Greenville, North Carolina – July 24, 2023 – On Friday, July 21, at the NC East Alliance’s Board meeting, Greg Payne (BelleJAR Foundation Board Member) presented NC East with the first annual check for a 4-year, $1.6 million grant award to support the region’s STEM East initiative.
On May 22, 2023, the BelleJAR Foundation awarded NC East Alliance a grant in the amount of $1,600,000. The grant funds will be paid over four years, $400,000 each year. These grant monies will match other state, foundation, and private funds to engage and lead regional and national stakeholders to invent scalable solutions that transform eastern NC’s educator workforce. STEM East will develop an integrated training and coherent approach to transforming regional rural stem education by focusing on the eastern North Carolina K-12 educators.
In the upcoming 2023-2024 fiscal year, NC East Alliance will launch its “Industry In Schools Clusters Strategy” with our education partners. NC East will be the only regional economic development group focusing on our +13,000 teachers as a workforce. NC East will create the region’s Industry In Schools Clusters through public/private partnerships with industry that will support our new teacher/faculty training system. The intent is that students across our region will engage in real-world STEM learning opportunities that directly align with career opportunities in eastern North Carolina. One of the primary goals is to build teacher awareness of the many job opportunities in the region along with the necessary skills/credentials needed for these jobs. Teachers then will build awareness among the 180,000 students in the region.
Vann Rogerson, President and CEO of NC East Alliance, commented students must be made aware of the many jobs in the nearby surrounding counties and build “paths of success” from their home county. “We must stop exporting the region's greatest natural resource - our children. We believe the region's teachers are the key to success. Our teachers are our influencers. Our teachers are our economic developers. We must stop the decline of our local homegrown workforce to support our region’s industries.”
The Industry in Schools program will operate at the intersection of economic development, workforce development, education, and industry across our 29-county region. NC East Alliance will lead and coordinate alliance member development and relations. Twenty-nine school systems and 10 community colleges have already paid NC East to help guide this new working alliance.
Patrick Miller, Assistant Director of STEM East, commented that there is a need for regional leadership. “A large turnover of Superintendents/Education Leaders exists in the region. An umbrella organization like NC East Alliance is needed to sustain change and to keep our partners on mission.”
In presenting the check, Greg Payne said, “BelleJAR has worked to improve education outcomes and young people’s futures in rural eastern North Carolina for 25 years. We’ve been supporting STEM East for the last 10 years. This is our biggest investment in eastern North Carolina, which shows the confidence we have in NC East’s ambitious efforts. We are excited to be part of a coalition to transform the educator workforce and STEM learning throughout the 29-county region.”
NC East Chairman Mark Hamblin said, “the NC East Board looks forward to working with the BelleJAR Foundation and our many education partners to stop the decline of and to help grow our local home-grown workforce. Our NC East Board has made a 10-year commitment in which our economic development organization will work closely with our education partners to make eastern NC a great place to work and raise a family.”
About NC East: The NC East Alliance is a regional economic development organization representing 29 counties in eastern North Carolina. NC East leads to advocacy efforts in the region by convening stakeholders to identify important regional challenges and to ultimately pursue solutions to these challenges. NC East has 30 years experience in economic development and has led regional STEM East efforts for the last 13 years. NC East staff recruits companies to eastern North Carolina and supports our existing industries.