Helping kids find academic success through creativity

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Photos courtesy Carnegie Hall
Photos courtesy Carnegie Hall


As a child, I learned the value of hard work, education, and, most importantly, service to the community by watching my parents. Their everyday actions, from attending college while working full time and raising a family, to coaching Little League, checking on shut-ins and feeding neighborhood children, were community service personified. It is very clear to me how important good neighbors are to a child’s future and a community’s survival. Now, as the Executive Director of the United Way of the Greenbrier Valley, I witness this kind of support our community on a daily basis.

There are simple things we all need for a good life: basic needs like food and shelter; quality education that leads to a stable job; income that supports a family through retirement, and of course, good health. These are the building blocks for a good life. Lose any one of these and the rest can tumble away.

The United Way envisions a world where all individuals and families achieve their potential through education, income stability and healthy lives. We work to achieve these goals by bringing together the resources of the entire community to provide effective and comprehensive help to those in need. Through funding, administrative leadership and program assistance we support the efforts of over 30 local partner agencies working to advance the common good while creating a better life for all.

I want share with you some of the ways we see Neighbors Helping Neighbors in our community. Over the next several months, you’ll learn about our community’s goals in the areas of education, health, and basic needs and just how local folks are working to achieve these goals and shape our communities.

Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. One of our goals is to increase the high school completion rate in the Greenbrier Valley. However, we know we can’t focus on high school alone. High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting in the early childhood years. One of the programs that we support is Carnegie Kids’ College, offering funding for scholarships for those in need, making the summer program accessible to all.

Kids’ College is entering its 22nd year, offering dozens of arts and humanities classes to children during two weeks in July. Children can take up to five classes each day, choosing from a wide array including astronomy, baking, clay, mandolin, origami, and weaving. Classes are held on the campus of Carnegie Hall each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Leah Trent, education director for Carnegie Hall, believes that both children and instructors benefit from the small class size, usually only ten students. “This low student/teacher ratio allows our instructors time to interact with each child. Our large group of volunteers ensures that each child will have a great time learning!” Kids’ College courses are taught by an impressive faculty, who put in hours of preparation before the first day. Instructors pace their classes so that projects can be completed in just five days.

Susan Adkins, executive director of Carnegie Hall, knows firsthand how important it is to build confidence and academic success in young children. A former teacher with over 20 years’ experience teaching children in Greenbrier County, Susan expressed, “Kids’ College provides an opportunity for children to explore their creativity freely and without criticism or judgment. Study after study has proven children who have access to and participate in the arts are more successful in school and in life. It is a thrill to visit the Kids’ College classes and see every child actively engaged in the arts. We want every child who is interested to attend Kids’ College. Thanks to funding from our community, we are able to do just that.”

For more information on Carnegie Kids’ College, visit Enrollment forms and a list of all the classes are available on the website.

For more information about the United Way of Greenbrier Valley visit us at




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