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UNC Graduate students build paths to equity in Sanford and Lee County

UNC graduate students have been critical to the work of Building Integrated Communities (BIC) in the City of Sanford Equity Task Force. In a previous blog, we described BIC’s continuing collaborations with Sanford and Lee County communities through our participation in the City of Sanford Equity Task Force. The Task Force, created in the fall of 2020 by the Sanford City Council, will spend a year examining and making recommendations to dismantle racial and ethnic disparities in the city and county. The UNC BIC team is supporting the work of the Task Force by conducting research and supporting the monthly convenings of the group and its sub-committees.

Pierce Photo

BIC team members include graduate students Daniela Cerón, a 2nd-year master’s student in the UNC School of Social Work, and Pierce Holloway, a 1st-year master’s student in the City and Regional Planning Department. These team members have been essential to research and facilitation of the Task Force. Both students have gained meeting facilitation and data collection experience within their respective sub-committees of the Sanford Equity Taskforce. Pierce Holloway uses his love of GIS mapping to assist the housing sub-committee, in which Task Force member and retired Sanford city planner, Deacon Bob Bridwell participates. Deacon Bob Bridwell along with other Sanford housing and city planning experts have given Pierce a direct insight into the city and planning world at a local level. When asked how this work aligns with Pierce’s studies, he stated “My work with the Sanford Housing subcommittee is an amazing opportunity for me to link my academic and theoretical work in the City and Regional Planning department to a tangible project. Frequently, we talk about the importance of equity work in my department, so it’s a real treat to put my learning into practice working and learning alongside invested community members.” Through this work, he has been able to learn and grow particularly through improving his community engagement and facilitation skills.

Daniela Photo

Daniela Cerón worked with the health sub-committee to research health disparities found across the residents of Sanford. Through direct conversations with individuals experiencing health barriers and organizations assisting in eliminating those barriers, Daniela identifies a strong connection between her work in Sanford and her macro social work studies. Daniela stated that “working with the Sanford Equity Task Force has helped me relate what I’m learning in the school of social work about group dynamics, facilitation to real community work. I’ve also been able to build relationships and learn more about what health equity looks like from amazing women who bring lots of experience and ideas to the table.” Also, she expressed the importance of advocating to eliminate challenges by consulting with expert individuals, intentionally assessing the environment, and acknowledging how systems have impacted outcomes in a variety of sectors.

Looking forward, both graduate students will begin pursuing new jobs shortly after the school year finishes. In addition to continuing his graduate research over the summer, Pierce will be furthering his research skills and gaining federal experience by working with NASA. Daniela will be working on a behavior health assessment as a community engagement specialist with the Latino Commission on AIDS.

We wish Daniela and Pierce the best and thank them for their hard work!

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