New Education Foundation director aims to help teachers
Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 8:09 am
CONCORD, N.C. — With budgets tight, teachers need all the help they can get. One resource is the Cabarrus County Education Foundation, which just hired its first full-time employee, new executive director Rachel Wilkes.
Wilkes is in charge of helping raise money to give grants to teachers, to help them in classrooms. Last year, Cabarrus County Education Foundation gave $14,000 in “mini-grants” to 31 teachers, Wilkes said.
“I want to grow this to a point where the school system can know they can come to us and propose that they need some help, whether it be manpower, or finances, because it’s something they can’t take on themselves,” Wilkes said.
Based in the Cabarrus County Schools Education Center at 4401 Old Airport Road, Concord, Wilkes is the only employee hired since the Cabarrus County Education Foundation formed in 2001. The program was created by the late Roy Davis, of S&D Coffee and Grace Mynatt, who is a former Cabarrus County commissioner and former Cabarrus County Schools Board of Education member.
“They were close friends, and they realized there was a gap between what was being covered in the schools and what they thought should be covered, and the support for teachers,” Wilkes said.
For years, the foundation had been run by a volunteer board, but eventually officials realized they needed to have at least one dedicated staff member to the program.
“Over the years I have been lucky to have been involved in several new initiatives and it has been my experience that there comes a time in the evolution of an organization, that a formal management arrangement is crucial,” said Mynatt. “This is that time.”
For Wilkes, her career with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation comes after working with the Cabarrus Arts Council. She attributes her love for culture to her life growing up with a military family.
She went to Winthrop University for her Masters in Arts Administration and graduated in 2012 having published a thesis on non-profit enterprises.
She has had an internship at the Newberry Opera House and worked with the Eastman Music Festival in Greensboro. She came to Cabarrus County in June 2012 after her advisor at Winthrop suggested the area, saying it was very supportive on non-profits.
Now, Wilkes is starting the next chapter of her career, working with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation.
Her primary responsibility is finding donors and raising funds to help the school system. She also wants to develop a scholarship program for students who would be the first person in their family to attend college.
As the first executive director in the history of the Cabarrus County Education Foundation, Wilkes knows she has a lot of work ahead of her.
So, what’s it been like since landing the position of the organization’s first executive director?
“Frightening and exciting, and I range from being very overwhelmed,” she said. “At the end of the day the more I wrap my arms around this organization the more I fall in love with its projects and people.”
And a good chunk of Wilkes’ $67,000 annual budget goes toward awarding grants to teachers, with grants ranging from $250 to $500.
Wilkes is already organizing a fundraiser luncheon for Wednesday, Sept. 17 at the Speedway Club.
She said there’s a lot of work ahead of her, but volunteers with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation keep her motivated in helping fund projects in the school system.
“It’s inspiring to be around community members that aren’t being paid, that their sole drive is they just believe the need is there,” Wilkes said “And they are going to do whatever it takes to fill it.”
Anyone wanting to help the Cabarrus County Education Foundation can make checks payable to the organization and send them to P.O. Box 388, Concord N.C. 28026. You can also visit www.ccefnc.org to make donations online.