Franklin School of Innovation Wins Education Grant

franklin school of innovation

So many wonderful things are happening behind the scenes with education in Western North Carolina. Charter schools are opening up all around town, joining many already successful establishments. These buildings and rooms are filled with great folks and families, education and creativity, and a chance to improve schooling on a whole new level. Check out this great news from the Franklin School of Innovation:

Congressman Mark Meadows will visit the Franklin School of Innovation at their temporary location at 104 Peachtree Road, South Asheville on Thursday, October 9, 2014, at 1pm to announce the grant.

Thursday, October 9, 2014Asheville’s new Expeditionary Learning Middle & High School is one of 16 national winners of a Charter School Education Grant.  Franklin was awarded $194,000 from the U.S. Department of Education and is the only recipient in the state of North Carolina.  The school was chosen for its efforts in a number of areas, including the promotion of student diversity, professional learning activities, and community support.

Michelle Vruwink, Franklin’s primary founder and Executive Director was the lead author on the grant.  “I’m thrilled at the news of financial support for our vision,” Vruwink said. “For a start up school in the current school budget climate, this grant gives us resources that we couldn’t otherwise afford. This allows us to focus on developing the Expeditionary Learning model, supporting teacher’s professional growth, and improving instruction in our classrooms.”

Congressman Mark Meadows’ office called the school with the news and sent a letter of congratulations, applauding Franklin’s efforts to seek a student body diversified by socioeconomic status, ethnicity and learning differences. Meadows is scheduled to visit the school on Thursday.

“The competition is fierce, “ noted Joel Medley, Director of the NC Office of Charter Schools, “It speaks a great deal to Franklin’s effort, commitment, and strategy to have received the Charter School Program funds.”  

Board Chair, Danielle Moser says the ongoing support of the Glass Foundation contributed to the school winning the large federal grant. The Foundation purchased 13+ acres in Enka which is under construction as the school’s permanent site.

Media:  If you would like to attend Congressman Meadow’s visit to Franklin on Thursday, Contact: Danielle Moser   828-329-4623 or email

Playing Dress-UP

I changed the way I look at jewelry Monday night.  I didn’t learn anything about measurements, techniques, or jewelry biz lingo really.  I don’t remember the names of the gorgeous gems or stones I was tinkering with either.  I didn’t want to know those things.  However, when Asheville jewelry-maker, Nadine Fidelman invited me into her home, she taught me all I could ever hope to learn about why we choose to decorate ourselves the way we do.

At first glance jewelry is like looking out into a crowd of people.  There are a lot of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles all running together into rainbow overload.  The first thoughts are, ‘oh I see pretty things,’ and then we start searching for a focal point.  It is in that search that we realize we’re being pulled towards certain things and we start to examine why.  While I was zeroing in on a generally smooth black stone with a noticeable organic crack in the upper right corner I could overhear one of my side kicks talking about the jewelry.

“It’s not just beads, they’re individual pieces,” I heard my fellow playmate Kelly Allen offer.

At first I thought, ‘yeah, ok, there’s a lot of different jewelry here.  I can see that.’  Then I took a breath and thought about that word individual. I realized what she meant, and that I wasn’t just looking at the pieces, I was meeting them.  I went back to my black stone, noticing the gorgeous, crystal-esque inclusions the flaw revealed.  I was in love.  I thought of my own personality, how I like the rawness in life, and the beauty I find in truth.  I also believe in fighting like hell and collecting battle scars…I thought of how hard it is being a writer and how far I still had to go in the world of manuscripts.  I wanted that beautiful stone.  I had found my connection.

Lorna's Fave!

  Lorna’s Fave!




We moved the party to the carpet where  the impossible not love, Nadine plopped right down with us, kicking her shoes off ready to dig in.  She shared stories with us about where she had found inspiration for her work, and let her obvious passion for her trade seep out onto us.  We started tossing necklaces and bracelets around, trimming ourselves in the jewelry like we did our mothers’ as children.  We’d try a piece on in between sips of girly shelf white wine, and chat about what we’d chosen. I asked the other three girls what they thought of what they’d selected.

Nadine chatting with Kelly about healing stones

Nadine chatting with Kelly about healing stones

Kelly, who had remarked earlier on the individualism, was drawn to stones she knew to have healing qualities.  As cancer survivor, officially in remission since January; she keeps her eyes peeled for items in nature than bode healing qualities.  Her journey with her sickness, and attention to wellness has brought her upon her choices in jewelry.  Out of those stones, one in particular jumped out at her.

