Reflections from Jack Ye

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

by Jack Ye

September 21, 2023

My Time With Carolina Across 100

I’ve spent my entire life in North Carolina and have visited many cities throughout the state. It was because of these trips that I was able to notice the deep-rooted disparity among the people of North Carolina. Inequality is rampant within many of these cities, especially among the youth population. This was one of the I decided to become involved myself in the Carolina Across 100 project.

What is Carolina Across 100?

Carolina Across 100 is a statewide initiative composed of 13 collaborative teams that support thousands of Opportunity Youth (16-24-year-olds that are not in school or working) by connecting them to post-secondary education and/or employment opportunities. In 2019, approximately 11% of every N.C. young adult aged 16-24 are either not in school and/or unemployed. It is the goal of Carolina Across 100 to provide as much aid to these Opportunity Youth as possible to overcome the barriers keeping them from school and work and reach their full potential.

I joined the collaborative in the Fall of 2022 and was assigned to Team 10 of 13, “Our Future ENC – Youth Opportunities”. Our Future ENC is headed by the Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board and targets the east coast of North Carolina.

I learned a great deal during my few months of being a part of this team and met numerous other individuals from all walks of life who resonated with the same drive and determination to see this initiative succeed. The project provided me insight into the resources and support available within these 9 counties in North Carolina. Many of these resources are well-known nationwide such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. However, there are also numerous other assets, such as local civic organizations, legal aid, and food pantries.  Despite local resources being abundant in this region, not all these resources are known to those who would benefit from them. We are working hard to help bring awareness to opportunity youths regarding the availability and access of these local organizations.

Why Does This Matter?

Opportunity Youths are vital to our nation’s future. They encompass a demographic that, throughout history, has shown to be important in bringing about change and success. They will one day serve as the backbone of our economy as future teachers, construction workers, lawyers, and doctors. Additionally, increasing the population of well-educated workers leads to a strong economy. This would also take pressure off state and local government funding for programs supporting of this population. Their success will benefit us all.

Providing support to Opportunity Youth also may prevent crime, as many who turn to criminal activities do so out of desperation to meet their material needs. Another consequence of leaving this population under-served is the development of mental health issues. The inability to find work can be detrimental to one’s confidence which may negatively impact their future efforts. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common health issues associated with opportunity youths. However, it is not too late! There are still thousands of young adults who can be protected from these hardships by accessing a system of support.

Get Involved!

While this project is still relatively new, it holds a great deal of potential as the people involved are resolute in their commitment. However, the success of this initiative will require an ample degree of manpower. Our team is composed of 9 counties in total, which means that there are thousands of Opportunity Youth living in hundreds of cities that require our attention. Anyone who wishes to lend their support can do so in a variety of ways:

  • Volunteer at local food drives and nonprofits
  • Spread awareness of the struggles of Opportunity Youth and Carolina Across 100’s mission
  • Donate unneeded clothes and canned food to local drives and organizations

As you read this, there are thousands of young adults who are struggling in their search for higher education and work. These youths are our nation’s future, and their success will ultimately mean our own. There are numerous actions that can be taken to support these youths. No matter whether they’re big or small, any form of aid will make a difference.

Jack Ye is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in Management and Society. He was born in the city of Rocky Mount, located in Nash County.