Dear CPN…

Dear Charleston Promise Neighborhood,

It’s hard to believe that this year has come to a close.  We have had the wonderful opportunity to meet some amazing people in our  Charleston community.  Our year of service was spent developing relationships and a greater understanding for those who are near and dear to our hearts.

We can remember coming to Charleston last July and driving around learning about our neighborhood schools.  We toured Mary Ford, Chicora, Sanders-Clyde, and James Simons.  Each school was so unique and had their own personality.  We soon learned to love each one and their uniqueness.  Over the course of the year, we worked closely with the site coordinators and most importantly, bonded with the children.

Through the afterschool program, we were able to spend time one-on-one with numerous children through tutoring and enrichment.  We were also able to participate as reading partners which allowed us to form close relationships with our students even more.  Through this program, both of our students were able to achieve their grade levels in reading by the end of the year.  We are forever grateful for these times and hope to see these children as they take on the world.

Charleston Promise allowed us to grow personally and professionally.  We are now able to walk away with experience in education and working in a non-profit.  This was a huge advantage since both of us come from a background in biology.  It was amazing to see the overlay between the scientific field and the education sector.  We hope that we can take these experiences and bring a new perspective to our future endeavors.

As we leave this season, and journey on to the next stage in life, we hope to take these memories with us.  We hope to have left an impact on the community we served and this organization.  We will always remember this time as a period of growth, maturity, and gratitude for our neighbors.  We truly believe that our students will be the example of transformation within a generation.

-Bree Williams and Ashton Basar


Mapping Out A Social Studies Summer Plan

2014 SS Bowl
Our students participating in the annual Social Studies Bowl.

Our students at Mary Ford are attending CPN sponsored field trips every Friday this summer that immerse them in Charleston’s rich, historic culture. Social Studies often gets placed on the backburner during summer learning programs, but not at Mary Ford! By experiencing some of Charleston’s historic landmarks, such as the William Aiken House, our students are beating the summer slide and getting ready to leap into the new school year eager to learn more!


Charleston is no doubt rich in history, but many ways to learn about it are catered to tourists willing to pay top dollar. Charleston Promise Neighborhood is dedicated to helping move the summer learning slide to a more lateral level, and incorporating Social Studies Education opportunities is a large component of that. Here are three free ways to help ensure your child stays engaged with Social Studies this summer!

  1. Create a “Summer Passport”: Whether you are going on vacation or to the grocery store, helping your child learn about passports and travel can be fun and important. Creating this DIY passport will be a great educational tool, and at the end of summer, you and your child can look back and have a homemade memory book to reminisce on and keep! Here is a link to a free printable to complete your passport, or if you are feeling very creative, you can compile one organically from scratch! http://www.heathercarson.net/summer-fun-and-a-freebie/
  2. Map the House: GPS devices are certainly very helpful, but nothing will ever replace an actual map. Map reading skills are tested in South Carolina, and are also a vital part of the Social Studies learning experience. Have your child create a map of their room or the house. Simply drawing it is a great lesson, and to really kick it up a notch, they can draw a map of the house or yard leading to a special treasure they have hidden for you. Allowing them to think about the layouts geographically challenges their minds in a new way. All you need is some paper and markers! X marks the spot!
  3. Try New Foods: While you and your child are creating a grocery list for the week (click here to read about this math lesson), try incorporating a dish or meal from a new culture you all have never tried. Experiencing a new culture through taste-testing is a terrific way to facilitate a conversation in your family about the differences in cultures. You could even listen to music from the culture’s food you are trying. To add a local element to this lesson, try this amazing Gullah dish! The Gullah culture is a unique and rich portion of Charleston, and this dish will bring full bellies and happy smiles to your Social Studies incorporation! http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gullah-rice

You do not have to break the bank or even leave your home to give your child a cultural experience this summer. These ideas are only launching points from which to engage your entire family in Social Studies this summer. The investment now will reap a great payoff in the fall, when your child is ready to learn new material instead of relearning lessons you have already covered!

To learn more about how you can help send our Neighborhood students on culturally enriching field trips and experiences, join the Promise and click here.


Experimenting with Summer Science

Our Mary Ford students are beating the heat this summer by staying engaged with academic enrichment and field trips! From a trip to the beach to a train ride to Kingstree, our students are not only learning about science this summer…they are experiencing it! We strive to implement science throughout the year in our schools with fieldtrips to Boeing, and the amazing Camp Blackbaud. Learning these 21st Century Skills is more important now than ever. To find out how to capture that S.T.E.A.M heat this summer in your own home, keep reading!

