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EdTalk: Meet Larry Colbourne and the Mebane Foundation

It was not until this past summer, somewhere along our travels, that we first heard about the Mebane Foundation — no relation to me or my family — and the work of Larry Colbourne. He was out and about across North Carolina too, looking for innovation that could be replicated and scaled . . . best practices. He was game to join us with a group of philanthropists up in Madison County to learn more about the challenges facing students and families living in our hollers. In the early fall, I had the opportunity to get to know the board of directors. This first series is an opportunity for you to get to know the ethos of the Foundation. We will be following up with a series on their investments in Davie County and an in-depth look at literacy across North Carolina. This is just the beginning!  — Mebane Rash

From the Mebane Foundation on its work:

The Mebane Foundation doesn’t claim to have all the answers about how to create a top-tier, transformative, career-building and life-enriching learning environment. But beginning in 1998, we began searching for at least some of those answers.

From the start, we have focused on a simple proposition to help address a complex, deeply-rooted problem:

The Foundation will do everything in its power to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, will be reading at or above grade level by the end of the 3rd grade.

Research consistently shows that these children are vastly more likely to succeed in school. And we all know that a child who succeeds in school is more confident and more likely to succeed in work and in life.

Wanting to promote equal access to excellent education for all children, the Foundation established a partnership with the Davie County Schools. Since then, the Foundation has served as a catalyst by granting more than $13 million to educational program partners in Davie County and across the state.

A handful of programs the Foundation has funded have not been successful. But we learned a lot in the process. Most of the time, the lack of success stems from the lack of strategic business planning and the kind of support that creates long-term sustainability, not from the effectiveness of the educational initiative we funded. That is why we now insist on having overwhelming community-wide support — school administration, teachers, parents, elected officials, and taxpayers — before committing to a partnership.

For almost 20 years, the Foundation has forged numerous strong relationships with corporate and philanthropic partners and all levels of education, as well as participated in educational-policy issues at the local and state levels.

In the future, it is our hope that school systems across North Carolina and the nation will incorporate many of our successes into their educational systems.

Editor’s Note: The Mebane Foundation supports EducationNC.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.