By Emma Castleberry
Jamie Creola has been named as the new executive director of Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe (R2S), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the literacy achievement gap between Black and white students in the Asheville community. Creola comes to R2S from the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, LA, where she served as vice president of education. “For over 30 years, my passion has revolved around engaging broad and diverse audiences and cultivating their curiosity,” says Creola. “I believe in supporting these audiences through innovative and collaborative programming and partnerships to address pressing needs around equitable and accessible education.”
Creola has served in leadership positions at nonprofit organizations across the country, including the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Woodland Park Zoo, Florida Museum of Natural History, and Natural History Museum of Utah. “The seed for this path my life has taken was planted in childhood by my mother,” she says.
Creola grew up in this region and, while her family didn’t have much financially, she was always surrounded by books. When Creola was young, her mother studied to become a reading specialist in the public school system. “While doing her student teaching, some of it in my own classroom, she began to see the inequities that kept students of color and those of low socioeconomic status from thriving and succeeding,” says Creola. “It bothered her so much that she chose not to finish her degree and instead focused on tutoring these students one-to-one on her own. It made a huge and lasting impression on me that has guided both my personal and professional focus around diversity, equity and inclusion.”
R2S recruits, trains and supervises reading tutors who work one-to-one with local K through 3rd grade students in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools. The intensive training offered by R2S provides volunteers with the tools and techniques they need to support students in learning sight words, practicing comprehension, expanding vocabulary and growing phonics and reading skills. With the increase in remote schooling resulting from the pandemic, R2S pivoted to offer reading tutoring via video conference, and also partnered with local organizations like Youthful HAND in Hillcrest to provide literacy support and learning supplies to young children.
“We can’t tackle the challenge of a growing literacy achievement gap in our schools without our community’s support,” says Creola. “Read to Succeed has a vested interest in early literacy and how that impacts our society. By building relationships with a wider variety of stakeholders and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into our organizational operations, we will be able to reach and support a wider audience and continue to close the prevalent literacy gap in our community.”
To learn more or donate, visit R2SAsheville.org.