Forum 5 Agenda  

“Stories Brought to Life”

A statewide summit that gives critical supporters across the state insights into the work, research, progress, and lived experiences of Opportunity Youth (16-24-year-olds who are both not working and not in school) in North Carolina. This convening offers an opportunity to center their experiences, learn how to engage in this work, reimagine outcomes for these young people and explore what this will mean for communities and their economic development, workforce readiness, health, and more.


Inspire a diverse audience of stakeholders with the research, policy, and lived experiences of NC Opportunity Youth. Regardless of sector, attendees will leave with an understanding of how they fit into this work and be motivated to connect to local and state efforts to reengage this population.

Celebrate the work of the “Our State, Our Work” teams and share what they have learned through their 18-month, deep engagement with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Celebrate the achievements of North Carolina Opportunity Youth and facilitate an understanding among attendees of the assets and strengths this group possesses.

8 – 9am

Check-in and Continental Breakfast

Check-in at the registration table and join us for a continental breakfast before the Summit begins.

9 – 9:15am
Grumman Auditorium 

Celebrating Youth: Kickoff from UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and North Carolina Community College System President Jeff Cox

The youth here today have achieved impressive accomplishments in their personal and professional lives. Starting off the day with a reminder of the pride and confidence our state has in them, UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz presents certificates to the young people attending the events with teams to recognize their work and achievements. North Carolina Community College System President Jeff Cox presents a second certificate to youth attendees, surprising them with an exciting announcement.

9:15 – 9:30am
Grumman Auditorium 

Crafting Today’s Story with Anita Brown-Graham

ncIMPACT Director, Gladys Hall Coates Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government, and UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives Anita Brown-Graham shares an overview of the “Our State, Our Work” program, lessons learned, and hopes for the day. Brown-Graham will share an overview of barriers faced by this population, what systems are implicated in their disconnection from school and work, and how these systems can work more effectively to serve Opportunity Youth and prevent young people from becoming disconnected from school and work.

9:30 – 10:15am

Jumping into Local Stories with “Our State, Our Work” Teams

Over the past 18 months, local cross-sector collaborative “Our State, Our Work” teams have made great strides to build local support, organize their resources, and find creative ways to connect with Opportunity Youth. Now, they’re ready to share this learning with you!

During this time, attendees are invited to interact with the teams as they present “storyboard” style posters, providing an overview of their work and impact across the state, their experiences, and learnings from the “Our State, Our Work” cohort experience, and detail how folks from across the state can plug into their work and amplify their impact.

10:15 – 11:45am

Windflower Room

Youth Coaching Group with Marcella Middleton

Marcella Middleton is the CEO of “A Way Home America,” a housing justice advocacy organization led by youth and young adults with lived expertise. She also has lived experience with youth-serving systems, which guides and informs her work.

During this youth-only session, Marcella provides coaching and feedback for youth attendees so that they can identify, work towards, and achieve their personal and professional goals.

10:15 – 11:15am

Choose Your Own Adventure: “Our State, Our Work” Team Breakout Sessions

Following the overview of the teams provided by the storyboard activity, attendees will have a chance to receive a more in-depth look at the teams’ 18-month engagement as part of the “Our State, Our Work” cohort and learn from their local work and impact. “Our State, Our Work” teams will lead in-depth panel discussions focused on the following topics: innovations for reaching and engaging Opportunity Youth, employer engagement, and findings from local focus groups with young people, employer, and service providers. Attendees will be invited to select one breakout room to participate in for the duration of the session and will have ample opportunity to ask questions of the panelists.

Discussion with teams “Lincoln County Strong,” “Opportunity YOU,” “Summer Careers Academy,” and “Communities Connected for Success.”

Facilitated by Philip Cooper, CCHW, CCPS, Executive Director of Operation Gateway

Dogwood Room


Discussion with teams “Achieve HEIGHTS!” “Work in Burke,” “Collaboration over Competition,” “The Homestead,” and “Wayne County Pathfinders.”

Facilitated by Rick Brown, Bank of America Leader on Loan and ncIMPACT Director for Private Sector Supports

Redbud Room

Discussion with Teams “Opportunity Alamance,” “Our Future ENC Youth Opportunities,” “Wilson Workforce Alliance,” and “Rivers East Youth Alliance.”

Facilitated by Cynthia Liston, Founder and Principal Investigator, Liston Consulting

Sunflower Room

11:15 – 12pm
Grumman Auditorium

Opportunity Youth Data Overview: Laura Ullrich and Nathan Dollar

What can we learn together about how Opportunity Youth in NC are recovering from the pandemic? Nathan Dollar, Carolina Demography Director, and Laura Ullrich, Senior Regional Economist at Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, provide an update on Opportunity Youth state-level data trends and their implications.


