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NC Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation provides grant for WCU summer reading program

By Bill Studenc
scottish rite gift

Members of the N.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation present a $13,000 grant to representatives of the Speech and Hearing Clinic at WCU. From left are Andrew Norton, a 2002 graduate of WCU, Valley of Franklin representative for N.C. RiteCare; Traci Rice, a 1997 graduate of WCU and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders; Lori Anderson, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences; and Dan Killian, head of the Valley of Franklin chapter of N.C. RiteCare.

The Western Carolina University Speech and Hearing Clinic will be expanding its recently launched summer reading program to reach a larger number of children with language and learning impairments, thanks to a $13,000 grant from the N.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation.

The latest funding from the organization, which has a long history of providing support for childhood language and learning centers through the nationwide RiteCare Scottish Rite Childhood Language Program, follows a previous grant of $5,000 that enabled the clinic to start the program.

The program, christened Camp LEAD (Language/Literacy Engagement And Development), was originally scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020, but was postponed to 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Seven local school children from grades 3 and above participated in the program this past summer, with the number of participants expected to increase to about a dozen in 2022, said Johanna Price Vinyard, WCU associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, who directs Camp LEAD.

“There are some other wonderful supports and resources for children’s literacy development during the summer in our community; however, these programs focus on children ages kindergarten through second grade,” Price Vinyard said. “We saw a need for older children and adolescents, especially those who have language-based disabilities. We’re grateful for the Scottish Rite. Their support makes Camp LEAD possible and reaches a group of children for whom there are limited services in our community.”

Camp LEAD is a four-week summer program designed to support school-age children with speech, language or reading impairments, including dyslexia. “We base our instruction on research-supported principles and implement learning activities in a positive, supportive and fun environment. Each child’s goals will be based on his or her individual needs,” Price Vinyard said.

“Our overall goal is to reverse the ‘summer slump’ in reading that children often experience. Last summer, every client made progress in literacy-related skills, as well as other language and speech skills,” she said.

Funding from the N.C. Scottish Rite Mason Foundation will allow Camp LEAD to add another communication sciences and disorders faculty member to provide clinical supervision to WCU graduate students as they work with children participating in the program.

“That’s another thing I really value about Camp LEAD – the opportunities it offers our grad student clinicians to work intensively with a group of clients over the course of a month,” Price Vinyard said. “This provides our students with valuable hands-on learning experiences in a clinical setting.”

With the pending expansion of the summer program made possible by funding from the N.C. Scottish Rite Masons, the organization’s long-term goal is to develop a year-round program of support for the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic, said C. Dan Killian, head of the Valley of Franklin chapter of N.C. RiteCare.

“Scottish Rite Masons are a select group of Master Masons who want to extend their knowledge and practice of Masonic principles. Among these is charity,” Killian said. “Their special charity is support of childhood language and learning centers in 35 states.”

Through its RiteCare initiative, the organization supports more than 1,700 centers and clinics across the United States, with four in North Carolina, now including the Speech and Hearing Clinic at WCU, he said.

“These centers are committed to helping children who are exhibiting problems with language development or whose academic progress is being affected by delays in spoken or written language,” Killian said. “These children exhibit normal intelligence and demonstrate the potential to achieve. Their delays are not caused by such other primary disabilities as severe as emotional problems, deafness, blindness or intellectual disability.”  

WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences relies upon private contributions to help meet its mission of offering quality academic experiences to students, and critical health care evaluations and treatments to underserved members of the surrounding community, said Lori Anderson, the college’s dean.

“We are truly grateful for the support of individuals and organizations such as the N.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation,” Anderson said. “The generosity of these partners provides scholarship assistance to our students, funding for innovative learning opportunities and the additional resources necessary to expand the services provided to the people of our region by the clinics in our college.”

Camp LEAD programming for the summer of 2022 is scheduled for June 6 through July 1. The camp is an in-person clinic program that follows all COVID-19 guidelines in place at the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic. There is no fee for Camp LEAD, to be held in the Health and Human Sciences Building on the west campus of WCU.

The camp is designed for children who have completed third grade or higher and have been diagnosed with speech, language and/or reading impairment (including dyslexia). It will meet each weekday morning from Monday, June 6, through Friday, July 1. Drop-off is from 8:45-9 a.m. daily with pickup at noon. Snacks will be provided, although children may bring their own snacks if preferred.

For more information on Camp LEAD, contact WCU’s Speech and Hearing Clinic at 828-227-7251.

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