If you travel through the 14 counties that make up the Eastern North Carolina region, you’ll see abandoned mills and factories, relics of the industries that once boomed in these small communities. This area was once thriving, but the decline of textile production and other manufacturing in the region led to widespread unemployment and impoverishment. Today, 25 percent of children in the state—over 500,000 in number—live in poverty, and the rural communities of Eastern North Carolina are home to the highest concentrations of impoverished families. As a result, there are huge disparities in educational opportunities for the kids in the region: 47 percent of African American students, 52 percent of Hispanic students, and 48 percent of economically disadvantaged students in grades three through eight are performing below their grade levels.
Still, Eastern North Carolina is a breathtaking and inspiring place, and its communities are working toward unprecedented success in classrooms by developing leaders in education, and investing in long term changes. Eastern North Carolina was one of Teach For America’s original sites in 1990, and we have strong roots in the communities here. This allows us to cluster corps members together in schools so they build strong relationships with each other and with other teachers both in and out of school.
Today, 277 corps members teach at every grade level, and almost 700 alumni lead in a variety of sectors across the region. Independent studies in North Carolina have demonstrated that our teachers have an immediate and pronounced effect on student achievement, and with the opportunities provided by the expansion in community partnerships across the region, there has never been a more exciting time to fight for the kids of Eastern North Carolina.