During the month of July, the NC Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) hosted its first series of Policy & Practice Regional Convenings, which offered out-of-school time providers, elected officials, educators and higher education and community stakeholders opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue pertaining to the Forum’s 2018 Roadmap of Need.
The four convenings, which were held at Edgecombe Community College, Durham Technical Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, and Central Piedmont Community College, also offered attendees an opportunity to explore a range of STEM-specific educational strategies through enrichment activities presented by partnering STEM experts and organizations.
The annual Roadmap of Need uses data on economic development, education, health and youth behavior & safety to take a whole child needs assessment of what youth living in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties must have in order to thrive in school and in life. This year’s report found that the top five counties where youth have the greatest likelihood for success are Orange, Union, Wake, Cabarrus and Dare; the bottom five counties where young people are most at-risk are Anson, Warren, Halifax, Robeson, and Edgecombe.
The Roadmap provides a clear view of how North Carolina is now divided into “two North Carolinas”—one that can attract industry and experiences significant job growth, while the other suffers from economic decline and is left with struggling schools. Keith Poston, Executive Director of the Public School Forum, told attendees, “if one were to divide North Carolina into half along I-95, the state formed in the east would be the poorest and unhealthiest state in the country.”
Attendees brainstormed tactics and strategies to alleviate the counties’ challenges in these areas for the benefit and well-being of youth residing there. After the policy portion of each convening, attendees participated in STEM enrichment activities facilitated by STEM experts and organizations that included Dropping Seeds in Motion, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), and Beth Snoke Harris, author of 365 Weird & Wonderful Science Experiments.
This summer’s series of Policy & Practice Regional Convenings were initial attempts to encourage dialogue among out-of-school time providers and other essential stakeholders across the state of North Carolina. Based on feedback provided by this year’s attendees, the convenings will continue in future years. Through this endeavor, we have learned that collaboration is essential between organizations, elected officials and community stakeholders to move the needle and improve the lives of children statewide.