By Bill Studenc

Members of the NC Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation present a $ 13,000 grant to representatives of the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic. From left to right: Andrew Norton, WCU graduate in 2002, Franklin Valley representative for NC RiteCare; Traci Rice, 1997 WCU graduate and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders; Lori Anderson, Dean of the College of Health and Humanities; and Dan Killian, Valley of Franklin Chapter Leader of NC RiteCare.

Western Carolina University Speech and Hearing Clinic will expand its recently launched summer reading program to reach more children with language and learning disabilities, thanks to a $ 13,000 grant from the NC Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation.

The organization’s latest funding, which has long provided support to children’s language and learning centers through the national language program RiteCare Scottish Rite Childhood, follows a previous $ 5,000 grant that helped to the clinic to start the program.

The program, dubbed Camp LEAD (Language / Literacy Engagement And Development), was originally scheduled to start in summer 2020, but has been postponed to 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Seven local school children from Grades 3 and up participated in the program last summer, and the number of participants is expected to increase to around a dozen in 2022, said Johanna Price Vinyard, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders at WCU, who runs Camp LEAD. .

“There are other great supports and resources for children’s summer literacy development in our community; However, these programs focus on children in Kindergarten to Grade 2, ”said Price Vinyard. “We have seen a need for older children and adolescents, especially those with speech disabilities. We are grateful for the Scottish Rite. Their support makes Camp LEAD possible and reaches a group of children for whom services are limited in our community.

Camp LEAD is a four-week summer program designed to support school-aged children with speech, language or reading disabilities, including dyslexia. “We base our teaching on principles backed by research and implement learning activities in a positive, supportive and fun environment. Each child’s goals will be based on their individual needs, ”said Price Vinyard.

“Our overall goal is to reverse the ‘summer reading crisis’ that children often experience. Last summer, every client made progress in literacy skills, as well as other language and voice skills, ”she said.

Funding from the NC Scottish Rite Mason Foundation will allow Camp LEAD to add another Communication Science and Disorders faculty member to provide clinical supervision to WCU graduate students when working with children participating in the program. .

“This is another thing I really appreciate about Camp LEAD – the opportunities it provides for our graduate clinical students to work intensively with a group of clients over the course of a month,” Price said. Vinyard. “This provides our students with valuable hands-on learning experiences in a clinical setting. ”

With the ongoing expansion of the summer program made possible by funding from the NC Scottish Rite Masons, the long-term goal of the organization is to develop a year-round support program for the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic. said C. Dan Killian, Valley of Franklin Chapter chief of NC RiteCare.

“Scottish Rite Masons are a select group of Master Masons who wish to expand their knowledge and practice of Masonic principles. One of those is charity, ”Killian said. “Their special charity supports children’s language and learning centers in 35 states. ”

Through its RiteCare initiative, the organization supports more than 1,700 centers and clinics across the United States, including four in North Carolina, now including WCU’s Speech and Hearing Clinic, he said.

“These centers are committed to helping children who have language development problems or whose academic progress is affected by delays in spoken or written language,” Killian said. “These children have normal intelligence and demonstrate the potential to be achieved. Their delays are not caused by other primary disabilities as severe as emotional problems, deafness, blindness or intellectual disability.

WCU’s College of Health and Humanities relies on private contributions to help it fulfill its mission of providing quality academic experiences to students, as well as essential healthcare assessments and treatments. to underserved members of the surrounding community, said Lori Anderson, the college dean.

“We are truly grateful for the support of individuals and organizations such as the NC Scottish Rite Masonic Foundation,” said Anderson. “The generosity of these partners provides scholarship assistance to our students, funding for innovative learning opportunities, and the additional resources needed to expand the services provided to people in our region through our college clinics.

The programming of the LEAD camp for the summer of 2022 is scheduled from June 6 to July 1. The camp is an in-person clinical program that follows all COVID-19 guidelines in place at the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic. There is no charge for Camp LEAD, which will be held in the Health and Humanities building on the West Campus of WCU.

The camp is designed for children who have completed grade three or above and who have been diagnosed with speech, language and / or reading disabilities (including dyslexia). It will meet every weekday morning from Monday June 6 to Friday July 1. Drop-off is from 8:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. daily with a noon pickup. Snacks will be provided, although children can bring their own snacks if they wish.

For more information about Camp LEAD, contact the WCU Speech and Hearing Clinic at 828-227-7251.