members at the NC General Assembly

In particular, our goal was to encourage legislators to dedicate (a.k.a. appropriate) money for the Extended Learning and Integrated Support Services (ELISS) Grant Program in the next state budget. Approximately 20,000 North Carolina students were served by ELISS-supported initiatives in 2021-2022, and there is still much work to be done.

Book Harvest has used ELISS funding to support students in grades K – 5 to keep their learning alive after the disruption of COVID and the learning loss that followed. Over this past year, we brought three essential resources to over 5,000 students through our ELISS-supported RECONNECTING WITH READING program. Students across Durham received a bounty of brand new books to take home over the summer and keep forever. Many had access to completely refreshed and revitalized classroom libraries that kept reading an exciting and engaging activity. Others enjoyed evidence-based one-on-one tutoring to reinforce their learning.

Students said their reading skills improved, teachers reported their students were more excited to read, and parents said their children spent more time reading.

One teacher shared, “Most of our students do not have access to a variety of books at home. This was a great opportunity to have books that they can keep and enjoy.” A parent added, “Thank you for helping to make reading accessible and exciting to kids.”

Student U relies on ELISS funds to help provide comprehensive services delivered outside of the regular school day for first generation college-bound middle and high school students who are from low-income households. With ELISS funding support, 100% of Student U students have graduated from high school and 90% have enrolled in college within their first year after high school.

Student U staff member and alumni, TiVianna Webster, shared her personal story with legislators of what being involved in Student U has meant to her, and how she wants other youth to have the same experience. Other Student U colleagues who joined us included: Andrea Rodriguez, Connor Kirkfarmer, Elena Maina, Michelle Norwood, Michelle Price, and Pablo Friedmann. Learn more from Student U about why ELISS is needed and what can be done here.

Our gratitude goes to each of the legislators and their remarkable staff members who took time out of their busy schedules to listen, and do their part in sustaining this important resource for children and youth. Special shout outs to: Representative David Willis and his Legislative Assistant Jalynn McDonald, Senator Graig Meyer, Senator Jay Chauduri and his Legislative Assistant Peter DeBaugh, Representative John Torbitt and his Legislative Assistant Viddia Torbett, Representative Kevin Crutchfield, Representative Lindsey Prather, Senator Michael Lee’s Legislative Assistant Candace Bowden and Policy Assistant Alyssa Fizer, and Representative Terence Everett.

The best part of our day, you ask? It was working alongside our friends at Student U. We navigated the halls, shared ideas, asked questions, strategized, laughed over southern fried chicken in the cafeteria, and raised our voices together for children and youth. As someone shared at the end of the day, “We are family now!” Nothing really beats that.

The following nineteen organizations, representing seven of eight regions across our state, were recipients of ELISS funding in 2021-2022:

  1. Book Harvest

  2. Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County

  3. Communities in Schools of Brunswick County

  4. Communities in Schools of Buncombe County

  5. Communities in Schools of Cape Fear

  6. Communities in Schools of Durham

  7. Community in Schools, Granville County

  8. Communities in Schools of Montgomery County

  9. Communities in Schools of Randolph County

  10. Communities in Schools of Robeson County

  11. Communities in Schools of Wake County

  12. FBC-WCSA dba Charlotte Community Services Association, Mecklenburg

  13. FIRST North Carolina

  14. Legacy Mayfield Empowerment Center, Mecklenburg County

  15. McCloud’s Computer & Skills Training Center, Pitt County

  16. Student U

  17. The Excel Community Association of Alamance County

  18. United Way of Pitt County

  19. YMCA of the Triangle Area


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