YWCA Central Carolinas is thrilled to announce a new partnership with Duke Energy-Piedmont Natural Gas to improve literacy among youth at YWCA’s Southside Youth Learning Center. For twenty years, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas have supported YWCA’s mission and youth YWCA serves who live in high-poverty communities. “Education should continue after the final school bell rings,” said Cari Boyce, Duke Energy Foundation president. “Supporting the YWCA’s after-school and summer literacy programs ensures that more students receive the support they need to achieve success.” This year, Duke Energy deepened their commitment to youth in the Southside Homes community through a grant of $50,000, co-funded by Piedmont Natural Gas, to support literacy focused after-school and full-day summer programming for children from this fragile area.

Over 50 years ago YWCA recognized the need for high quality, academically based year-round programming for youth living in at-risk communities. Steps from South End’s luxury apartments and breweries sits the Southside Homes community, one of the last remaining large housing communities managed by Charlotte Housing Authority with nearly 400 units. The median household income in the Southside community is $11,352, compared to $56,472 county-wide; 45% of residents receive Medicaid/NC Health Choice, compared to 18% county-wide; and teen pregnancy rates and violent crime rates are more than triple the county average. Last year, the graduation rate among students in the Southside Homes community was 57%, compared to 86% county-wide.

YWCA’s academic programming intentionally focuses on literacy, ensuring students are getting extra attention and lessons outside of school to reach grade-level reading comprehension. “We want to thank the YWCA for providing a safe, enriching environment for the children in our communities,” said Bruce Barkley, vice president of regulatory and community relations for Piedmont Natural Gas. “Reading comprehension is critically important to the ongoing success of our children, and Piedmont Natural Gas is honored to support a program that does so much for our community.”

Marianne Schild