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Reporter’s Notebook: CAU receives Mellon Foundation grant, Lovett School’s podcast reaches 23 countries, Clayton County opens quality of life survey

The week in local news.

This week 133 years ago, the man who helped The Coca-Cola Company become the soft drink giant that it is today was born. 

Robert Woodruff became president of the struggling company in 1893, where he was determined to make the beverage a household name. That success certainly came, and today the Coca-Cola Classic is the top-selling soft drink in the world.

On to other local news:

CAU receives Mellon Foundation grant to develop digital humanities infrastructure

Earlier this week, Clark Atlanta University (CAU) was awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a digital humanities infrastructure at the Historically Black University.

The award, totaling over $500,000, will be used over the next three years to conduct a workshop series and summer institute aimed at helping faculty and scholars in graduate school from HBCUs think differently about digital humanities and how to build this type of program at their respective institutions. 

These workshops will give HBCUs insight into the technology and concepts that can be used to honor and preserve the Black experience.

“Our university’s mission is to uplift lives. We enjoy fuller, more purposeful lives when we understand the richness of our past and can pass that knowledge on to our children, who will be made stronger and more resilient for it,” said Dr. George French, president of CAU.

Next year, CAU will host an interdisciplinary HBCU Africana Digital Humanities conference open to all students from HBCUs. The gathering will explore history, literature, sociology, politics and the arts using technology as a means of recovery, healing and knowledge production.

— Allison Joyner

“Living Lovett” was launched in March 2022. (Courtesy of the The Lovett School.)

The Lovett School’s podcast reaches 23 countries

The Lovett School — an Atlanta school focused on whole-child development — has attracted national and international listeners to its podcast, “Living Lovett: Stories from the Riverbank.” Launched in March of this year, teachers, administrators, students and parents take the mic to discuss topics like literacy, art, faith, health and community. 

Since its debut, “Living Lovett” has found listeners in 23 countries and dozens of U.S. cities. With 16 released episodes, the podcast has entered the top 100 educational podcasts internationally and was ranked in the top 50 percent of podcasts based on downloads.

The cover art was created by ‘22 Lovett graduate Stewart Key and the podcast is produced by Catherine O’Brien and Branch Out Programs.

“The podcast was originally designed as a tool to connect with families during the COVID pandemic,” Lovett Chief Engagement Officer Jessica Sant said in a press release. “Lovett is a school that prides itself on relationships, and we felt the strain of separation during that time. But ‘Living Lovett’ transcends that moment and is serving as a fantastic tool to celebrate and honor the many people on our campus that make this place so special.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Clayton County opens survey to improve residents’ quality of life

Clayton County is conducting a community survey to improve and better understand its residents’ qualities of life and help serve the community better.

Anonymous questionnaires were distributed across multiple digital and non-digital platforms to collect responses from residents using the 2020 U.S. Census demographic data for the county. 

“One of our goals as a county is to conduct comprehensive analysis to identify operational redundancies and inefficiencies. [The survey] ensures that we are providing a healthy, inclusive and safe county,” said Detrick Stanford, Chief Operations Officer for the county.

Residents may complete the survey in person by visiting the Board of Commissioners Administration Building on Smith Street in Jonesboro or any Clayton County senior or recreation centers or libraries. 

Click here to learn more about the survey. 

— Allison Joyner

A program for little ones with the Alliance Theatre. (Photo by Alphonso Whitfield.)

Fernbank, Alliance Theatre, Grow Up Great celebrate 10 years of investments in childhood development 

The Alliance Theatre and Fernbank Museum of Natural History are celebrating a decade-long collaboration with PNC Grow Up Great. Through this partnership, 13,000 Atlanta Public Schools pre-K students have visited both Atlanta institutions for field trips. 

For the last decade, students have attended the Theatre for the Very Young at the Alliance and joined in on STEAM programming at Fernbank. Each student in the 61 pre-K classrooms that go into APS’ Kindergarten program has gotten the chance to join the special programming.

Founded in 2004, PNC Grow Up Great is dedicated to serving children from birth to age five by empowering their caregivers and teachers to invest in their futures.

The three-way partnership is part of an effort to ensure local students have access to enriching field trips. According to research conducted through the Woodruff Arts Center’s Multi-Visit Program, students who join multiple art-centered field trips have higher test scores, more engagement in school and increased social-emotional skills.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, the Alliance and Fernbank will host a joint event as part of the Alliance’s annual Toddler Takeover Festival on Saturday, April 29, 2023. At the festival, all PNC Grow Up Great pre-K students and their families are invited to participate in a day of free STEAM-based activities.

