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Being a Good Neighbor in the Region

As it works to improve the quality of life of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), Cherokee Preservation Foundation also provides support to neighbors in Haywood, Jackson, Clay, Macon, Graham, Swain and Cherokee counties in Western North Carolina to strengthen the entire region.  The Foundation’s role is to help identify needs and opportunities on the Qualla Boundary and in the surrounding seven counties and address issues that fall within its authorized areas of focus — economic development, environmental preservation and cultural preservation.

The Foundation is particularly interested in supporting programs that foster collaborative partnerships between the EBCI and other players in the region and encourage public involvement. The Foundation funds projects that aim to unify Western North Carolinians and increase the capacity of the region as a whole. The three types of programs that follow are representative of the foundation’s regional efforts.

Preparing Regional Students to Compete Globally

Cherokee Preservation Foundation has provided more than $1.75 million to support the construction of a dedicated broadband connection, WNC EdNet, that brings high speed Internet access to 60 educational sites — primarily public schools, colleges and administrative offices — around the seven westernmost counties and the Qualla Boundary. The Foundation collaborated with the Western Region Educational Services Alliance (WRESA), the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the Business and Education Technology Alliance, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and the Public Schools of North Carolina so that rural students can achieve the same levels of learning as students in more urban areas and compete in our global society.

More recently, the emphasis has been on engaging regional educators and students in decisions about how to utilize technology in the classroom. The Foundation funds student participation in an annual Technology in the Classroom conference presented by WRESA, and the Foundation also provides funding for students and teachers to engage in regional collaborations. A number of schools have formed student advisory councils and engaged in projects such as students teaching educators how to use Web 2.0 communications tools, and creating web sites whose content is created by students.

Raising the Capacity of the Region’s Nonprofits

Cherokee Preservation Foundation partnered with the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Mission Healthcare Foundation, and the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County and established WNC Nonprofit Pathways (www.nonprofitpathways.org) in 2005 with the purpose of sharpening the skills of regional nonprofit leaders and strengthening the sector. WNC Nonprofit Pathways provides information, training and workshops, assessments, tailored consultancies and networking to help nonprofit leaders improve the governance and management of their organizations.

WNC Nonprofit Pathways helps nonprofits in 18 western counties that serve as economic engines and employers, as community builders that improve our quality of life, and as the providers of the safety net for our citizens with the greatest needs. Its support is offered to participating nonprofits at no or low-cost.  It recently received the Credit Where Credit Is Due Award of the Decade from OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling for the benefit it is providing to the region.

Support for Youth Development

Cherokee Preservation Foundation places special emphasis on initiatives that teach young people critical skills and involve them in developing solutions to regional problems.

The Foundation helped establish the Cherokee Youth Council to give young enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians the opportunity to make their voices heard on issues that are important to them, serve their community and develop their leadership skills. When young people in the region learned about the success of the Cherokee Youth Council and expressed interest in participating in similar organizations, the Foundation made grants that supported the creation of youth councils in Swain, Graham, Macon and Jackson counties. 

When Jackson County Commissioners convened public meetings to help develop land preservation strategies and clarify development opportunities along the Highway 441 corridor between U.S. 74 and Cherokee’s business district, the Foundation funded a component of the project that enabled area middle and high school students to give their opinions and learn how communities get built through a mix of collaboration, physical limitations and regulation.

And Cherokee Preservation Foundation has made the eco-study tour program in Costa Rica it initially developed for tribal youth available to other young people in the region as well. The trips involve cross-cultural experiences such as visits to indigenous communities in Costa Rica, and the exchanges expand the horizons of young people and deepen their appreciation for their own culture.

Cherokee Preservation Foundation will continue to help develop collaborations between the EBCI and our neighbors in the region to address mutual opportunities and concerns.