“This one looks like a fishing lure,” she commented excitedly holding up the yellowish vertical stone,” like my Daddy used.”  She set it down smiling.  She had found her connection.

Whitney Thompson, a native Ashevillian piped up from the other side of the circle, holding up a gorgeous blue stone in a similar fashion. “This one reminded me of the sea,” she said.  “It’s like when you’re little.  I just wanted to take my flip-flops off.  When I saw it I wanted to go to the beach and run around.”

Whitney explaining what she loved about the peice whitpic
Whitney explaining what she loved about the piece 

Whitney’s stone actually provoked a childhood memory to surface, making her feel carefree again as she had in her most innocent years.  Whitney had found her connection.

The youngest of the group, Hannah, a 16-year-old, chose a piece unlike the rest of us, without a stone.  Her piece was raw, twisted sterling silver wired, manipulated by hand into an untamed yet simple set of earrings.  I chuckled thinking how the piece was like being a teenager, beautiful, unsure which direction it was going, and not as simple as it appeared to be.  They fit Hannah just perfectly, and hung daintily on her young ears.  She had made her connection.  I wonder if she knew…

Dainty Hannah

Dainty Hannah

While I was pondering this Whitney was perusing the backside of a necklace, “you know, their backs are just as pretty and detailed as their fronts.”

Nadine explained to the group how this is one of her trademarks.  I thought how much it made sense because there are different sides to women…many sides.  They are sometimes tucked away against our own skins for only us to enjoy and sometimes decided to be displayed so people can see our normally hidden sides.  Nadine told us she’d even been in public and saw her creation flipped over, showing them from the opposite sides.  What self-expression.

I learned something Monday night.  Jewelry isn’t just embellishment, it’s an embellishment of us.  Often times who we are is in the tiny details of the things we choose to let represent us.  We weren’t wearing jewelry, we were wearing little pieces of who we are.  I thought I was going to just play dress-up, and I did to an extent.  I just didn’t know I would be using Nadine’s art to dress up as myself.


If you want to make your connection with Jewelry by Nadine check out her collection at the Kress Emporium in downtown Asheville.

19 Patton Ave,  Asheville, NC 28801

If you’d love your own play date with Nadine call her 828-654-0993 or email her at





Have an interesting story?  Contact AskAsheville’s Lorna Hollifield at lornalh@gmail .com 828-280-1799


Find out more about Lorna’s writing journey at

A Little Bit of Soul

Everyone knows that Asheville has some sort of special “it” quality.  There’s something to the food, the music, the climate, the architecture, and the people.  There’s just a soul present that many other cities simply cannot contend with.  Asheville has held onto a quality many cities have lost in sky-scrapers, public transportation systems, and technology.  It’s funny really, because this apparition, this spirit, draws artists, celebrities, and intellectuals as strongly as a magnet lures metal.  I set out to discover why.

I started researching my city a couple years ago, which prompted me to tour my own city through La Zoom Tours. After the research and the tours, I chocked up the town’s charisma to a couple different things: it’s birth, and it’s death. In the late 1700s Asheville was nothing but a convenient patch of dirt, sitting in a valley at the crossroads of a Cherokee trading route.  They say real estate is all about location, location, location.  This meeting place of sorts just happened to have a nice river running through it, and some trails elevated low enough for the horses to hoof it without falling sideways off a cliff.  The white settlers came in, realized its potential, and noticed it wasn’t hard to look at either.  We all know how the rest of that story went…luckily the hills kept their secrets and preserved a lot of that early heritage with folk art, and a respect for nature unparalleled in much of our country.

The death of Asheville was as important as the birth.  What death?  Some may be wondering how they missed the memo.  Asheville became a huge part of the jazz age, and one of the major hubs of the 20s scene.  It’s this flashy era that Asheville can trace some it’s progressive roots.  The city became a regular stomping ground for the Fitzgeralds and their cronies (I think Hemingway actually made it Beer City U.S.A. back then).  That on top of Thomas Wolfe hailing from here, the city was a literary hot spot.  Intellectuals and writers had now entered the scene.  The ingredients that make Asheville were in the pot and boiling.  People were building new buildings next to the old, rubbing elbows with Vanderbilts, and mixing deep southern culture with new ideas, causing ignition.  It was a city of steam, and it was smoldering from the inside out.

