Congratulations to the grantees of two rounds of funding through the “Our State, Our Work” Mini-Grants!

“Our State, Our Work” (OSOW) mini-grants allow teams to pursue innovative ways to engage with Opportunity Youth in their communities. The funds let teams get creative, experiment, learn, and develop evidence-based practices that can inform their work and that of other collaborative teams as well. Through these grants, the Carolina Across 100 team has been able to award $50,000 directly to communities across the state to pursue their goals of reaching Opportunity Youth and connecting them with services to support their return to school and work. We are grateful to our funder, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, for allowing our teams to be bold in the ways that they meaningfully and authentically connect with the young adults they are seeking to support. We are excited to see what these innovations produce and what we can learn from the experience!

Round One Mini-Grant Awards


Collaboration Over Competition

Instead of waiting for school career expos or community job fairs, Collaboration Over Competition (team 5) will hold two “Get to Know Us” open houses targeting Opportunity Youth, parents, community leaders and School Career Counselors.  Each event will be held on a Saturday, with a community fair atmosphere that will showcase the opportunities that are available in the Trades (electrical, carpentry, HVAC, welding, etc.) through interactive exhibits and competitions that feature the types of skills that would be useful when pursuing a careers in the “Trades.” Team 5 will staff the event with volunteers that can act as advocates for the combined services they provide. Each event will be preceded by a promotional campaign including social media posts, direct emailed communications, printed flyers, and a “street team” targeting areas that program participants have historically come from.  Promotional response will be logged and evaluated to better tailor future efforts to reach Opportunity Youth and Opportunity Youth advisors.  All attendees will be asked to provide contact information and youth will be offered an opportunity to apply to enroll in either the summer program or the Fall cohort of the Levels of Leadership program.

OSOW Team 10
OSOW Team 9


Communities Connected For Success (CC4S)

Communities Connected for Success (Team 9) sought grant funding so that they can:

  • Provide a Six-Week Summer Internship for Youth
  • Conduct Youth Community Outreach/Engagement(via social media and In-Person Activities)
  • Host Trainings to Expand Youth Leadership, Life Skills, Professional Development, Public- Speaking, and Social Skills
  • Provide Stipends to 5 Youth Leaders for Organizing Projects, Peer-to-Peer Training, and Community Engagement
  • Provide College Tours
  • Assist with CTE college courses, and provide workforce development programming.
  • Engage youth in Town Hall-style meetings, discussions, and community canvassing,


Our Future ENC Youth

Our Future ENC Youth (Team 10) plans to use the funding to purchase campaign size signs to be placed in all 9 counties.  Each sign will have a two-word phrase (i.e. DM Me) with a QR code that will connect individuals to information about the work that they are doing using video and text.

OSOW Team 5

Round Two Mini-Grant Awards


Achieve HIGHTS!

Team 1 is undertaking an innovative, two-phase marketing project to increase Opportunity Youth’s accessibility, reachability, and interest in their Education and Workforce Development programs.

Phase 1: Recruit Opportunity Youth to serve as interns, and purchase professional video equipment.

Phase 2: The Opportunity Youth interns will record participant, employer, and employment service provider interviews as well as youth participants in action within their work experience placements The interns conduct interviews, shoot video content, and edit the videos.

Not only will this content provide Team 1 with a new way to encourage and promote participant experiences, but the internship experience will also provide youth with professional work experience, and a chance to learn from their direct work with the collaborative team.

Team 1 is excited for the ability to professionally record participant interviews and allow previous recipients of their programs to share their experiences, in their own words, to encourage other young people to similarly get involved so that they can complete their education, credentials, and/or job placement.


My Future Burke County

Work in Burke will lead a summer marketing campaign that will include social media ads, tabling at local festivals, canvassing, poster, and yard sign placements, and ads in the local paper, movie theatres, and radio stations. Team 2 will also host in-person informational events, and a “work lab” for Opportunity Youth to meet the team, discuss enrollment, and complete the program paperwork for the J.E.T. program (Jobs, Education, and Training).

This new pilot program will launch in October 2023, along with a skilled training Industrial Sewing Program (ISP) hosted by the Carolina Textile District. Both programs focus on connecting individuals to quality employment and family-sustaining wages, and connections to wrap-around services.

