Reflections from Hazel Whyte

ANTH 395 students reflect on their engagement with “Our State, Our Work”

by Hazel Whyte

September 18, 2023

Growing up in Charlotte, NC, I was always involved with youth-focused non-profits. Recently, in college, I was blessed with an opportunity to cultivate this passion on a deeper level through participation in the Carolina Across 100 Initiative’s Our State, Our Work program.  This first program of the initiative focuses on supporting community teams as they support opportunity youth – young people ages 16 to 24 who are not engaged in work or school. In my experience, I was paired with a student partner and we worked with Men and Women United for Youth and Families to enhance the economic and personal development of young people and their families living in Bladen and Columbus Counties, North Carolina.  

As someone with experience and interest in digital marketing, I was thrilled to be given the responsibility of organizing and assessing Men and Women United’s digital engagement through social media platforms. I also evaluated which social media sites would be most effective for the organization to use and created newsletter templates through the Constant Contact platform. Aside from that, I had the chance to collaborate with the organization’s staff to create plans for enhancing its online visibility and boosting interaction with its target market, the youth. 

Through my partnership with the organization, I gained knowledge about the difficulties opportunity youth in rural areas experience as well as the significance of offering services that foster independence and self-sufficiency. Compared to youth living in suburbs or cities, those in rural areas may experience greater levels of poverty and more limited access to education, healthcare, and career prospects. Giving people the resources they need to become self-sufficient in the long run is just as essential as giving those in need immediate assistance.  

This philosophy is embedded in the organization’s mission and programming. For example, I learned that lack of access to fresh nutritional food is a problem impacting residents of Bladen and Columbus Counties. It’s crucial to address basic needs like food insecurity so that young people are able to focus on opportunities to thrive. For this reason, Men and Women United created a community garden, which gives fresh produce to families in need and aids in building food secure households. While providing immediate relief through their food pantry, they also teach students the process of gardening so that they can apply these skills at home.  

Overall, my involvement with Men and Women United was extremely rewarding. I had the chance to work with a committed and passionate group of people who are dedicated to making a difference in their community. As I reflect on my experience, I am struck by the importance of the work that Carolina Across 100 is doing. To build a better future we must focus on cultivating the skills of our youth. I will be taking all of the wisdom I’ve gained from this experience and applying it to the organizations I work with in my home of Mecklenburg County as well.  

Hazel Whyte is a public policy major at UNCChapel HIll. She grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina with experience getting involved with youth-focused non-profits