Reading Connections, String and Splinter focus on leadership

Jul. 13, 2013 @ 08:07 PM

This week the theme is “leadership” starting with the Reading Connections “Literacy Leadership” breakfast at the High Point Country Club. From there we go the presentation of the Leadership Award initiated by the String & Splinter Club honoring two students from High Point Central.
For the past several years I have attended the Reading Connections fundraising breakfast whose recurring “dream to read” theme becomes a reality. Each year I am astounded by the stories of those adults in our community who are learning to read, changing their lives forever. The Reading Connections program in High Point is at the High Point public library and now serves 355 adult students per year.
The turnout for this year’s fundraiser was a big success thanks to the efforts of board member Sylvia Samet who was instrumental in organizing this year’s High Point breakfast. I think this year had more people than any other year. Some of those included Betsy Hodge, Kitty Winklosky, Sarah Finch and Betty Mayer, members of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, an honorary teacher organization. Others included Joann Owings, Sarah Kemm, Carroll Ann Miller, Pat Mabe, Mary Stanford-Dalton, Judge Jan Samet (husband of Sylvia), Reading Connections Chairman of the Board Kem Ellis, Dot Kearns and Jim Tobin & Lucy Ortiz of Bank of North Carolina, the major sponsor.
Attorney Tom Terrell made the welcome. It is hard to imagine what it would be like not to be able to read. Life can be very difficult ... filling out job applications, using computers, reading prescriptions, reading a bedtime story to children and hiding the fact that one can’t read.
Executive Director Jennifer Gore spoke, “We have visions of 100 percent literacy in Guilford County. We see people who have given up on themselves.”
Client testimonials are also a pivotal feature for the literacy breakfast. Jack Johnson told of losing his job after 22 years at MGM Transport. He could not read. When going to the unemployment office, he was encouraged to go back to school. He went to Reading Connections, “It had been 46 years since I picked up a book. My life changed. I went to the High Point Museum for the first time and the Civil Rights Museum. I now can read a word, a sentence a paragraph.” Now Johnson hopes to go to culinary school.
Victoria Morales came to High Point from Chile with her parents. She found it very frustrating communicating in English and that frustration multiplied when her two children started school. A friend of hers from Brazil was in Reading Connections. Morales went to Reading Connections, too. They are helping her with her reading skills and now she is very involved in her children’s education. “That is very important to me. I want to improve my skills and enter the job market.”
Board member Stanley Hammer made the plea to “invest in Reading Connections.” He stressed that adult illiteracy poses a great loss to our society, “increased social welfare costs, higher crime, lower tax base.” The lawyer of the firm Wyatt Early Harris & Wheeler also noted that investment in Reading Connection will yield a high return.  That investment could be both financial and non-financial as volunteers are always needed to make the dream to read a reality. Go to or call 884-7323 for more information. 
Since The String & Splinter (High Point’s City Club) began their Leadership Series, they have hosted a number of influential speakers,  including New Urbanism expert Andres Duany and Bob Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers to name a few. Recently the Leadership Series went to a new level with the presentation of the String & Splinter Leadership Award to two graduating seniors of High Point Central High School. Thomas Jarrell and Arianna Martin were selected on the basis of leadership, community involvement and overall character. What a decision that must have been!
The main dining room filled quickly with family members and key education leaders, including Guilford County Schools Western Regional Superintendent Angelo Kidd. Others included education advocate and former member of the Guilford County Board of Education Dot Kearns, Southside Revitalization advocate Dorothy Darr, English teacher Ann Wyche (she just returned from a wonderful trip to Australia and New Zealand along with some High Point Central students) and Vicki Miller.
The upbeat and personal High Point Central Principal Bob Christina spoke about challenges and successes. He has been very involved in our community since taking the reins at Central a couple of years ago. Who could forget him at “Dancing with the High Point Stars”. Since becoming principal, academics and attendance (if you are not in school, you can’t learn) have increased while absences and dropouts have decreased. At Central, leadership definitely starts with its leader who added, “We teach our students that ‘your job’ is to be a good person. We express that early and often.”
String & Splinter President Matt Thiel explained that this leadership award is a way for the club to invest in High Point’s future by recognizing “our young people.” Sitting with Thiel and Kidd was another special Central graduating senior, Grace Bunemann, who also happens to be the family babysitter for Thiel and his wife Emily. Bunemann shared co-valedictorian honors with Jacqueline Posto and plans to major in polymer and color chemistry to pursue a career as a physician.
As both Thomas Jarrell and Arianna Martin accepted their award, the leadership qualities of both became apparent. Both are part of the prestigious and demanding IB (International Baccalaureate) program. Both were involved in school politics. Martin was class president in her freshman and sophomore years and then something happened in her junior year. His name was Thomas Jarrell. He won the election.
Jarrell had just transferred to Central for his junior year and in doing so followed in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather, all who share the name Thomas. His father is Judge Tom Jarrell.
The Jarrell family, including Thomas’ brothers Robert and David, parents Tom and Cindy and his grandmother Mary attended. Thomas awed as he charmed with his rhetoric. He will be attending Davidson College.
Leadership recipient Arianna Martin said that she “always tries to challenge myself in everything I do.” Arianna will be attending UNC Chapel Hill in the fall aspiring to be a pediatrician. Her family also attended including her mother Karen Martin-Jones, a professor at Bennett College, Jeff Jones Sr. and Jr. and aunt Kanika Lawson.
Both recipients received a watch. Sheila Cochrane of Simon Jewelers presented a watch to Arianna, and Joe Hubay, owner of High Point Jewelers, presented a watch to Thomas.
Congratulations to both Thomas Jarrell and Arianna Martn.


MARY BOGEST is an artist and writer who resides in High Point |