Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl And College Football Playoff Foundation Partner To Improve Childhood Literacy In Atlanta

$1 million initiative funded to support teachers within Atlanta Public Schools

APS Literacy Grant Group Shot 12 15 16.jpg

From (L-R) Atlanta Board of Education Member Matt Westmoreland (District 3); College Football Playoff Foundation Executive Director Britton Banowsky; Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen; Atlanta Board of Education Chair Courtney D. English; Peach Bowl Inc. CEO and President Gary Stokan; Atlanta Board of Education Member Steven Lee (District 5); Atlanta Board of Education Member Cynthia Briscoe-Brown (At-Large, Seat 8) and Atlanta Board of Education Member Jason F. Esteves (At-Large, Seat 9). Photo Credit: Peach Bowl, Inc.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2016

CONTACT: Kimberly Willis Green; 404-802-2836;

ATLANTA – The most significant challenge facing the Atlanta Public School System is about to get the help it so desperately needs.

Today, Peach Bowl, Inc. – through the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl’s relationship with the College Football Playoff – and the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation jointly announced a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The partnership will result in the funding of a $1 million initiative to improve early childhood literacy among kindergarten through fifth grade students. The collaborative effort integrates with the CFP Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers program, which supports the teaching profession (grades K-12) across the country via direct provision of resources, teacher recognition and professional development training.

The grant supplied by Peach Bowl, Inc. and the CFP Foundation will allow APS to train more than 1,000 educators in a specialized curriculum and better equip them to teach reading to students during their critical early years. With the grant, APS will implement a district-wide training program for all kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers over a 2-3 year period. APS will oversee the use of the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach to reading instruction that focuses on teaching kids to read at the word level, make connections between sounds and letters and develop language skills.

“We have a passion to be involved and give back to our community, especially in education,” said Gary Stokan, CEO and president of Peach Bowl, Inc. and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. “So we went to APS and asked them what their biggest problem was. They told us our children were not reading at a sufficient level and that they desperately needed help. We told them we were in. We pledged our full support.”

Said Britton Banowsky, executive director of the College Football Playoff Foundation: “This is exactly the type of specific and thorough teacher training that can make a measurable and meaningful difference. This fits so well within the mission of our Extra Yard for Teachers program that we were emotionally moved by the potential of this program. We had to be involved and are thrilled to partner with Peach Bowl, Inc. in support of Atlanta teachers.”

Currently, more than one-third of APS second graders read below grade level and research shows that children who do not read proficiently by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma. The goal of the grant is to ensure all teachers feel comfortable teaching foundational early learning literacy skills to students including phonemic awareness, vocabulary, phonics and fluency.

“We are so thankful for this support and what it will do for our teachers and students,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen. “We know this significant and meaningful plan will give our teachers the right tools and is the essential first step to ensuring that our students are reading and writing on-level by the third grade. Our goal is to transform how literacy instruction is delivered in our schools to move the needle in a positive direction.”

For Peach Bowl, Inc., this represents a significant escalation to its already significant support of education within Atlanta Public Schools. Since 2007, the Bowl has operated an academic mentoring program in the APS high schools to help student-athletes improve grade point averages, prepare for college entrance exams and transition into college. The Bowl also operates a $5 million endowed scholarship program at 26 major universities to help provide college scholarships to Atlanta students. In total, Peach Bowl, Inc. has previously invested more than $6 million to help Atlanta students.

“We’ve been dedicated to supporting Atlanta Public Schools for more than eight years and this is a truly impactful way to grow our support to truly significant levels,” said Percy Vaughn, chairman of Peach Bowl, Inc. and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. “As college football’s most charitable bowl organization, we take our commitment to charity and scholarship very seriously. It’s a huge part of our mission in the Atlanta community and we are proud to partner with the College Football Playoff Foundation to benefit teachers and students in our home community.”

Peach Bowl, Inc. has distributed $21 million in charitable and scholarship contributions since 2002 through funds from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament.

Since its inception in 2013, Extra Yard for Teachers has funded more than $2.5 million in direct classroom need in CFP host cities and in communities designated by its conference partners. CFP licensed products have generated more than $7.5 million in direct classroom support nationally.


