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Above & Beyond: Celebration of Champions Honors Volunteers

Every day, talented volunteers transform students’ lives through their generous service with Asheville City Schools. To honor them and their work, the Asheville City Schools Foundation (ACSF) will host Celebration of Champions: Volunteers Make Up the Heart of Our Community on Saturday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m. at The Crowne Plaza Expo Center. The event will include appetizers, dinner, as well as live and silent auctions.

Eleven awards will be given to a group selected from nominations made last fall. Among these recipients are nine parents, as well as three community members. The “Volunteer Champions” award will be given to Alice and Arthur Helms who lend a hand at Asheville City Schools Preschool every Tuesday morning. The “Agents for Change Champion” award goes to Asheville Chapter of Links, Inc., an organization of women who use an integrated approach to close academic achievement gaps facing underserved students.

Helping to integrate the arts with curriculum, Brent Skidmore has earned the designation of “Spirit of Service Champion.” A furniture maker and sculptor, Brent has mobilized the arts community to support students through two programs: Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville City Schools (TAPAS) and In Real Life (IRL), an afterschool program that engages middle school students with activities such as creative arts, sports and recreation, community service, tutoring, snacks, homework assistance, and transportation home. Brent has taught more than a hundred middle school children in IRL programs.

At UNC Asheville, Brent works as assistant professor of art and art history, as well as director of craft studies. With the help of friend Ann Batchelder, Brent began working with ACSF seven years ago while teaching a class titled Crafting Community with Teens, which promoted collaborative arts learning among UNCA students and Asheville Middle School students. He helped found the TAPAS program by recruiting and training the first group of TAPAS artists in visual art and craft, and has also helped with fundraising efforts.

He says the three local partnerships crucial to his service throughout the years are with ACSF, LEAF Schools and Streets, and Roots + Wings School of Art (RWSA). Since 2010, Brent has worked with RWSA’s founder, Ginger Huebner, to establish the Asheville Community Design Lab at William Randolph School, Erwin Middle School, and the RWSA campus. IRL programming takes places at these locations.

Collaborative art has the power to create community and change lives and everyone can become involved. “I have witnessed conversations that would never happen outside of these creative experiences,” Brent told The Laurel. “These are often about the innermost truth around personal beliefs, challenges, and desires to be at peace with oneself and the world.”

The Crowne Plaza Expo Center is located at 1 Resort Drive in Asheville. General admission tickets are $60 and advance ticket purchase is recommended. For more information, and tickets, visit

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