by Justin Vick

Diane Means believes the after-school program at the Ada Jenkins Center should serve as an extension of what students learn during the instructional day.

She’s excited about a $300,000 endowment established by the Cato Corporation that will provide 16 United Way agencies, including the Ada Jenkins Center, access to training to support at-risk children.

The center’s LEARN Works after-school program supports at-risk students at Bailey Middle, as well as Cornelius, Davidson and J.V. Washam elementary schools. It helps build academic achievement, character and social skills in children whose families may struggle with overcoming financial and language barriers.

Jane McIntyre, executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas, said training will better equip agencies to help with homework, engage parents and understand how to support the whole child.

Means is particularly interested in engaging parents, particularly on topics such as the state’s transition from the N.C. Standard Course of Study to a curriculum known as the Common Core.

“This will provide access for training on current topics that will keep us up to date on the students we serve,” Means said. “It’s hard to make a difference when you don’t know what’s expected of students.”

Means envisions her staff sharing information with parents about how the change to the state curriculum will affect their children’s progress.

Leveraging training among the 16 agencies also lends itself to information sharing. Ada Jenkins staff can learn from what other agencies have tried.

Other agencies benefiting from the grant include:

A Child’s Place, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, Mecklenburg Boy Scout Council Care Ring, Charlotte Speech and Hearing, Child Care Resources Inc., Communities in Schools Council for Children’s Rights, Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council, The Learning Collaborative, Right Moves for Youth, Urban League of Central Carolinas, YMCA and YWCA.

Want to know more?

• The United Way of Central Carolinas supports 87 agencies in Anson, Cabarrus, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Mooresville/Lake Norman and Union. Details: www.uwcentralcarolinas.org.

• The Ada Jenkins Center’s LEARN Works program is always in need of volunteers. Details: 704-896-0471 or www.adajenkins.org.