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Back to School with Sanford's Let's Do It Together Foundation

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On August 5th, the Sanford-based non-profit organization Let’s Do It Together Foundation (LDIT) held its 2nd annual Back to School event with support from local non-profits and local education institutions. Despite the North Carolina heat, Horton Park was jam-packed with children receiving free bookbags filled with school supplies, teenagers shooting hoops, and parents learning about local education resources and community services. Representatives from Central Carolina Community College, Lee County Schools, and the new School of the Arts for Boys Academy set up tables with critical information about their programs. Local organizations such as New Partnership for Children and Sanford’s Teen Court program spoke about how to participate in their extracurricular activities.

Green, orange and gray bookbags on a table.
500 bookbags filled with school supplies were handed out to families.

The Back to School event, which connects families to resources for their children’s education, is only one of many programmatic activities created and coordinated by LDIT. Leaders of LDIT were integral members of the Building Integrated Communities process in the City of Sanford. As a current recipient of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation funds, it is implementing the recommendations produced by the Sanford Equity Task Force, which the City Council unanimously voted for, to collaboratively dismantle disparities in the lives of Sanford residents. The Task Force report provides a framework and recommendations for addressing persistent inequalities for Black and Latino communities specifically in housing and home ownership, wages and income, criminal justice and law enforcement, leadership and inclusion, health, education, communication, and community responsibility. This event was an intentional effort to bridge the gap in education for Lee County residents. About 18.6% of Lee County residents are Black and 19.7% of residents are Hispanic or Latino (2021 American Community Survey). In the local school system, students of color have lower levels of enrollment in advanced courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) or Career and College Promise (CCP) than their White counterparts (NC School Report Cards 2021-2022).

Focusing on pathways to leadership, the LDIT has also developed a Leadership Academy, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion conference, and a Youth Leadership Summer Camp. The first cohort of the Leadership Academy convened six times in early 2023 to learn about foundational leadership skills, and local leadership opportunities in businesses, government, and community. One session featured two local government representatives who spoke about government structure, running for election, and challenges they’ve experienced as leaders. In April, 25 leaders graduated and are now tasked with recruiting young adults to participate in the upcoming Fall session. According to feedback from participants, many Leadership Academy graduates expressed an interest in applying for leadership positions in City and County boards and commissions.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion conference held at Central Carolina Community College in March of 2023 brought together key community stakeholders, human resource employees, and local government officials. The daylong conference showcased speakers, panel discussions, and workshops on topics that impact organizational success. From talks by motivational speakers to team-building exercises, this conference provided space for more than 100 attendees to discuss the significant values and practices needed to support the success of communities and organizations. Additionally, participants could earn up to 5 hours of continuing education credits for updated human resource best practices for the Society for Human Resource Management.

In July, LDIT held a week-long leadership summer camp for 39 middle school and high school students. Leadership Academy graduate, Charity McLean, directed the summer camp alongside LDIT Community Connections Coordinator, Jeanette Peace, who was a member of the Sanford Equity Task Force. Camp activities focused on identifying diverse leadership opportunities in one’s community. A midweek field trip to the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University campus and the Greensboro Civil Rights Museum provided the summer campers an opportunity to learn about North Carolina’s civil rights history at these historic landmarks. The week culminated in a project presentation in which campers identified an issue in their community and created a proposal on how to solve the problem. Interestingly, the identified community concerns mirrored the findings and recommendations of the Task Force Report. For example, one group identified the lack of extracurricular activities for youth, reinforcing the Task Force finding that the City of Sanford and Lee County should invest in more youth recreational opportunities as a means of preventing adverse childhood experiences and interactions with the criminal justice system. Campers also displayed their project presentations at the Back to School event, providing them an opportunity to share their work with the larger community.

A tri-fold poster board with graphs and text.
Youth Leadership Summer Camp project proposal on “How can we decrease crime rates for teens in Sanford?.”

The LDIT foundation has been hard at work collaborating with multiple institutions and community non-profits to improve leadership and advocacy for all residents. Learn more about LDIT’s efforts to strengthen Sanford and Lee County community members through their website here .

To read more about Building Integrated Communities’ work in Sanford, visit our Sanford page. BIC partners with North Carolina local governments to create inclusive practices and policies for residents from Latin America and underrepresented communities. Local governments and community stakeholders work together to improve communication, public safety, mobility, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

Written by Brianna Gilmore

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