Sadly, Asheville couldn’t hide from the stock market crash in ’29.  Asheville had the most debt per capita of any city in America.  There was no money left, and the charming streets once filled with trolleys, bootlegged liquor, and new money had no more hustle and bustle.  Blood stains from self-inflicted wounds sadly decorated the walls of too many banks, and too many bedroom walls in the upscale Montford neighborhood.  For the next 50 years much of the city looked like a ghost town, a shell of what once was.  The city had died.

Now for the triumphant part.  Here in Asheville, we believe in ghosts.  We believe that the soul of the city that hosted so much life would not go gently into the night.  A city that produced singers like Roberta Flack, war heroes like Kiffin Rockwell,and awe inspiring evangelists like Billy Graham would not simply succumb to becoming a “once upon a time”.  This was a city with too much presence.  People started pouring in, enamored with what was left behind. The city was like a beautiful, intricate bees nest preserved by time, built in a season that thrived.  However, those bees work was done, and they had laid down their duties.  They became Zelda Fitzgeralds dying in fires on a knoll in Montford, or artists knowing moonshine all to well, or angels knowing they could never go home again.  They didn’t thrive, but instead left legacies in the form of art deco buildings, great literary works, soulful music, and museums.  We were left untouched French gothic buildings, art deco masterpieces (one of the greatest collections in the nation), and the largest privately owned home in America; ours to tour.  Why?  We couldn’t afford anything else, so we held onto that abandoned space and filled it with art, breathing sweet honeysuckle scented life back into its spirit, and gave birth to this town once again.  If you ask me, this Mecca of art and humanity should be one any bucket list in the world.

I got more acquainted with this when I toured my own city on a La Zoom tour, and feel I’ve truly tasted it now.  La Zoom is a comedic tour featuring all the hot spots I mentioned.  Tours run daily, and meet on Biltmore Avenue right outside the French Broad Food Co-op (which is a great place to buy your local beer to take on the tour)!  After this tour you’ll have a lengthy list of places to visit time and time again.  Bring a change of pants though, in case your pee yourself laughing! 


My husband and I having a great time!


ph2          ph1


Post by:  Lorna Hollifield Click here for more on aspiring author, Lorna Hollifield!



Railway of Dreams

The best way to tour a city is to know it, actually meet it, date it, and learn its history. Don’t we see new places for that very reason?  Don’t we travel to become part of something charming we’ve been bored for, and to find something steeped in a past we’ll weave a connection to?

I’ve had that priviledge, here in my own city.  A 3 mile ride over a once abandoned railroad track did it for me.  It wasn’t the ambiance of the French Broad trailing beside me, or the delightful park we stopped at to picnic and pose for family pictures at, though those places were among the highlights.  For me it was the story.  It was learning the track had sat there for nearly 60 years awaiting a promise.  The track had been useful once, told it would feed into bigger better tracks, and become a part of what Asheville was at the time; a city of railroads leading to industrial dreams, or just public transportation.  The Craggy Mountain Line was promised it would be part of the buzz that eventually had no room for it.  People forgot.

However, a man was born on August 10, 1964, that would save the railroad.  This man rode out of the womb on a steam engine with a dream as long as the track itself.  An avid trainlover, with a passion bordering insanity, his destiny would be to fulfil this railroad’s promise.  It would be a functioning part of Asheville one day.  Even better, it would be saved in the ninth hour, preserving the last of Asheville’s trolley , and usher in an era of old to the new generation.  It would bring joy to the smiling faces of children and train enthusiasts everywhere.  It would become more than hoped for, and would stand the test of time unlike the more prestigious rails that once thrived downtown.  It would carry those cars on its tired rails and reign once again.  It would become the little track that could.

My blessing?  I married into this dream, wedding the son of that man gifted to the lonely track.  I get to become a part of this history up close and personal, sharing my knowledge of it with the world.  This is as much a part of Asheville’s quaint history as anything I’ve seen.

A work in progress, the track will hopefully be open full time in the coming months.  Now, however, keep your eyes peeled for special holiday events, birthday party opportunities, and Saturday night rides.  Taste history, and become it’s family.  You’ll feel the dream when you first step foot on this line, the hallmark of perseverence.

post by:  Lorna Hollifield

For more by Lorna visit and find her on twitter!