Media Highlights

Robust and Substantive Conversation in Charlotte

by Cara Willis   •  

I had the pleasure of attending my first Opportunity Nation Community Conversation this week (unfortunately it’s the last one of the summer!) in Charlotte, NC.  The Charlotte community is amazing because they truly understand the importance of cross-sector collaboration and that the future of our youth is in everyone’s hands.

In February, Charlotte opened their doors to Opportunity Nation with a small briefing for key leaders.  Hosted by Northeastern University’s Charlotte campus, the introductory conversation showed the level of commitment and dedication to many elements of Opportunity Nation’s Shared Plan.  We were delighted to be welcomed back this Tuesday to learn more about the local work going on to promote economic mobility and educational opportunity.

Elizabeth Clay Roy, Deputy Director of Opportunity Nation, at the Charlotte Community Conversation

Hosted by the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Charlotte Community Conversation brought together individuals from the workforce development, nonprofit and community college sectors.  Unfortunately, many of our Opportunity Scholars in Charlotte were not able to attend since they are all students and are working or studying outside of North Carolina for the summer!  Regardless, several attendees brought their summer interns who provided a valuable youth perspective.

The conversation was quite interactive and in depth, particularly about Opportunity Nation’s focus on connecting more youth people to educational and career pathways, and the Opportunity Index which measures a region’s economic, educational and civic health.  Many of the attendees came from an academic background and were particularly interested in the methodology behind the Index, so there was no better person to lead the conversation than our own Deputy Director Elizabeth Clay Roy, the “brain” behind the Opportunity Index.  North Carolina’s ranking (36) surprised several attendees and we had a lively discussion around the various indicators.

One of the most exciting things we learned about Charlotte is that the community is already working to advance many elements of our Shared Plan. Steve Partridge, President/CEO of Charlotte Works, recently testified at a Senate Workforce Investment Act hearing on the great work in Charlotte, such as a new partnership launching this fall between the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System and employers that creates an online platform to connect youth to jobs.  We also heard from representatives of Central Piedmont Community College about their strong business partnerships, including certificate and post-secondary credential programs with Siemens, a global electronics and electrical engineering company. 

It was a fantastic conversation and a great way to end the Community Conversation series.  Many thanks to Brian Collier and the Foundation for the Carolinas for hosting us and we look forward to continuing to elevate the work of Charlotte as a model for communities around the country that are working to increase their Opportunity Scores.

Cara Willis

Cara Willis is the Director of Communications at Opportunity Nation, leading the campaign’s efforts to make economic opportunity a central part of the national dialogue. Cara also directs all of the campaign’s major events, including the National Opportunity Summit. Read Cara's bio.

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