To say that Charleston gets hot in the summer would be a complete understatement! With temperatures hovering in the triple digits at times, it can be tempting to want to stay in and cool off in front of the TV. There are ways, however, to use the heat as a terrific learning tool. Weather is one of the baselines of science, and teaching your children about it can be a fun experience. Here are three free (and fun) ways to beat the science learning loss this summer!

  1. Ice Melting Experiment: Freeze a small object like a penny or figurine into an ice cube (make at least 3). Set one out in the sun, put one in the shade, and put one inside. Compare the differences in the times it takes for each one to melt. If you are feeling competitive, take the ice cubes and have a contest to see who can make their ice cube melt the fastest by rubbing it between their hands. Talk about how water can be a solid, liquid, or gas, and how and why it melts/freezes/evaporates. Science and a game? Everyone wins!
  2. Ice Paintings: Take an ice cube tray and fill it with water. Add food coloring to different trays, and place a popsicle stick in each cube. Put the tray in the freezer until completely frozen, then take the cubes out by the popsicle stick. On white paper, use the cubes just as you would a paintbrush. The food coloring in the ice will create a watercolor-like picture. This activity is great and fun for all ages! It incorporates sensory learning for the little ones, and kinesthetic science for the older children. You also have beautiful art to hang in your home, once the pictures dry!
  3. Pizza Box Solar Oven: S’mores are a summer staple, but in Charleston, it can be too hot to safely get a campfire burning. Turning a pizza box into a solar powered oven is a safe and fun way to make s’mores, bake an egg, or even bake some clay! Energy is tricky to teach since it can’t be harnessed in a tangible way, but allowing children to experience its power through sources such as this is a lasting (and delicious) way to teach those principals. Directions for this activity can be found here: http://www.perkinselearning.org/activity-bank/create-solar-powered-oven-out-pizza-box

There are plenty of opportunities to beat the heat and the science learning loss this summer. Science is not always stressed as being important to reinforce at home, but the more your child can be immersed in it, the more they will find it interesting to learn about. Creating these sparks early on can lead to careers in the science and technology fields, as well as better academic performance during the school year.

To find out how you can support our efforts to put even more STEAM and 21st Century Skills in all of our schools, join the Promise and click here. 



Adding Math into Your Summer Schedule

The Summer Slide. It sounds like fun, right? Unfortunately, this term refers to learning loss that students experience during the summer months. Statistics report that students can lose up to 2/3 of what they previously learned if they are not actively engaged in these gap months. Our Neighborhood students at Mary Ford are tackling the Summer Slide statistic by engaging in a summer program at their school that focuses on academics, while incorporating fun, summer elements. Strategic field trips, in addition to focused study time in the morning, will help our students retain what they learned this past year, while setting them up for a successful new year in August.

With summer learning programs costing on average $288 per week, families who are unable to afford this are automatically at a disadvantage. Not every school can offer a summer program at no cost to their families, like the one we have at Mary Ford. So, how do we combat this? Incorporating learning in organic ways at home is a great solution. The best part about this is that it is absolutely free to do! Each day this week, Charleston Promise Neighborhood will share tips on integrating different subjects into your summer schedules at home.

Math Monday kicks this series off! Researchers say that most children lose around 1.8 months of math content in the 10 weeks they are out for summer break. With math being at the forefront of technology and global competitiveness, it is vital for us to implement strategies to keep our children engaged in the learning and problem solving skill sets that accompany mathematics. Here are three (free) ways to help keep your child from plunging down the math slide.

  1. Estimate Grocery Store Costs: Not only is this a great tool for estimation, but budgeting is a powerful life skill that is key to teach early on. Sit down and write out your grocery list with your child. Then, go through and estimate the cost of each item. Multiples of certain items will require addition or multiplication skills. Any coupons are a great way to talk about fractions, decimals, and subtraction! Once you estimate the list by individual items, add the total up. Once you complete your shopping, compare the difference between your estimation and the actual cost.
  2. Bake Together: Baking is one of the most mathematical tasks we complete each day. Measurements, timing, and geometry all play roles in this fun activity. Whether you are baking breakfast biscuits, or cookies for dessert, following a simple recipe is an easy way to incorporate math into your day. For a real challenge, try doubling (or tripling) the recipe! Adding fractions is best learned through real-life applications…the taste-testing is just an added bonus! If your child is younger and not ready to tackle fractions, have them count out chocolate chips for the cookies or blueberries for the biscuits.
  3. Geometry Scavenger Hunt: This is a great outdoor game that can easily be adapted for a rainy afternoon as well! Take a walk around your neighborhood or to the nearest park and see who can find a square, triangle, circle, rhombus, and cylinder first. For older children, you can beef it up by seeing who can find a right angle, acute angle, obtuse angle, and a line first. When a famous Charleston afternoon thunderstorm hits, try the scavenger hunt inside your home.

