(Raleigh, N.C.) – Steve Msarsa knows a thing or two about the power of visual messaging. On Tuesday, the award-winning graphic artist and instructor at Franklin Academy High School unveiled his students’ artwork for State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA. The event served as the launch for a POWER of FIVE campaign to raise awareness of savings accounts specially devised for individuals living with disabilities.
The POWER of FIVE signifies the fifth anniversary of the availability of NC ABLE Program (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings accounts under the auspices of the Department of State Treasurer. NC ABLE partnered with Msarsa and his students to create posters for the statewide campaign.
The timing of the event had particular meaning. March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
“I am so proud of these students and the effort they put into making NC ABLE and The POWER of FIVE come to life,” Msarsa said. “The students gained real-world experience while seeing first-hand how their work impacts the broader community. It was a great learning lesson for the students and an opportunity for them to positively impact the community.”
Treasurer Folwell enjoyed meeting the students and applauded their creative efforts and willingness to provide a civic service.
“I am honored to visit with the students at Franklin Academy today. I am impressed with the artwork the students developed to help us increase awareness of the NC ABLE Program,” said Treasurer Folwell, who chairs the NC ABLE Board of Trustees. “It is through working with our great partners, like The ARC of North Carolina and the students at Franklin Academy High School, that we are able to spread the word about NC ABLE.”
The Board of Trustees oversees more than $15.6 million in assets for nearly 1,700 account holders whose average account size is $9,300. The money can be used for qualified disability expenses such as housing, cell phones, adaptive equipment, transportation and virtually any other item that will help to provide a better life experience.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced the bipartisan Achieving a Better Life Experience Act in Congress in 2011. The legislation was needed, he said at the time, because “families of individuals with disabilities often face overwhelming financial burdens associated with the expensive costs of health care, education, housing and transportation.”
North Carolina followed suit when the NC ABLE Act was signed into law in 2015. It allows people living with disabilities and their families to contribute to tax-free savings accounts without exceeding income limits that would cut off benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.
“I’ve personally seen how the NC ABLE program makes a difference. When people don’t lose their benefits, they are able to expand their opportunities significantly. I want to thank the Treasurer for helping to spearhead this program and promote it across the state,” said John Nash, executive director of The Arc of North Carolina.
Robert Luddy, founder of Franklin Academy, joined the treasurer in helping to debut the posters.
“I am honored to be here and be part of promoting the NC ABLE Program,” Luddy said. “A huge thank you goes out to Treasurer Folwell and to the students for the work you’ve put into this campaign. Your creativity is inspiring and your hard work is appreciated.”
Adam Strom, a recent high school graduate, NC ABLE account holder and participant in The Arc of North Carolina’s Supported Employment Program, also attended the event with his father, Steve Strom. Adam works at Cambridge Village in Apex.
The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and its partners annually designate March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. They work to create a social media campaign highlighting the many ways in which people with disabilities can help to form strong, diverse communities. Inclusiveness in the community and removing barriers that people with disabilities face in fully engaging community life are the objectives of the awareness campaign.
While he was at Franklin Academy, Treasurer Folwell presented a check to high school officials. During a routine review DST staff identified $12,674.93 belonging to Franklin Academy in the database of the Unclaimed Property Division, commonly called NCCash.com. UPD is the repository for approximately 18 million properties valued at roughly $919 million under DST’s custody awaiting return to the rightful owners.