  • E.T. is designed to provide individualized assistance for career matching with local employers who meet quality employment standards, 42 hours of paid time in professional development courses, access to wrap-around services to ensure retention and success, and a connection with a community mentor for additional support.
  • ISP prepares trainees for a career in the sewn trades, an industry with a rich tradition in the region experiencing a resurgence. Students will learn textile information, basic industrial sewing techniques, fabric structures and types, machine knowledge, and much more. They will also be given a chance to travel to local manufacturers for tours and instruction, giving a glimpse into the opportunities in the region for creative and hands-on careers in the textile industry.


Lincoln County Strong

Team 3 will conduct an outreach campaign dedicated to reaching Opportunity Youth, exposing them to local resources that will connect them to living wage employment and education opportunities, and enrolling them in these programs. 

The team will: 

  • Utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok 
  • Advertise their large community resource fair 
  • Connect youth to highlighted programs such as NextGen, Gaston College’s Trio program, Lincoln County Library’s Virtual Reality training program, and an Employment & Training program through the local Department of Social Services. 
  • Host a large community-wide event at the YMCA in partnership with youth-facing organizations such as Communities in Schools, YMCA, and church groups. The event will include activities such as a basketball tournament, open swim, sand volleyball, a game room, a guest speaker with a youth-specific focus, and resource booths from all partners to share resources and conduct youth enrollment. 
  • Host events in low socio-economic neighborhoods to improve outreach to youth in need of job and educational supports. 


Opportunity Alamance

Team 7 plans to hold the event titled “Building Stronger Futures: Resources for Alamance County Families.” This event will serve as a platform for increasing awareness among Opportunity Youth and their families about the resources available locally that may help them overcome their barriers to gainful employment and achieve their educational and career goals.

The team will offer compensation for attendance at the event, which will include interactive activities and sessions led by community partners such as vocational rehabilitation centers, organizations that work with formerly incarcerated individuals, organizations that work with undocumented folks, and other non-profit organizations in the area.

The team has a bold six-week recruitment plan, and we can’t wait to hear the results!


Summer Careers Academy

Team 8 plans to undertake a comprehensive outreach and engagement strategy that uses physical, virtual, and interpersonal outreach. The team will reach and engage Opportunity Youth in the following ways:

  • Instagram and TikTok advertising
  • Compensation for in-person focus groups – a chance for youth to provide insight into their experiences, and freely access resources and educational materials.
  • Youth Ambassadors – trusted young people who can relate to the experiences of focus group and program participants, fostering trust between the organization and the communities they serve, as well as providing work experience for the ambassadors.


Wilson Workforce Alliance

The Wilson Workforce Alliance will support a pilot project with Wilson County DSS, Wilson Community College, and local business leaders and employers to address the barriers faced by Opportunity Youth and foster their success.

The team will provide five Opportunity Youth with coordinated support, taking them through programs that contribute to their personal and professional growth and development, access to relevant training programs and certifications necessary for their desired career paths, and wraparound services through DSS. This structure will allow the team to holistically support the individuals’ needs as they pursue an education, training, or job opportunity. Each young person will be provided with a $1,000 stipend as an incentive to complete the program, as well as financial assistance for expenses related to their education, training, and personal development.

Through this pilot program, the team hopes to gain valuable insight into the experiences of Opportunity Youth when interacting with both existing and newly established local resources. This way, they can incorporate this feedback in the development of future programming, making it more effective and accessible for Opportunity Youth.


Eastern Carolina

While young people may learn valuable skills when enrolled in a work readiness program, they do not always get a chance to practice those skills. Team 13 is bridging that gap by providing Opportunity Youth in their region with a chance to practice the skills necessary for career attainment and retention.

Team 13 is partnering with the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association to provide youth with modules that will develop their customer service, decision-making, problem-solving networking, personal marketing, and other essential skills. In addition to earning this credential, youth will also gain work experience through planning and hosting luncheons for each other and selected mentors or parents. These Luncheons will be the culminating activity upon their participation in 6 training modules.

Each luncheon will include guest speakers who would provide motivating messages and direction for job attainment and success. Not only will these luncheons connect youth to employers and the community, but they will also give them a chance to practice the skills of:

  • Providing customer service in a food serving setting to approximately 50 people
  • Networking and oral communication during and while serving a meal.
  • Planning, implementing, and conducting a networking luncheon for approximately 50 people.

Contact Us

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