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From textiles to schools: Why we #LoveNC

The machine clanks and clacks as Jerry Brown proudly stares on. Yarn spins into metal gears from many directions and at the bottom of the large knitting machine, a tube of fabric emerges. With a quick stitch on another machine, Brown turns the cream-colored cotton tube into a sock.

Sock creation on a machine from 1898 is not what one expects on a cycling tour across North Carolina, but a visit to the Textile Heritage Museum in Glencoe Mills is one of the highlights of today’s Mountains to Coast journey. 

Glencoe Mills is rich with history, both in buildings and people. Brown once owned a hosiery plant on the Haw River. Now he volunteers at the museum to demonstrate a small sample of his craft. He is one of several volunteers at the museum. Another, Donnie Kay Ward, offers a warm welcome to visitors and describes the flood of sweaty cyclists in the museum as “magnificent.”

Introducing myself as someone who writes about education sparks an easy conversation with Ward— she worked at Haw River Elementary School for 30 years. She began in the cafeteria but eventually became a teaching assistant. She still misses the students she knew from Haw River, she says. When she sees them now, as adults in the community, she tells them, “You never forget a Haw River kid’s face.” 
The question we are posing across the state is, “What do you love about North Carolina?” One answer rests in the faces of Ms. Ward’s former students and in the faces of all of the students we work with across the state. 
We love our students, our schools, our state, and imagining our future.
What do you love about North Carolina? 
Laura Lee

Laura Lee is the former content director and managing editor for EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Born and raised in Union County, North Carolina, Laura attended Benton Heights Elementary School, Unionville Elementary School, Charlotte Latin Middle School, and Piedmont High School. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies. After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as an educator with a civic education organization and then as a program administrator for two Fulbright grant programs.

She received her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007. In law school, she served as president of the Student Bar Association and was a Davis Society inductee. She also holds a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Laura briefly strayed from her Tar Heel allegiance in 2011 to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland where she was an Eleanor Merrill Fellow. She then worked at NPR producing content for the Washington desk, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation

From 2013 to 2017, Laura oversaw daily production of North Carolina Public Radio WUNC’s The State of Things, first as assistant news director for talk programming and then as managing editor.