My Aunt Millie taught high school English for 62 years. For her recent 90th birthday, we reached out to her fellow teachers and students, asking them to send in stories and notes about the impact Mrs. Shuford had on their lives.
She received notes from more than 100 former students who spoke of how her literary lessons opened their young minds to limitless possibilities. They also spoke of Aunt Millie’s intolerance of mediocrity and constant push for excellence, which helped them grow into strong critical thinkers, better able to assess and address obstacles along their varied journeys.
These tributes to Aunt Millie reminded me that when we think about education initiatives and their outcomes, it is important that we never lose sight of the students. That is why I am so honored to lead myFutureNC, a yearlong initiative that brings together education policy and thought leaders to create a 10-year plan that will put our students’ needs first as they progress through North Carolina’s different educational systems.
The research is clear: To succeed in North Carolina’s changing economy, students will require some form of education beyond high school to be prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. That means North Carolina needs a comprehensive system of educational options that start early and work together to propel all students to the completion of quality postsecondary certifications and degrees.
MyFutureNC will address the changes in our state’s student populations, as well as the increased skill demands of our present and future jobs, to determine how our education systems can best work together to create better educational and professional outcomes for every student.
This effort will provide multiple payoffs for our state’s overall economic health: more financially stable individuals and families, a highly skilled workforce, and stronger communities. But perhaps the biggest reward is to help students maximize their education pursuits and avoid the lost potential that has befallen too many North Carolinians. Today, although 83 percent of North Carolina’s high school graduate’s express intentions of continuing their education only 35 percent have a degree six years later. Lost along the way are the aspirations, innovations, and talents of thousands who could change the trajectory of their lives and our state for the better with a college credential.
That’s why this work is so important to me. It’s something I learned so well from my Aunt Millie:
In the end, all North Carolinians reap the benefits when we have a measurable impact on the lives of our students.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Hunt Institute. It has been posted with the author’s permission.