“This partnership has been instrumental in connecting educational learning experiences with drama and science while providing unimaginable experiences for early learners in our district,” wrote Bridget L. Baily, early learning coordinator for the Atlanta Public Schools Office of Early Learning. “One of the most amazing aspects of this partnership goes beyond the classroom, reaching into the Theatre for the Very Young at Alliance and through Fernbank Museum by offering wonderful, hands-on experiences through field trips.”

— Hannah E. Jones

East Point recognizes recipients of small business grants provided by the American Rescue Plan Act

Last month, the city of East Point launched its first small business assistance program for 27 small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The funds, totaling almost $300,000, were distributed by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help get businesses to keep their doors open and get back on their feet. 

Each business owner was recognized in a presentation and awarded $10,000 to assist them financially with their urgent needs. 

“Our small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and it is important that we provide continuous support,” said Deana Holiday Ingrahm, mayor of East Point. 

— Allison Joyner

(L to R, top to bottom) Amy Sparks, Jennifer Johnson McEwen, Jim Renner, Ayanna Williams, Marlena Reed.

Georgia Audubon announces five new board members

Conservation nonprofit Georgia Audubon welcomes five new bird enthusiasts to its Board of Directors. The five newest members were selected for three-year terms, starting Jan. 1. The newest additions include:

  • Jennifer Johnson McEwen, director of Communications at Emory Brain Health Center
  • Marlena Reed, senior director of Strategic Communications at the Arthritis Foundation
  • Jim Renner, manager of Environmental Stewardship for the Minerals Operations of Chemours, a chemical manufacturer
  • Amy Beth Sparks, director of communications within the Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability function at The Coca-Cola Company
  • Ayanna Williams, director of Community and Environmental Resilience at the National Recreation and Park Association

Several current members will also join for a second three-year term, including Joshua Gassman, Gus Kaufman, Paige Martin, Jon Philipsborn and LaTresse Snead.

“These individuals bring a wealth of talents and experiences to the Board that will help Georgia Audubon fulfill its mission of building places where birds and people thrive,” Board Chair Paige Martin wrote in a press release.

— Hannah E. Jones

Tina Fernandez.

Achieve Atlanta    

Tina Fernandez, the founding executive director of Achieve Atlanta, is leaving to begin a one-year fellowship with Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. 

In an email to Achieve Atlanta’s stakeholders, Fernandez was proud of the work that’s been done since she joined the nonprofit in 2015.

“While this is bittersweet for me, I leave knowing my transition comes at a time when Achieve Atlanta is in a strong place and poised for growth,” she wrote. “This summer we received a generous gift from MacKenzie Scott – an affirmation of our cross-sector approach and the work we do with partners to help Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students access, afford, and earn postsecondary credentials.”

An independent analysis by Georgia State University’s Georgia Policy Labs showed that Achieve Atlanta scholars persist in college at much higher rates than similar peers who did not receive the scholarship and related services. 

Achieve Atlanta’s board has selected PBR Executive Search to lead a national search for her successor.

“Achieve Atlanta remains committed to making Atlanta a city where race and income no longer predict postsecondary success and upward mobility,” Fernandez wrote while thanking people for their support in “continuing to help us make this vision a reality.”

On Dec. 15, Achieve Atlanta will hold a farewell reception to thank Fernandez for her leadership.

— Maria Saporta

Chimaobi Chijioke.

Georgia Power names new Vice President of Customer Services

Last week, Georgia Power announced the newest addition to its leadership team, with Chimaobi Chijioke joining as Vice President of Customer Services. Chijioke will assume the new role on Jan. 16.

In this new position, Chijioke will oversee call center operations, digital customer engagement, energy assistance and customer billing. He also will lead the team managing relationships with Georgia Power’s largest customers.

Most recently, Chijioke served as Vice President of Customer Operations for Baltimore Gas and Electric, Maryland’s largest natural gas and electric utility.

“Georgia Power is well-known as a leader in customer satisfaction within the industry, with a history of forward-looking innovation and the use of technology, data and insights to better serve its customers,” Chijioke wrote in a press release. “I share the passion and vision of the leadership team at Georgia Power and I’m excited to join this outstanding company.”

— Hannah E. Jones

H. Jerome Russell.

Senior living community Lenbrook names new board member

Atlanta retirement community Lenbrook has named H. Jerome Russell as the latest addition to its Board of Directors. 

Russell is co-owner of H. J. Russell & Company, Concessions International and several real estate holdings. At the firm, he focuses on strategic direction, enhancing the value of real estate holdings and overall development. 

“Jerome Russell brings a wealth of real estate and business experience and knowledge of Atlanta to our Board,” President and CEO Chris Keysor wrote in a press release. “We welcome him to the Board and look forward to his insight as we continue to pursue excellence in the field of senior living.”

Lenbrook is a nonprofit senior living community in Buckhead, offering programs like cookouts, live performances and guest speakers. In addition, Lenbrook offers on-site Medicare-certified healthcare services.

— Hannah E. Jones

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


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