About Peach Bowl, Inc.:

Peach Bowl, Inc. operates the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the ninth-oldest bowl game in the country and one of New Year’s Six Bowls selected to host the College Football Playoff. In 2014-15, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will hosted top nationally ranked teams as assigned by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. In 2016, the Bowl will host its first College Football Playoff Semifinal (#1 Alabama vs. #4 Washington). The Bowl has earned a reputation as one of the most competitive bowls in the country, with 54 percent of its games being decided by a touchdown or less. Peach Bowl, Inc. has disbursed $150 million in team payouts over its 48-year history and has increased team payout every year since 1996. The Bowl also leads all other bowl game organizations in charitable and scholarship contributions, giving more than $21 million to organizations in need since 2002. Peach Bowl, Inc. also owns and manages the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament and The Dodd Trophy national coach of the year award. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @CFAPeachBowl and find us on Facebook at

About the College Football Playoff Foundation and Extra Yard for Teachers

The College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation is the charitable arm of the College Football Playoff and supports education and teachers across the country. The CFP Foundation creates multiple partnerships to execute its initiatives and support positive educational outcomes. The Foundation’s primary philanthropic initiative, Extra Yard for Teachers (EYFT), elevates the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering quality teachers through the development and implementation of programs in three key focus areas: direct provision of resources, teacher recognition, and professional development training. To learn more about the CFP Foundation and Extra Yard for Teachers, visit

About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 98 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter at @apsupdate and Facebook .



December 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

USDA Official Visits Mays High School to see Successful Farm-to-School Program


United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon learns about the Mays High School greenhouse and its use of aquaponics from senior Sydney Stepney during his visit to the campus.

When Atlanta Public Schools Nutrition Director Dr. Marilyn Hughes came to the district her vision was to create a nutrition program that connected the cafeteria, the classroom and the community.

More than a decade later that vision is a reality at a number of schools throughout the district, including Mays High School, where its teachers and students have established one of the state’s top agriculture clubs.  The concept of healthy living is infused into the school culture through its participation in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Farm to School” program. The national initiative is designed to help schools provide access to fresh, organically grown food for students and their communities.

Last week, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon stopped by to tour Mays’ greenhouse and aquaponics classroom, where fresh fish (tilapia) and vegetables are raised and grown, and the school cafeteria, where the food is prepared and eaten. He left very impressed.usda-under-sec-concannon-at-mays-hs-12-8-16

“We want to change the image of the urban food program,” Dr. Hughes said. “We want to broaden it so that we constantly make that connection between the cafeteria, the classroom and the community. We want people to think of our communities as places where you eat, work and live a healthy lifestyle. In order for it to be sustainable, we have to have collective ownership by the students, teachers and the community.”

At Mays, all three groups have bought in. Students have created one of the state’s top agriculture clubs, teachers are infusing agriculture and “green living” concepts into their lessons, from science to social studies and history, and the community is involved as well.

“We have a lot of people who walk on our campus for exercise and they’ll pick things from our traditional garden,” said Sydney Stepney, a senior and participant in the Governor’s Honors Program for Agricultural Sciences. “It’s important that we get back to eating natural foods.”

Sydney said she is inspired by wanting to discover alternative ways to treat debilitating diseases like dementia, which her grandmother is battling now.

“She takes so many pills and I just don’t like it,” Sydney said. “I think all of the diseases that are prevalent in our community, like dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, are all linked to the foods we eat.”

usda-under-sec-concannon-at-mays-hs-greenhouse-2-12-7-16Sydney, who has been accepted by the University of Kentucky and is in the running for a Posse Scholarship from Texas A&M University, plans to major in nutrition and exercise physiology, open a fitness center that will include and utilize an urban garden, and create her own natural multi vitamin.

The school’s agriculture club and “Farm to School” program are designed to produce more students like Sydney who may be able to take advantage of the country’s “green” movement and the growing popularity of organically grown and raised food.

Mays Assistant Principal Dr. Wardell Hunter and Instructional Coach Hajj Womack  spoke with United States Congressmen John Lewis and David Scott about the importance of agriculture in schools. Both said they are working on legislation that promotes making college scholarship funds available for students majoring in agriculture.

“It’s something that Republicans and Democrats can get behind,” Womack said. “Agriculture is very important to our country, and it would provide excellent opportunities for our students.”

