Grandfather to help provide 'New Opportunity'

by Staff Reports from Mountain Times

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation recently partnered with the New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.

Jennie Abbott, an intern from the program, shadowed the mountain's naturalists for two weeks this summer.

Abbott, a self-proclaimed "nature fanatic" from Cullowhee, completed her internship with Grandfather Mountain's naturalists and gained experience in her chosen field of outdoor education.

While at Grandfather, Abbott participated in the daily naturalist-led programs and joined bluebird nest monitoring efforts.

"My favorite part about working at Grandfather Mountain is the diversity," Abbott said, "and the chance to learn about plant and animal life that just doesn't exist in many other places."

The mission of the New Opportunity School for Women is to improve the educational, financial and personal circumstances of low-income women in Appalachia.

Jane B. Stephenson, a Banner Elk native and Lees-McRae alumna, founded the school in 1987 in Berea, Ky. The first expansion site was opened at Lees-McRae in 2005. Program participants explore career, educational, personal and cultural development. Together, the programs have graduated more than 580 women in the Appalachian region with 76 percent of the graduates currently employed, enrolled in further education, or both.

"When I graduate from the program I plan to attend community college and embark on a long journey of outdoor leadership," Abbott said.

Grandfather Mountain is a globally recognized nature preserve famous for its 360-degree vistas, native wildlife habitats and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The attraction is located on U.S. 221, 2 miles north of Linville and 1 mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest and participate in educational research activities.


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