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Toyota Tsusho announces investment in Teach For America North Carolina

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On Giving Tuesday, Toyota Tsusho America, Inc. formally announced a $100,000 investment in Teach For America (TFA) North Carolina. The initiative, named Future Forward, is an evidence-based coaching program and will initially focus on supporting students in Randolph County before expanding to other areas in North Carolina. 

The overarching goal of the program is to provide college and career readiness support for students through one-on-one coaching. Toyota Tsusho has invested in a pilot of the Future Forward program in Kentucky’s Teach for America Appalachia region since 2020. 

“The objective is to ensure that students aren’t left behind due to not having access to resources and the support necessary to reach the potential we know that each and every child has,” said Dr. Monique Perry-Graves, executive director of Teach For America North Carolina.

As many as 90% of program participants have identified a postsecondary pathway after completing Future Forward coaching, with roughly half of all participants planning on earning a two-year or four-year degree after high school, according to a press release from TFA. The coaches are current college students, often first generation, and local to the community and schools they serve. In 2022, the program in Kentucky logged more than 320 student coaching sessions and over 200 individual mentoring hours.

“We want them to leave us with opportunities to be successful adults in the future, whatever that success is,” said Dr. Stephen Gainey, superintendent of Randolph County Schools.

Elected officials, education leaders, and community members convene at the Future Forward press conference held by Toyota Tsusho and Teach for America North Carolina. Alli Lindenberg/EducationNC

Eastern Randolph High School will be the first school to implement the program. Initially, Toyota Tsusho agreed to a $25,000 investment to cover the program in one high school. At the conference, they announced an additional $75,000 to expand the program to more high schools in the area.

“Our personal mission at Eastern Randolph is for every student to have a plan when they cross that stage, whether it’s a trade, whether it’s military, whether it’s two years or four years,” said Dr. Susan Chappell, principal of Eastern Randolph High School.

As one of the first regions in the country, TFA has been in operation in North Carolina for over three decades and trained over 4,000 teachers. There are more than 800 TFA teachers in North Carolina this year, and it is estimated that these teachers will impact more than 82,000 students.

“I believe in the power of public education, and I believe in Randolph County Schools,” said Chappell. “We know every child in our school. I can tell you every child’s story. Some of their stories are not as fortunate as others, and that’s why this partnership with Teach For America North Carolina and Toyota Tsusho is so powerful, because we have to advocate for our children.”

Left to right: Dr. Monique Perry-Graves (Teach For America), Susan Chappell (Eastern Randolph High School), Mike Lavender (Toyota Tsusho) and Stephen Gainey (Randolph County Schools) at the Future Forward press conference. Alli Lindenberg/EducationNC

Local elected officials and education leaders were present at the conference and eager to show their excitement for the program. Toyota’s presence in the Piedmont-Triad area is growing. The Toyota Motor Corporation is Toyota Tsusho’s parent company.

The new Toyota car battery manufacturing plant, located in Randolph County, is bringing an estimated 5,000 jobs to the region. Toyota Tsusho is a 10% shareholder in the plant.

“Across the state, Teach For America North Carolina works as a diverse network ready to support, challenge, and lead alongside each other as we aim to collectively expand opportunities for students here in our state. Every child deserves access to an equitable and excellent education, and thanks to Toyota Tsusho’s sponsorship, we can directly impact the lives and futures of hundreds of children as they work to achieve postsecondary readiness and success through peer-to-peer-influence.”

Dr. Monique Perry-Graves, executive director of Teach for America North Carolina

Editor’s Note: Dr. Monique Perry-Graves serves on EducationNC’s Board of Directors, and EdNC’s vice president and director of operations, Molly Urquhart, serves on the eastern North Carolina advisory board of Teach for America North Carolina.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.