Everywhere ZSR goes across the State, we find people who are unwavering in their resolve to improve their communities by: creating a better path for young children; revitalizing their local economies and expanding economic opportunities; enabling public schools to serve each child well; or building strong leadership for the future. Even at a time when the policymaking of our state can feel hopelessly polarized, on the ground we find one example after the next of people working together, across all kinds of lines, to make their communities welcoming, equitable, vibrant places to live.
Evidence of our ability to work together is widespread. We see it from down east where the Ocracoke Foundation is engaging the community to revitalize its historic square as a focal point on the Ocracoke Harbor, to the far west where Graham County Revitalization Economic Action Team (GREAT) is bringing together a wide array of residents, businesses, and agencies to meet the health, social, economic and educational needs of the people of Graham County.
Collaboration abounds in points in between with, for example, groups like Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education, the Asheville City Schools Foundation, and the Guilford Education Alliance working across sectors to make sure that each child in their community leaves public school prepared to succeed in work and in life. Similarly, Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County is working on a comprehensive community campaign to raise awareness of children’s issues and ensure the needs of that city’s children are well met. The people of North Carolina understand the importance of public education for our families and for our communities. We know that for children, education starts at birth, not at age five, and then continues in classrooms that have well prepared and supported teachers, textbooks, and technology. North Carolinians have demonstrated in community after community their willingness to work together so that each child can start life and leave school having gotten what he or she needs to able to be a successful, productive adult.
Another example of our communities’ commitment to working together comes through UNC Chapel Hill’s “Building Integrated Communities” project. Through this effort, NC cities such as High Point and Greenville, are engaging in a collaborative, inclusive, integration-focused planning process that is enabling immigrant communities to become part of the fabric of their cities in a constructive, healthy way.
In Charlotte, the Foundation for the Carolinas is launching an ambitious, new, broadly collaborative initiative to become a more economically inclusive city, one in which people from all sectors have access to economic opportunity and to the benefits of Charlotte’s economic vitality. On the other side of the State, people in Craven County are working together to expand economic opportunity by creating a small business incubator. This joint effort will give residents of New Bern access to the necessary tools to become successful entrepreneurs.
Another challenge for many communities is making sure that the next generation of leaders will be there to lead this kind of community collaboration going forward. In Gaston County, through Gaston Together, current leaders are working to build just this kind of future leadership.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is proud to support each of these efforts. Personally, I could not be prouder to live in a state, where from mountains to coast, there are so many determined people who work together, across differences, to create inclusive, equitable, and vibrant places for all of us to live.