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A lesson in storytelling: The CMS Foundation and ‘The Yearbook’

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The CMS Foundation in partnership with Duke Energy recently released what they call “The Yearbook.” It is a breathtaking collection of stories, all reflections on school during the pandemic.

“Using photography and first-person accounts to capture memories and perspectives, The Yearbook offers an intimate look into the journeys of students, educators, families, and community partners navigating a school year like no other.”

– CMS Foundation

The CMS Foundation is the official nonprofit partner for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and raises money to support the district’s highest strategic priorities. It is led by Sonja Gantt, who also serves on EdNC’s strategic council. But Gantt tells me Ashelyn James is the visionary leader behind “The Yearbook.” James manages the CMS Foundation.

The goal of “The Yearbook” is to highlight “diverse viewpoints on the school experience during the pandemic,” according to the website.

Student stories

The pandemic disrupted the school experience for every single one of our students.

Fourteen students give voice in these stories to the challenges of virtual learning, the impact of the uncertainty and anxiety, and how they continued to pursue their academic goals amidst it all.

Keziah missed the arts, especially musical theater. Schools closed the day of her performance.

Gabe missed the energy. “I had never recognized the value of having a single building packed with educators ready to watch me succeed,” he wrote.

Cameron offered a prayer: “My little brother is a freshman this year and my prayer is that he’s able to experience real high school.” REAL high school. Let that one sink in.

Jaylen learned, “Your relationship with yourself should be treated like any other.” She wrote that she is in a place now where she feels like she can handle the storms of life and offers her story to other students “so that they can find an umbrella for their own storm.”

A bright spot for Kyle was the creation of the Myers Park Black Student Union.

The pandemic pushed Leah into a space where she wanted to lead and motivate others.

Here is the story of Breana, the student advisor to the CMS Board of Education.

You can read all of the student stories here.

The remarkable stories of those who supported our students

Parents and families “spent the past year balancing work, home, and school life.” The challenges and opportunities revealed in those stories are here.

Educators “quickly pivoted” during the pandemic, creating new learning environments for students and learning themselves to adjust to the new normal personally and professionally. Read all of those stories here, including one by Superintendent Earnest Winston and chair of the Board of Education Elyse Dashew.

The stories of community partners round out the series. “Community partners,” said the CMS Foundation, were “a major part of the learning support structure” during the pandemic.

“After listening to teachers share their experiences, we realized how important it was to not only document this unique moment in education, but to also help different groups of people understand each other’s struggles, fears, and triumphs during the pandemic,” said James. “Producing this project has been an honor, and we are so grateful to every person who trusted us to share their story.”


Editor’s note: Duke Energy Foundation supports the work of EducationNC

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.