Trillium Dining Room

Lunch Buffet and Motivation from Amiyah Davis

Amiyah Davis, Program Manager at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and Presidential Appointee to The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency prevention Board, inspires attendees with lunchtime comments about the importance of centering young people in movements meant to serve them.




Grumman Auditorium

In Our Own Words: Opportunity Youth Panel, moderated by ncIMPACT Deputy Director Jasmine Johnson and Roe Htoo, Summer Careers Academy alum

A panel of Opportunity Youth provides insights on their successes, what helped them overcome systemic barriers, and what they hope service providers take into their work following the event so that they can better serve this population. 

The panel will be moderated by Jasmine Johnson BSW, MA, and Roe Htoo, Summer Careers Academy alum. The audience is encouraged to submit questions throughout the panel. 


Stories of Promise: North Carolina Reengagement Research and Implementation

In addition to the work of the “Our State, Our Work” teams, what existing and emerging efforts exist in North Carolina to re-engage Opportunity Youth in school and work? Attendees are invited to participate in two breakout sessions to learn about both findings from research and work to implement this knowledge.

Attendees self-select into breakout rooms in their desired order.

Breakout #1: 2-2:35pm
Transition time: 2:35-2:40pm
Breakout #2: 2:40-3:15pm  

RTI Regional Skills Assessment
Ashely Cagle, Assistant Executive Director, Wake County Economic Development, Vice President, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

Portrait of a Graduate
Kristie VanAuken, Special Advisor to the Superintendent, Workforce Engagement at North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Facilitated by Meredith Archie, North Carolina Chamber Foundation President and “Our State, Our Work” Steering Committee Member

Dogwood Room

Employability Skills Modules
Dr. Andrew Gardner, Associate VP of Workforce Development Strategies, North Carolina Community College System
Barbara Boyce, Workforce Development Consultant, North Carolina Community College System
Jasmine Johnson, BSW, MA, Deputy Director, ncIMPACT

Youth Apprenticeship Program
Angela Boykin, CEO of Blue Cross NC Healthy Blue Medical Plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina

Facilitated by Lisi Martinez-Lotz, North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Director of Planning and Innovation and “Our State, Our Work” Steering Committee Member

Redbud Room




Grumman Auditorium

Policy Context with NC Legislative Panel

Mary Ann Haley, Director of the National Youth Employment Coalition, a NCGA representative (TBD) Chris Suggs, Kinston City Councilman and youngest councilperson in the state, and Kevin Austin, Yadkin County Commissioner and former President of the North Carolina Associate of County Commissioners will share their nation-, state-, county- and city-level perspectives and experiences on the policies that create barriers or engender success for young people to remain connected, or reconnect, to school and work. 

The panel is moderated by Anita Brown-Graham, and the audience is encouraged to submit questions throughout the panel. 


Grumman Auditorium

A Table we Share, Abigail Holdsclaw

The “Our State, Our Work” teams have set an ambitious goal to reach 6,400 Opportunity Youth by 2025. If they reach this goal, how will this reconnection to school and work affect not just the youth themselves, but also their children, families, and communities? Abigail Holdsclaw, ncIMPACT Research Associate, challenges the audience to think big, get creative, and dig their heels into this work. 


Grumman Auditorium

Closing Comments, Anita Brown-Graham

Anita Brown-Graham closes North Carolina’s first statewide summit on North Carolina Opportunity Youth by reiterating the necessity of cross-sector collaboration to effectively address systemic barriers and reach Opportunity Youth. The day of learning and celebrating ends with a call to action as attendees leave the event with a renewed sense of how they fit into this work. 


The Atrium


Attendees are invited to a festive closing of the day’s activities!

Opening comments to be provided by Margaret Barrett, Associate Director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, and Fran Gary, Senior Vice President of Government Markets for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC).

Who Are Opportunity Youth?

Opportunity Youth are young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not enrolled in school and not working full or part time. These individuals are sometimes referred to as disconnected youth, however, at Carolina Across 100 we prefer “Opportunity Youth” because it captures our sense of optimism that all young people can thrive if we provide the systems, tools, and resources necessary for navigating this period of life.

Stories of Thriving from across North Carolina

Our hope is that, alongside our community teams, we can take these individual “stories of thriving” and create systems-level programming across the state that creates accessible on-ramps to education and employment.

Stories of Thriving Across North Carolina