Reflections from Jordan Carlton

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

by Jordan Carlton

September 18, 2023

In looking for an opportunity to do impactful work along with my studies, I enrolled in the Anthropology 395 course that pairs students with community teams participating in Carolina Across 100’s Our State, Our Work program. I was thrilled to be paired with Team 1, known as Achieve HIGHTS! and led by HIGHTS! (Helping to Inspire Gifts of Hope, Trust, and Service, that serves youth in the seven most western counties of NC – Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain. 

My first task encompassed creating a support services asset map for Haywood County. This essentially translates to a digital spreadsheet of a variety of resources (clothing, food, housing, healthcare, etc.) that aims to compile an accessible list of contacts and information for supporting opportunity youth, young people 16 to 24 who are not working and not in school. The process consisted of combing through county government sites as well as sites that exhibited resources located across Haywood County—churches, food pantries, and secondhand clothing stores were great service assets. With the information neatly compiled in one place, opportunity youth can sidestep the taxing practice of scouring the internet for accessible resources.  

With resources and support services gathered, the next challenge became identifying and connecting with opportunity youth. This posed a marketing problem as it can be hard to target exactly the right audience in need of these services. With the ages of opportunity youth in mind (16-24), we communicated different options for advertising the support services on different social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. We also have talked about the potential for creating content that is geared more toward Our State Our Work to center the focus on opportunity youth as the prioritized audience. This is a task that I look forward to working on in the upcoming weeks as I conclude the spring semester. 

Before beginning this course and connecting with the community team, I did not know what to expect from the experience. I just knew I wanted to help make a difference in my state for people my age that were not afforded the same privileges I was in terms of accessibility of resources and support services. I’ll be honest and say that I was a little worried that my efforts would not make an impact. I quickly learned, though, that it is unproductive thinking. With an optimistic attitude and a genuine desire to connect opportunity youth with what they needed, I found myself excited to continue the process of learning and engaging in nonprofit work.  

It is clear that everyone involved, across every team in the state, is eager and willing to make a difference. It is also clear that we are working with a population that can be hard to locate and and engage with in authentic ways. More implementation of younger voices is key. ANTH 395 has been a great place to start in this effort, and I believe gathering more representation of youth and, specifically, opportunity youth that have benefited from the program, is crucial.  

Jordan Carlton is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying cultural anthropology and communication studies. She is from West Jefferson, NC, a small mountainous town in the very top left corner of the state—just above Boone.