Any activity you can do with your child to foster critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning will help. Combatting the summer slide is crucial to preventing those learning barriers your child and their teacher will statistically encounter the first few months of school. Challenging your child to think beyond the screen during the summer is critical to their learning process…. sneaking it in through a fun activity is just an added bonus to them, and you!

To learn more about how you can join the Promise and help more local students combat summer learning loss , click here.


Bridging the Opportunity Gap

The Ravenel Bridge is the quintessential Charleston landmark. Defining the Holy City’s skyline, this bridge represents a much deeper connection than simple transportation. We witnessed the bridge represent a new age of growth when it opened to the public in 2005. Each April, we see it represent symbols of athleticism as thousands embark on its 2.7-mile stretch in the annual run. In June of 2015, the entire world watched as both sides of the bridge filled with people coming together to show that love conquers all, and the bridge became an international symbol of unity.

Some, however, see the bridge as a great divide. Splitting Charleston County, the east end of the bridge takes you to Mt. Pleasant; a town known for its planned communities, complete with outstanding public schools. The west end of the bridge takes you into the upper peninsula area of Charleston. This neighborhood is marked by generational poverty, with 58% of residents in this area living at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

How can a few miles of river and bridge divide two towns by what seems to be oceans apart?

Charleston is a city filled with history, charm, and unity. No single community in our area wants to appear as the “Haves”, and certainly no neighborhood wants to appear as, or live like the “Have-Nots”. What can be done about this? How do we bridge the gap that the Ravenel Bridge seems to represent? How do we ensure that the next generation of Charlestonian children grow up with equal opportunities to continue to make this the “Number 1 City in America”?

Often times, children living in poverty are generalized into either the problem or the victims. Charleston Promise Neighborhood aims to make the child the solution by investing in them as a whole to give each one the tools necessary for graduation and beyond. Viewing each child in our Neighborhood as a catalyst for change empowers them as individuals, their families, and in turn will empower the entire community of Charleston.

This investment is broken down into three different components.

  1. School-Based Health Care; Charleston Promise Neighborhood has partnered with MUSC to put KidsWell school-based health clinics in our Neighborhood schools. In these clinics, students can be treated at school to ensure they are getting quality health care, to reduce their out-of-class time, and to decrease out-of-work time for parents. The KidsWell team screens students for visual, dental, and hearing issues within the first nine weeks of school to ensure any issues are addressed early on, thus preventing learning barriers.
  2. Expanded Learning Time; Charleston Promise Neighborhood helps provide afterschool enrichment opportunities to our students, ranging from academic support, to dance lessons, to boat-making. Students enrolled in these programs also receive dinner on site, so five days a week, our students are getting three meals a day. Our afterschool programs also allow for parents to work more traditional shifts, in turn allowing for more time together at home.
  3. Community Engagement; Charleston Promise Neighborhood engages residents to stand hand in hand as neighbors in this fight. We bring the table, and offer up seats to anyone who wants their voice to be heard. This empowerment helps create a better sense of community and also allows us to focus on areas we are needed. (To read about our most recent Community and Parent Engagement events, click here)

Transformation within a generation. That is our aim. On the surface, our mission is to ensure that our residents are engaged in their community and that every child is on track to graduate and prosper. The bigger picture spans greater than the 2.7 mile divide. Bridging the opportunity and economic gaps is within our reach. Investing in these children to create a better, more united community is the only solution. If we are already the Number 1 City in America, think of what we could accomplish if the weight of generational poverty in the heart of our city disappeared. Join us, and join the Promise today.





Wednesday, June 15th, Charleston Promise Neighborhood collaborated with The Upper Peninsula Initiative, The Sustainability Institute, BoomTown!, Enough Pie and Loving America Street to give our Residents an opportunity to gather, fellowship, and hear about exciting progress within The Neighborhood. It is vitally important to keep open lines of communication with our Residents, because the bottom line is that they are the very fabric of our community. As a nonprofit, we are always interested in hearing what they need from us, and events like this are the perfect way to find out.