December 14, 2016 at 6:51 pm Leave a comment

APS JROTC Cadets, Employees Help Brighten Holiday Season for Needy Families


Close to 200 Atlanta Public Schools employees and JROTC students participated in the annual Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund Santa Village event, helping to give away toys, school supplies and clothing items to needy families in the community.

Atlanta Public Schools employees and JROTC students made the holiday season a little brighter for hundreds of children and families on Wednesday through their participation in the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund’s annual Santa’s Village initiative.

Nearly 100 APS employees, including Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, and more than 100 JROTC cadets volunteered for several hours at the Santa’s Village distribution center in the East Atlanta/Kirkwood community. They gave toys, books and socks to absanta-village-2016-5-female-helperout 2,700 needy children and families throughout the metro Atlanta area.

Additionally, in the last month APS JROTC cadets have collected $35,000 in donations with the assistance of Kroger Stores in the community, while employees at the district’s Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) collected more than $1,200 in one day. The total amount of $36,200 will be donated to the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund.

Through relationships with a number of community partners and wholesale distributors, the Atlanta Empty Stocking Fund purchases brand new items in sufficient quantities (delete comma) in order to offer a variety of age- and gender-appropriate choices for children from birth to 12 years of age. Then from Dec. 1 – 21, families who are qualified to receive certain benefits through the Division of Family and Children Services are invited to visit Santa’s Village to select gifts and other items for their children.santa-village-1-students-with-carts

Over the years, Dec. 9 has become the date when APS employees and JROTC cadets volunteer to work in all aspects of the Santa’s Village distribution process, from client registration and check-in, to helping clients select toys, to completing client gift packages to check out.

“For APS employees, it provides us with an opportunity to give back to the community we serve,” said APS JROTC Director of Army Instruction and Leadership Lt. Col. Robert W. Rooker, who has coordinated APS Day at Santa’s Village for several years. “Personally, it’s my favorite day of the year.”santa-village-2016-2-gift-line

He said his cadets agree.

“It’s great to see that they enjoy serving those who are less fortunate than they are,” Lt. Col. Rooker said. “To a kid, when I ask them their favorite service learning experience, they will said Special Olympics and the Empty Stocking Fund. They’re wiped out at the end of the day because they’re so busy, but they love it.”


December 9, 2016 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

APS Inclusive Schools Week: Meet Champion of Inclusion Curtis Douglass


Atlanta Public Schools salutes North Atlanta High School Principal Curtis Douglass, as a 2016 Champion of Inclusion!

Curtis Douglass’ passion for providing students with disabilities opportunities is rooted in his work as a former special education teacher on both the elementary and high school levels. Both the Grady Hospital Program and Bridges from School to Work Program have partnered with North Atlanta High School to provide work force services to persons with disabilities.  Under the leadership of Douglass, the school has also supported the Special Olympics Unified Sports Program. The Special Olympics Unified Sports is an initiative that combines  Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (called partners) on sports teams for training and competition.


Atlanta Public Schools deeply appreciates Mr. Curtis Douglass’ advocacy for students with disabilities.

Atlanta Public Schools joins school districts and communities around the world in celebrating Inclusive Schools Week (ISW) December 5-9, with events and activities in classrooms, schools and communities to raise awareness of educational practices that reach students with disabilities or have diverse backgrounds. This year’s theme is “Champions of Inclusion: POWerful Things Happen in Inclusive Schools.”


December 9, 2016 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

Deerwood Students Walk to Bring Awareness to Poverty


Students at Deerwood Academy marched around their campus recently to bring awareness to poverty during the school’s third annual iCare Walk initiative, which they dubbed the “March Against Poverty.”

Even before the holiday season started, students at Deerwood Academy already had the spirit of giving.

Last month they took to the streets – or at least the driveways and walkways around the school campus – to raise awareness to the plight of the less fortunate among them in the community. For the third consecutive year, Deerwood Academy students staged their iCare Walk, an initiative designed to bring attention to a community issue of concern, and then raise money to combat the issue.

In the two previous years, the themes were breast cancer awareness and bullying. This year, students targeted poverty as the theme after being inspired by the story of Terrence and Cecilia Lester, whose “Love Beyond Walls” organization works to mobilize communities to move past the walls that divide people through creative community service projects.

