The Sandbox Annual An Evening of Believing℠ Prom Prep Begins with Kick-Off Party

Around this time each year, there’s a flurry of activity for The Sandbox, an organization that supports families in the region with a child diagnosed with cancer or a life-altering illness. That’s because they have their party-planning hats on, getting ready for the annual Kick-Off Party for the An Evening of Believing Prom this September.

The Kick-Off Party, which is held on May 5 this year, is an opportunity to official launch the preparation for the big soiree, known as the An Evening of Believing℠ Prom, this fall. The event helps to raise the needed financial support for Honorees and their families to attend the Prom. But, there’s another reason it’s an important day for The Sandbox. It marks the day they introduce the 2016 class of Youth Mentors and Youth Ambassadors, young high school students from Mecklenburg and Union counties who have been chosen through an application and interview process to help support Sandbox families.

“We can’t wait to introduce these remarkable, service-minded young people to the community,” said Mara Campolungo, Executive Director of The Sandbox. “We couldn’t do what we do without the faithful support of volunteers, and our Sandbox families and Honorees benefits tremendously from the support of Youth Mentors, which serve as their buddies during the year.”

Attendees to the Kick-Off Party on May 5th will also enjoy great food, entertainment, prizes, and a silent auction – proceeds from which go directly to supporting families in our community facing these difficult situations.

One of the most meaningful aspects of the Kick-Off Party is meeting families served by The Sandbox. Each year, families are on hand to share about the impact The Sandbox, and the army of community volunteers behind them, has on their physical and emotional well-being. Kick-Off Party 02 - Conner and Queens (1)

If you want to learn more about The Sandbox and this Kick-Off Party, visit You can purchase tickets online.

Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis announces retirement

Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis announces retirement

 web Mary Ellis mug

Monroe, NC—After nearly 38 years of service to public education and Union County Public Schools, Superintendent Dr. Mary B. Ellis has announced plans to retire June 1, 2016. Ellis has served as UCPS superintendent since 2012.


“It has been an honor to serve as Superintendent of Union County Public Schools,” Ellis said. “This is an outstanding school system and I am proud to say that I was educated in Union County and have worked as a teacher and administrative leader in this district.”


A native of Union County, Ellis began her journey in education as a teacher at Sun Valley Middle School. She taught middle and high school English for 18 years before moving into administration in 1997. Ellis served as an administrator from 1997-2004.


Under Ellis’ leadership UCPS has received local, regional and national accolades. The district’s graduation rate is 93.1 percent, the highest in the school system’s history. In addition, UCPS has expanded its academic options and developed more than 25 career and technical education academies. The launch of the 1:1 instructional technology initiative has earned UCPS national recognition. The district has increased access to technology and expanded digital learning for students and teachers.


Ellis has also received numerous awards for her work as an educator and leader in Union County.

Life Lessons from Serving in The Sandbox

Each year, dozens of students from right here in Union County and across the Charlotte region have a life-changing experience serving others.
A day in the life of a high school students can be hectic. Studying for tests, sports practices and extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends, after-school jobs…sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day. Yet, nearly 70 high school students last year found time to serve their community when they were selected to serve as Youth Mentors for The Sandbox, a local nonprofit supporting the families of children who have been diagnosed with cancer or a life-altering illness.
These Youth Mentors are selected from an extensive application and interview process, and once selected, they walk alongside the children the Sandbox supports through the remainder of the year. Each Mentor is paired with a child, and they are primarily tasked with serving as their buddy throughout the process and raising the funds to sponsor their “Honoree” to attend the annual An Evening of Believing Prom event. An Evening of Believing Prom is The Sandbox’s marquee event, held each fall as an opportunity for children in the community facing cancer or a life-altering illness to have a night on the town. Youth Mentors also assist with other activities with their Honoree, such as helping at the annual Try-On Day, the day Honorees are able to select their wardrobe for the Prom.
The impact these students have on their Honoree is immeasurable. But, in the process, they usually find it hard to measure the impact it has on them personally.
“As we speak with our Youth Mentors at the end of each year, we consistently hear about the life lessons they gain through the experience,” said Mara Campolungo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Sandbox. “They learn compassion, selflessness, philanthropy and responsibility. They are reminded that the world is larger than just them.”
All rising 9th through 12th graders are eligible to apply to become a Youth Mentor. To learn more about becoming a Youth Mentor with The Sandbox and fill out the online application, visit Applications are due Feb. 29.Copy of 09252015_SandboxProm_ChadMitchell_IMG_0030

Parkwood Middle Science Teacher is February Hometown Hero

According to her students, Rebekah Fuerst is the best science teacher ever.
When asked why, students said she’s very passionate about science and it comes through in her teaching.

The Parkwood Middle science teacher was named the Hometown Hero for Union County Public Schools during a surprise presentation Friday, Feb. 19.
The school’s assistant principals Brian Davis and Susan Rodgers and a representative from Charles G. Monnett & Associates presented Fuerst with the award.

“I am really surprised,” Fuerst said. “I am shocked that someone would nominate me. I just love teaching science.”


As this month’s winner, Fuerst received a $250 gift card for classroom supplies and a pizza party for one of her classes.
Fuerst has been a teacher for six years. She has been working in UCPS for two years.

“She’s a great teacher and she’s fun,” said eighth grader JT Tyson. “This is my favorite class.”

Each month the Charles G. Monnett & Associates law firm honors teachers in Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Catawba, Iredell, Cabarrus and Union counties for their service in public education.

The nominations for the Hometown Hero Teacher Appreciation Award are ongoing throughout the school year. Winners are chosen based on the number of votes through an online voting contest held on the law firm’s website.

Students, families and faculty may nominate and vote for their special teacher by visiting the firm’s web site<>.