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PNC Bank, in its first major philanthropic effort in North Carolina, on Tuesday announced a $1 million grant for Raleigh and Rocky Mount, and indicated that there would be more coming.
The funding was lauded by Raleigh’s arts community, Gov. Bev Perdue and Wake County Schools superintendent Tony Tata. Perdue and Tata attended Tuesday’s announcement at the PNC Plaza building in downtown Raleigh.
“In this kind of climate, [this] kind of philanthropy in the social structure in North Carolina is critical,” Perdue said.
PNC Bank, which is based in Pittsburgh, acquired Raleigh-based RBC Bank in March.
The PNC Foundation will split the $1 million grant evenly between Raleigh and Rocky Mount, introducing both cities to its company-wide early childhood education initiative, Grow Up Great, a bilingual program that has served more than 1 million children since it started in 2004. Eight organizations will benefit from the first round of grants. The company declined to say how the money would be distributed between the organizations.
In Raleigh, the grant will pay for a two-year arts initiative for 500 economically disadvantaged pre-kindergarten students in 22 classrooms in Wake County public schools.
“It’s wonderful that they are coming into this market and taking a leadership role in supporting the arts,” said Sarah Powers, chair of the Raleigh Arts Commission. “This is certainly a city that values its arts and creative class, so for them to immediately get on board connecting the arts organizations and the schools, and make a commitment of this scale is huge.”
The Carolina Ballet and the North Carolina Museum of Art are collaborating on the design of the curriculum. The ballet intends to hire two new employees, an educational coordinator and a creative movement specialist, to implement the program in schools. The plan is to begin in January after spending the fall semester observing in classrooms and planning.
The creative movement specialist, who will have a background in early childhood education, will teach five classes of 3- to 5-year-olds several times a week for nine-week blocks. The ballet company will work in collaboration with the art museum, which will also go into the classrooms during the same nine weeks for a visual art curriculum.
“Children have different ways of learning – some are visual, and some are auditory,” said Steve Bishop, development director for the Carolina Ballet. “When learning the ABCs or any concept, if you move and dance it out, it can prepare you further for retaining it and understanding it and being able to conceptualize it further.”
Teachers will attend workshops in arts education so they can continue the lessons after the program has wrapped up in their classroom.
The arts collaboration is similar to Grow Up Great programs that the PNC Foundation has funded in public schools in Cleveland, which PNC moved into in 2008 with its acquisition of National City Bank, and in its hometown of Pittsburgh.
Given access to the arts
“There are very real barriers for children and for children’s families at risk in attending the arts, and in schools that are having budget cutbacks to fund the arts or have access to the arts,” Bishop said. “Without this program, there will be many families who would otherwise never have access to the arts.”
At the conclusion of the nine-week program, students will attend a performance of the Carolina Ballet with their families. Tentative plans call for the students to also visit the art museum, where they will see their own art displayed in a gallery.
“It can give those kids a memory they can have with them the rest of their lives and connect them to the bigger world,” Powers said. “It’s a coup for us to have a business here that wants to provide that.”
Plans in Rocky Mount
The $500,000 PNC is donating in Rocky Mount, where it has an operations center, will pay for job training at Nash and Edgecombe Community Colleges. PNC’s workers in Rocky Mount felt the brunt of the bank’s layoffs after its acquisition of RBC.
The grant to Rocky Mount also will pay for a study examining the feasibility of an events center in the city’s downtown, and the PNC Legacy Project, an exhibit documenting PNC’s predecessor banks – RBC and Centura – in Rocky Mount.
In addition, the Down East Partnership for Children will receive money to improve a park and playground.
PNC Bank, which is in 19 states and the District of Columbia, chose early childhood development as its primary focus for philanthropy after seeking employee input.