This event gave us an opportunity to sit down at the dinner table with our Residents and hear how we can best serve them; person to person. It also gave other organizations and businesses a way to introduce themselves to the Neighborhood. When Residents are able to express concerns, share ideas, and convey local traditions, newcomers to the area are not only more well-received, but they become immersed in the uniqueness of that community in an authentic way.

The highlight of the evening was the amazing food prepared by a neighborhood resident, known to the entire community as Mr. Townsend. Conversing over a delicious meal about how we can work arm-in-arm to move mountains to make the Upper Peninsula a better place to live became that much more personal as they shared his food with everyone.

The children let the adults do the talking, while they worked with Enough Pie to complete art crafts, play basketball, and jump on the bounce castle. BoomTown! introduced themselves to the Neighborhood and even offered free coding classes at their new facilities for the residents. Loving America Street presented information about Laundry Matters and the myriad of services they offer. The evening truly was special, and everyone took the extra food over to Our Lady of Mercy Neighborhood House Soup Kitchen when it was over.

As we continue our fight to break the cycle of poverty and see “transformation within a generation,” sustainability of our Neighborhood is at the forefront of our minds. The Unity in Community is so important, because we can accomplish so much more together.

You too can join the Promise and be a part of this positive change. Visit our website at www.charlestonpromise.org to find out how to volunteer or to make a donation to make more community events like this one possible.



Family Literacy Night: Food, Fun & Fellowship in The Neighborhood

On May 19th, Charleston Promise Neighborhood hosted a Family Literacy Night at Mary Ford Elementary. This 21st Century Learning Community Event was a collaboration between Charleston Promise Neighborhood and Reading Partners. Over 150 residents attended to learn about summer reading loss prevention, Extending Learning Time programs, and financial literacy (thanks to our friends from BB&T). It was a fantastic way to end the school year!

The evening began with presentations from Reading Partners. They generously provided summer reading backpacks with supplemental materials inside. The bags were catered to each child based on grade level; each one containing on-level books and an additional challenging one. Reading coaches from the school taught classrooms full of parents how to use the supplies inside the bags. They also explained an exciting summer challenge for the students that, if completed, will result in a special prize at the beginning of the school year.

After the briefing on summer reading, parents and students went to the cafeteria to see demonstrations from all Extended Learning Time enrichment programs. Extending Learning Time is a Charleston Promise Neighborhood initiative in all four of our schools that gives children the opportunity to discover their passions through extra-curricular activities at no cost to their families. We have bi-annual Show What You Know (SWYK) presentations at each school to showcase these newfound talents and interests, and combining Mary Ford’s SWYK with Family Literacy Night proved to be a successful collaboration.

There were nine Extending Learning Time partners that presented, and our friends from BB&T had the banking bus parked outside. A Smart Move had a physical fitness station set up outside to demonstrate the benefits of staying active. Research shows that students who get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day make better grades, so programs like this are dually important to implement in our schools. Bricks 4 Kids had a table to show parents why it is important to implement kinesthetic science and engineering lessons into fun activities like LEGOS and robotics building. Corpus Collosum teaches the spirit of entrepreneurship, and their group sold delicious milkshakes. DanceED put on ballet and tap performances that had the audience dancing in their seats, and R3 recited their mantra for the entire crowd about being confident, goal-oriented, and determined. Palmeto Brush Art not only displayed works from throughout the semester, but also had each visitor to their table paint a square on a canvas. The end result was absolutely beautiful! The Sweetgrass Basket table had displays of beautiful craftsmanship in truly stunning and impressive baskets and flowers. Capoeria Charleston finished out the SWYK portion of the evening by performing the Brazilian-inspired dancing duels, complete with flips, kicks, and handstands!

The BB&T Banking bus was set up outside to help students and their families learn about goal setting, the importance of saving, and financial literacy. They also offered free credit checks to our residents. We loved having BB&T be part of this special evening!

As the students were handed their bags for the summer from Reading Partners and CPN, Jim ‘N’ Nicks handed out 150 delicious boxed dinners to our residents. Everyone left with full book bags, full bellies, and full of joy as the evening was a wonderful time of learning, performing, and fellowshipping in The Neighborhood!