Albemarle Parks and Rec receives award from Carolina Regional Council for remote learning center

Published 3:25 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2021

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The Centralina Regional Council awarded the City of Albemarle’s Parks and Recreation department one of three COVID-19 Resiliency Awards for its formation of the remote learning center at the E.E. Waddell Community Center.

Originally the brain child of Brent Kirven, community programs supervisor with AP&R, the Waddell Center first began offering academic assistance to students, mainly in middle school, last September once it got approval from the city council and school system. At that point, students were still rotating between in-person and online instruction.

At the program’s highest point, from around September to December, as many as 25 students were enrolled in the center in a given week, according to Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Kiser.

Though the learning program was available to any students in the county, Kiser said, the focus was for students that lived around the Waddell Center or were in public housing.

“We received lots of positive feedback from Albemarle Middle School and Central Elementary School on how well their kids were doing, how their attendance was on Zoom/Google Meets and how they were really excelling in their classes during this time,” Kiser said.

Set up with hours resembling a traditional school day, middle students were in virtual classes throughout the morning followed by lunch, often provided by local restaurants, and then physical activities and games in the afternoon. Waddell Center also provided a three-hour after-school program for elementary students.

Albemarle Parks and Recreation received a $31,300 CARES grant award last year to help financially support the learning center.

The goals of the center, according to Kiser, were to support students in their learning along with providing a structured environment, a means of socialization and physical and recreational activities to help reduce stress.

“I’d definitely say we achieved all those plus some,” she said.

And to the best of her knowledge, Kiser said this is the first time the city has received an award from CRC, which used to be the Centralina Council of Governments, so “it’s a huge deal for us.”

Kiser spoke before council about the award at a recent city council meeting, even passing the plaque to individual council members.

“As Parks and Recreation, we work together as a team, so when one person, one program, one division, one location wins the award, we all win the award because we all support each other,” Kiser said.

But while the award is nice, Kiser said she’s most grateful for the “impact that we had on the students and the relationship and partnership that we built with the school system.”

“When they say it takes a village, we definitely rallied around as a village to support these children during this time,” Kiser told council.

CRC announced the recipients of the Region of Excellence Awards in a virtual ceremony.

Presented annually, the awards recognize individuals, communities and organizations for achievements in support of Centralina’s mission to expand opportunity and improve quality of life in the nine-county region that includes Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties.

An independent panel of judges reviewed the 44 applications and selected the award winners.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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