More and more, I’ve begun to feel like there are two North Carolinas. There is the one with warm, welcoming people, great food, respected universities; the one my husband and I moved to eight years ago. Then there’s the one with intolerance and inequality. This other side is visible in major facets of our state, especially our government (HB2, anyone?) and our education. It is the one that creates a schism between “us” and “them.”
Unfortunately, the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) is finding proof of this divide with the 2016 Roadmap of Need Report. NC CAP reports that “Our state is becoming ‘two North Carolinas’ – one populated by young people living in areas that are attracting jobs and industry, and another populated by young people living in communities in a state of economic decline.”
The Roadmap of Need analyzes 20 indicators across four areas: “health, youth behavior and safety, education, and economic development” to determine where youth are most likely to succeed or struggle, in and out of school, across the state.
NC Cap reports that the five counties where youth are most in need are in eastern North Carolina, but points out that there can be great variances within each county. This means that even if you are in one of the counties with the highest probability for youth success (Union, Orange, Wake, Cabarrus and Camden) or the lowest (Vance, Northampton, Anson, Halifax and Robeson), your youth are not destined to have a golden childhood or tarnished juvenility.
Of course the report can’t paint a full picture of a community, but unlike something meant to discourage and divide us without offering realistic solutions (school report cards) or something that is downright harmful to a large portion of our population (HB2), the report does tell us where we are succeeding with the next generation and where we need to step-up.
And I mean “we.” The purpose of the report is to allow education and child-service organizations to inform policy makers and the public about the needs in their areas. It is also for citizens like us. No matter what county you live in, no matter where it falls on the report, we still have a responsibility to the people who live in our own towns, counties, and state to ensure that our youth can succeed.
Read the report. Find an area about which you feel passionate. Find an organization that supports that component and volunteer or donate. Write your elected official and let them know what needs focus. Reach out a hand in whatever way you can, so that all of our youth have a shot at success and that we can become one North Carolina again.
Jennifer Brick is a freelance writer and former teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.