Leadership Class

Leadership Charlotte Class of 2019: Back row from left to right: Beckie Halaska, Mark Houston, Justin Brand, Steve Muse, Kay Tracy, Matt Jones, Todd Davis, Jill McBee, Kelsey Veitengruber, Stacie Goldberg, Katie Wallace, Stacy Bjordahl, Jim Parish, Erin Gant, Rob Markel, Jennifer Beane. Front row from left to right:{/span}{span} Melissa Bergey, Caroline Kuhns, Melissa Nelson, Bob Gillo, Shelley Johnson, Kristin Cardona.

Leadership Charlotte class of 2019 wants to ensure every student in Charlotte County has access to books.

The class chose to focus on literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade specifically, after they met with various nonprofits in the area that all stressed the importance of literacy.

“Once they’re in third grade and not reading at grade level, it’s almost impossible to catch them up,” said Angie Matthiessen executive director of United Way, and member of Leadership Charlotte ‘14.

The organization brings together a diverse group of leaders to increase their knowledge of the community and volunteer opportunities.

For example, leadership will have a day where they visit the nonprofits in the community, the schools, and the media to learn about how each sector of our community operates.

“There’s imperative need to have students reading at grade level by third grade,” said leadership class event coordinator Rebecca Halaska. “Literacy is the biggest focus in the community.”

This year’s leadership class pledged $25,000 to wrap a school bus that has been donated to them, to transform it into a traveling library.

The bus will be able to reach students who may not have access to books, or a way to get to the library over the summer.

“We’re supporting that gap,” Halaska said.

Last year’s leadership class focused on the arts in Charlotte County Public Schools. The class donated over $22,000 for the arts in Charlotte County Public Schools; the money went toward repairing musical instruments, drama and choral departments, and art supplies.

“We’re just providing the vehicle in which to do this, we’re not doing the program,” said Halaska.

To raise funds to cover the cost of wrapping the bus, Leadership Charlotte will hold an event from 6-11 p.m. on June 8 at the Charlotte Fairgrounds.

The event, “Hemingway’s Havana Night,” will feature a casino, where guests can gamble and play games, a cigar tent, DJ, photo booth, and a buffet with food from Leroy’s Southern Kitchen.

Tickets cost $75 and sponsorship opportunities are available with tiers ranging from $250 to $25,000.

Leadership asks that each attendee bring a book appropriate for elementary-aged readers to fill the shelves of the bus.

Matthiessen said there will be three phases to the project: raising the money, outfitting the bus, and then filling the bus and getting it on the road.

She anticipates the bus will be on the road by spring 2020.

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