Earlier this fall, Terence Lester spent two months walking 650 miles from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for poverty, which inspired the students at Deerwood Academy to hold their “March Against Poverty.” Nearly all of the 744 students participated, collecting pledges from donors based on the number of steps they took. Students will host several more fundraising events throughout the remainder of the school year. All proceeds will be combined and given to “Love Beyond Walls.”


Fifth graders Ella Loyo and Layla McReynolds were two of the event’s main organizers.

“I was with my dad one day and we saw two women and both of them had two little kids and they were just walking around in the road,” Layla said. “People like that need help and we thought this was a good way to do that.”

Ella agreed. “There are too many people with children who are struggling,” she said. “They are not able to take care of themselves and so we want to be able to help them.”

December 8, 2016 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

Springdale Park Elementary School Among 12 Semi-Finalists for ‘Music in Our Schools’ Tour

By: Alicia Sands Lurry

Students at Springdale Park Elementary School have plenty to sing about these days.

That’s because SPARK is one of 12 semi-finalists chosen to participate in the Fourth Annual “Music in Our Schools – Music Inspires” Tour with Give a Note Foundation and Radio Disney. Springdale Park is challenging Tar River Elementary School in Franklinton, North Carolina, to be among six schools selected in the southern region of the 2017 tour. The winning schools will receive a grant for their music program, to be matched by CMA Foundation, and a celebration concert with a Radio Disney artist and on-air personality.

The 2017 tour includes 10 tour stops and will begin in mid-February and run through April. Voting is underway until Friday, Dec. 9.

The Atlanta Public Schools community can vote for SPARK at:, or go to and click on “MIOS Voting” in the top navigation. Voters can select one school in each region per day per IP address until the competition closes at midnight Pacific Time on Dec. 9.

Brianne Turgeon, music teacher and chorus director at Springdale Park, said SPARK was chosen based on its overall music program, as well as chorus, advanced chorus, band, and orchestra for upper grades, among other factors.

“I’m honored and humbled for our music programs to be acknowledged, and it’s a huge honor for us to have made to the semi-finals,” said Turgeon said. “I hope we do well in the voting.”

Turgeon’s students completed a Veterans Day project involving kindergarten, first, and second graders where they created a human “singing” American flag for which they filmed students singing the first two verses of “American and “America the Beautiful.

“Our students were really inspired to thank our veterans and to honor the sacrifices and work of the brave men and women who protect our country,” she said. “When we entered the Give a Note competition, we submitted an edited version of the video which begins with the second verse of ‘America the Beautiful.'”

Here are the lyrics:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

Turgeon said students learned how patriotic songs inspire Americans toward unity and the different heroes they could relate to in American history.

“We discussed members of the armed forces, firefighters and policemen, Civil Rights heroes, and other Americans in history,” she said. “Younger students also learned about how Dr. Martin Luther King used the words to patriotic songs in his speeches to help forward the goals of the Civil Rights movements.”

Be sure to do your part to help Springdale Park wins! Cast your vote today at:

December 8, 2016 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

APS Inclusive Schools Week: Meet Champion of Inclusion Marsha Sims


Atlanta Public Schools salutes, Sutton Middle School Parent Marsha Sims, as a 2016 Champion of Inclusion!

Marsha Sims is currently serving her second year as the Chair of the Special Education Committee for Sutton Middle School.  Previously, she held the volunteer position of Chair of Special Services at Morris Brandon Elementary School.  She is a member of Decoding Dyslexia Georgia and The Junior League of Atlanta, and regularly attends conferences presented by the International Dyslexia Association.  She has been a volunteer for Dyslexia Day at the Georgia Capitol and is an active advocate for Dyslexia awareness.  Ms. Sims is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and obtained her MA in Journalism from the University of Georgia.  She began her career as a reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting’s political show, “Lawmakers,” and as a producer for WAGA Fox5’s television show, “Good Day Atlanta.”

Many thanks to Marsha Sims for her advocacy work in the dyslexia community and championing the cause throughout metro Atlanta.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) joins school districts and communities around the world in celebrating Inclusive Schools Week (ISW) December 5-9, with events and activities in classrooms, schools and communities to raise awareness of educational practices that reach students with disabilities or have diverse backgrounds. This year’s theme is “Champions of Inclusion: POWerful Things Happen in Inclusive Schools.”


December 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

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