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Education Equity & Youth Advocacy

According to the 2021 National County Health Rankings, “better educated individuals live longer, healthier lives than those with less education, and their children are more likely to thrive. This is true even when factors like income are taken into account”. Quality education helps to bolster many positive aspects of a person’s life, including their self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and marketable employment skills. Rural areas historically have underfunded educational infrastructure and many students can face access issues, such as transportation. In the 2015 – 2019 time period, Jackson County’s adult population included the following educational attainment: 28.6% high school graduation (or equivalent), 21.3% some college with 8% no degree, and 30.4% with a bachelor’s degree or higher (U.S. Census Bureau, Educational Attainment: ACS 5-Year Estimates, 2021). Sourced from Jackson County Community Health Assessment 2021 by the Department of Public Health. 

During the 2021-2022 school year, 56.8% of students in Jackson County public schools Did not demonstrate reading proficiency on the BOG3 Reading Test, the End-of-grade (EOG) Reading Test, or the EOG Reading Retest. There were also 17.5% of students with disabilities whose current Individualized Education Program (IEP) indicates the use of the NCEXTEND1 alternative assessment, have at least a two school-year delay in educational performance, or have received intensive reading interventions for at least two school years.

Listed below are organizations that have Youth Service & Education initiatives. Organizations with volunteer opportunities are notated. For all volunteer opportunities, visit the CCESL Engage page.

77 Jackson Street After School Program

Volunteer Opportunities Available

77 Jackson Street is a collaborative effort between Sylva First UMC and HIGHTS that offers a free community after school program for middle school students. The program consists of homework support, personal growth and skill building activities, and community experiences.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, Inc.

We believe that in each child there is a special spark that, when provided with inspiration and encouragement, will lead them to become a positive, productive citizen of our community and the world.

Blue Ridge School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Elementary school serving grades 1 - 6.

Boys & Girls Club of the Plateau

Volunteer Opportunities Available

To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Cullowhee Valley School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Cullowhee Valley School is a PreK-8 rural school located in Jackson County, a mile from Western Carolina University.  We believe every child has unique qualities that make him or her an important part of a bigger story.  Therefore, our mission is to provide a learning environment that celebrates and supports the individual, grows an awareness of connections between self and others, and provides skills that open and expand visions of future opportunities.

Fairview Elementary School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Fairview School is a K through 8th grade school.

Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Peidmont

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Serves girls K-12. Troops are located in Jackson and surrounding counties. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

Jackson County Community School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The Jackson Community School is an alternative school in Jackson County, North Carolina for grades K–12 which serves students who need a smaller setting to access scholastic success. It seeks to serve all students with individualized attention built on trauma informed practices and seeks to prepare all graduates for employment, enrollment, or enlistment.

Jackson County Public Library

Volunteer Opportunities Available

While providing free access to books and other materials, the library also offers special educational and recreational programs for children and adults. The library has a computer lab, Wi-Fi, 3D Printer, Analog to Digital conversion equipment, eResources, telescope, etc.

Volunteers may assist with shelving, shelf reading, book repair, and youth and adult programming, as well as other special projects. They may also help as a technology mentor; assisting patrons learn basic computer skills.

Language Enhancement Afterschool Program (LEAP)

Volunteer Opportunities Available

LEAP is an after-school program which provides English language learners with meaningful learning opportunities to better prepare them for school and life. LEAP staff believe strongly in the importance of working in partnership with families to support the academic and social development of their children and, therefore, also provide a multitude of parent engagement opportunities throughout the academic year, including bi-weekly English classes for parents.

Literacy and Learning Center

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The mission of The Literacy & Learning Center is to enrich lives and expand the knowledge of children, adults, and families through diverse educational programs that advance literacy in its many forms and to promote lifelong learning, which results in an informed and empowered community.


NCCAT helps North Carolina teachers grow in knowledge, skills, compassion, and professionalism so that students become engaged, self-motivated, and successful. Open year round, the Center offers NC teachers the opportunity to attend week-long residential professional development sessions.

Region A Partnership for Children

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Region A Partnership for Children (RAPC) serves families in the seven westernmost NC counties (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson Macon and Swain) and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. RAPC strives for regional and local collaboration among public, private and non-profit partners to build and maintain a comprehensive and integrated system of services for young children and their families. RAPC manages Smart Start, NC's early childhood initiative designed to ensure that young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed. Smart Start creates and supports high quality early care and education, health and family support services to promote integrated prevention and intervention for all children.

SCC Science Activation Program

The Science Activation program is a cooperative network of competitively-selected teams from across the Nation working with NASA infrastructure activities to to share NASA science with learners of all ages. SCC"s Science Activation Program offers STEM educational events for children, youth, and young adults.

Scott's Creek Elementary School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The After School Program serves grades K-6. Students engage in 30 minutes of assisted homework time. Later they participate in special activities including games, workshops, and art projects. Students also must participate in community service. Students also contribute time to the Community Table, and go on afternoon field trips.

Smokey Mountain Elementary School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Smokey Mountain Elementary School is a pre-K through 8th school with a diverse student body, including 47% Cherokee students. Tutors in reading and math and mentors to help build self-esteem are welcome. People who love the outdoors may be interested in helping with the school's environmental projects or Cherokee Challenge. CC is for 6th and 7th graders and meets weekly after school at a ropes course and other sites, as well as once a month on a weekend and during the summer for a 7- to 10-day-long camp. The GEAR UP program is for 7th through 9th graders to get started preparing for college. 

Smoky Mountain High School

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Smoky Mountain High School has an After School Homework Club and a Peer Mediation Program. 

WCU University Participant (UP) Program

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The WCU UP Program provides an inclusive, two-year, on-campus living and learning experience for college-aged persons with intellectual disability. The goal of the program is to facilitate UP students' transition from secondary school to adult life with education, employment, and independent living. UP students live in on-campus residence halls distributed throughout university under the same university policies that apply to all WCU students. On-campus life is fully integrated and inclusive. There are no separate facilities, settings, or classes for UP students. WCU undergraduate students are recruited to provide paid and unpaid support to facilitate UP Students living on campus, attending classes, engaging in social and recreational activities, becoming involved in student organizations, and developing friendships.

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