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Reynolds American Foundation Supports Project Impact

The Reynolds American Foundation is a lead sponsor for Project Impact, a new educational initiative that provides additional operating funds to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools to address critical student achievement gaps.


The initiative’s goal is to improve third-grade reading and math proficiency scores using pre-K to third-grade strategies proven successful in other school districts. Project Impact is funding pre-K expansion, extended learning options and expanded staff development and instructional support with a focus on at-risk students and lower-performing schools. 

Project Impact evolved from discussions among education, community and business leaders. In its first year, the initiative already has commitments of about $24 million toward its goal of raising $45 million for the school system over six years.

“Across all the regions in which I’ve worked, I have never, before RAI and the RAI Foundation, been approached by a business to see how they can contribute to our mission.”
Dr. Beverly Emory, Superintendent, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools


When Project Impact was announced in 2016, Brice O’Brien, RAI’s executive vice president of public affairs said, “We believe our local school system does a heroic job with the resources they have – in the face of ever-growing demands. But they need additional resources to accelerate progress.”

“But we can change these odds,” O’Brien said. “Additional resources for our schools will help put disadvantaged children on a path to success. Education is pivotal to helping these children find their way out of poverty.” The Reynolds American Foundation is making its largest grant ever to Project Impact over the next six years. “We see schools as a key component of economic development,” said Andrew Gilchrist, RAI’s chief financial officer and executive vice president.

He added, “This is an opportunity where the business community can help with a vital local issue. Project Impact complements other local initiatives — which together, will help this community’s children reach their full potential in school and in life.”

An Advisory Board was created to monitor and evaluate success throughout the project, which began funding programs in the 2016–17 school year. In its first year, Project Impact reached over 2,600 of the district’s highest-need students. “We’re off to a terrific start,” said O’Brien. “We have a compelling vision, leaders who’ve stepped up to be stewards of this vision, and a partnership ignited across the community.” The $24 million committed thus far to Project Impact include pledges from lead sponsors and donors, including local employers and their foundations, The Winston-Salem Foundation, and individuals. 


During the 2016–17 school year, Project Impact funded:

  • Pathway to K, a three-week summer program serving 259 children with little or no preschool experience, to improve their academic, social and emotional readiness for kindergarten. Assessments showed the children demonstrated significant gains in Pre-K benchmarks during the program.
  • A summer school program serving 774 third graders. Project Impact funding allowed the school system to serve more students than in the past, and to recruit highly experienced teachers who used curriculum tailored to student needs. During the program, 157 students gained reading proficiency.
  • Pre-Kindergarten expansion funded by Project Impact allowed the school system to serve more than 100 additional children in new pre-K classes at six of the district’s highest-need schools.

Major programs being funded by Project Impact during the 2017-18 school year include:

  • Helping at least 280 students prepare for kindergarten through the Pathway to K program, now including an additional day of instruction.
  • Expanding pre-K classes to serve almost 300 students.
  • Providing leadership development programs for about 100 teachers and principals, with a priority on administrators at the district’s highest-need schools.