The importance of reading

United Way banquet stresses literacy, honors former school board member
May. 28, 2014 @ 07:39 PM

The reigning Miss North Carolina is working on her master’s degree to become a certified public accountant.

But she can recall a time when higher education was not certain for her.

“I vividly remember my teacher calling on me and asking me to read the excerpt and tell the class what I had just read,” Johna Edmonds said. “Well, I couldn’t do that, and I quickly learned that I couldn’t read with comprehension.”

At the United Way of Vance County’s annual meeting, Edmonds explained why her personal platform promotes youth literacy and why she supports the organization’s new reading initiative.

“I wanted to have endless opportunities, but I knew that, in order to reach any goal, I had to be able to read,” said Edmonds, whose visit was sponsored by Matthew and Jessica Todd.

Outgoing United Way President Cindy Faulkner said the organization adopted a reading initiative last year in light of the state’s new Read to Achieve law, which requires third-grade students demonstrate reading proficiency before moving on to fourth grade.

She said Vance County’s low graduation rate, which was released last August, also contributed to their decision to launch the initiative. Only 64.9 percent of students in the four-year period beginning in 2009 graduated from Vance County public high schools. The state average for the same period was 82.5 percent.

“With regards to our campaign, it has been a very successful year,” Faulkner said.

At the annual meeting, Bob Fleming was presented with the United Way’s first Sam Watkins Visionary Award. Watkins died in February.

“Our board of directors voted to establish this award as a way of saying thank you to Sam for staying the course in so many worth while efforts in our community,” said Michele Burgess, who is on the board.

Fleming served on the Vance County Board of Education for eight years, and he was chairman of the board for two years.

He is the vice president and attorney for Barnett Properties, a commercial real estate firm based in Henderson. He received the Citizen of the Year award in 2000.

“I don’t come close to measuring up to the standards Sam set,” he said. “When you look around, you see evidence of Sam’s vision and his persistence and his hard work, along with his brother George, in getting many things accomplished in this community, and we can all use that as a guide for us.”

During the annual meeting, a new board of directors and officers were voted in.

Burgess, Diane Finch, Tommy Haithcock, Heather Hughes, Heidi Owen and Charles Worth are the 2014-2015 board of directors.

Haithcock is the new president, Matthew Todd is the first vice president, Terri Hedrick is the second vice president, and Owen is the secretary and treasurer.

“The future is not bright for third-graders who can’t read,” Haithcock said. “We are talking about kids who have absolutely nothing to read in their homes. I am asking the community to support us.”


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