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Carolina’s “Our State, Our Work” program participants to share stories of success and local progress at Statewide Summit

Stories Brought to Life: Statewide Summit on Re-engaging Opportunity Youth

November 14, 2023

Community teams from 37 counties across North Carolina will host a day-long event in Chapel Hill on November 29 to share stories of Opportunity Youth success, continued statewide challenges, local progress, and plans for sustaining their work. The Statewide Summit on Re-engaging Opportunity Youth will be held at the UNC Friday Center from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with a reception following from 5-6 p.m. 

This first program of Carolina Across 100, “Our State, Our Work”, has reached 4,403 Opportunity Youth – 16-24-year-olds who are not working and not in school. “Opportunity Youth were hard hit by Covid-19’s impacts on education and employment,” said UNC School of Government professor Anita Brown-Graham. “This work is essential, but it’s not easy. It takes a community.”  

Almost 150,000 young adults remain disconnected from school and work and the teams have committed to reaching 6,400 more by 2025. 

At Carolina, central to our mission is a focus on serving the many communities we touch,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “Through ‘Our State, Our Work, Carolina Across 100 has focused on forming collaborative partnerships with leaders from across the state to better connect young people with education and living wage employment opportunities. The work being done, especially in the wake of COVID-19, is vital to addressing inequities and improving the quality of life for all North Carolinians.” 

Attendees at the Summit will hear from youth whose lives have been positively impacted by the program, including a 17-year-old Clay County woman who was housing insecure, not working and not in school. 

She became connected with the “Our State, Our Work” Achieve HIGHTS team through local partners at the Bridge Academy and Tri-County Community College (TCCC). While studying for her Adult High School Diploma, community members helped her secure a job at a local grocery store and the Achieve HIGHTS team helped to arrange rides to and from work so she could sustain the job. Community partners helped the woman and her sisters – they are triplets – secure a tiny home of their own.  

This young woman is currently attending TCCC, studying art and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. Her goal is to transfer after two years to a four-year university. To give back to her community, she works at a local non-profit organization called Four Square, preparing food boxes for delivery to families that are food insecure.  

“In less than a year’s time, her transformation has been inspiring to the ‘Our State, Our Work’ team, fellow students, and all community members” said Caroline Williamson, Achieve HIGHTS program manager.  

Experts from Carolina Demography and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond will announce updates on Opportunity Youth state and national-level data trends and implications. Another panel of leaders will offer national, state, county, and city perspectives and experiences on the policies that create barriers or engender success for young people to remain connected or reconnect to school and work. Attendees will also hear directly from community teams and the Opportunity Youth they seek to serve. 

This event is open to the public as an invitation to learn more about how communities, including employers, across North Carolina can replicate and amplify local impact. Registration closes on November 17 at 5 p.m. Find more information on the Carolina Across 100 event page: 

About Carolina Across 100 

Carolina Across 100 is a five-year initiative charged by Chancellor Guskiewicz and housed at the School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative. This pan-University effort, guided by the Carolina Engagement Council, will form meaningful partnerships with communities in all 100 North Carolina counties to respond to challenges stemming from or exacerbated by COVID-19. “Our State, Our Work” is the first program of Carolina Across 100, connecting young adults to living wage employment opportunities. “Our State, Our Wellbeing” is the second program, focused on improving mental health and reducing suicide in North Carolina.