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Meet Chester Williams, honored by the NC Rural Center for excellence in regional collaboration

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  • Chester Williams, the chief empowerment officer at A Better Chance, A Better Community, was honored by @NCRuralCenter with a Rural Excellence Award. We know Williams for his work with @SchoolMeals4NC ambassadors! #nced

Chester Williams is the founder and CEO of ABC2 in Halifax County. But really he is the “chief empowerment officer.”

ABC2 stands for “A Better Chance, A Better Community.” The organization connects rural communities “with resources to activate youth power and advocate for realistic solutions and healthier lifestyles,” according to the website.

In March 2024, the NC Rural Center presented its annual Rural Excellence Awards at its Rural Summit, and Williams was recognized for his excellence in regional collaboration. “The award recognizes a person or organization that has developed and implemented innovative collaborations across sectors and/or regions to secure a more vibrant future for people in their communities,” says a press release.

The leadership of Williams and the work of ABC2 focuses on three areas: healthy living, civic engagement, and its World Changers program for youth, notes the press release.

Williams and his team have developed a dedicated meeting space for the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Connections.

They also have created a resiliency hub and helped build a civic engagement network of partners who are developing a policy agenda based on the needs of people in Halifax County. 

The World Changers program — which equips young leaders to explore the world, changing the world one community at a time — have a community garden, “where they learn not only how to grow food, but how to market and sell it, with the proceeds going into a scholarship fund for local students,” according to the press release.

In partnership and with the support of School Meals for All (SMFA), ABC2 is leading the work of the SMFA Ambassadors. Ambassadors — who must live in North Carolina and be ages 13-24 — “participate in policy and systems change training, utilize GIS and story mapping to tell stories of the impact of school meals, learn social media advocacy, and plan and attend local and state conferences and convenings.”

The Sunday evening after accepting the award, I caught up with Williams on a training for a group of the ambassadors who will be attending the National Service Learning Conference in St. Paul, MN, in April 2024, where the theme is “from passion to action.” Aprie’la Warren on the ABC2 team and these students will be presenting at the conference on “Changing the World, One Community at a Time” in keeping with the organization’s mission.

Williams is working to “uplift the youth and communities throughout rural North Carolina, creating opportunities for the youth to shape a healthier world in their own communities and beyond,” he says. “I am a visionary and a tireless optimist, who stands beside my World Changers and helps facilitate the vision they have for a powerful and just future.”

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.