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Strength in rural places: Anchored in Clinton

Editor’s Note: This documentary, Anchored in Clinton, is the third in a series for EdNC on the strength we see in rural places. At EdNC, we deeply embed in communities because our schools are anchor institutions, but we’ve realized churches, nonprofit organizations, and restaurants are too. Join us in getting to know our rural communities.


In a community like Sampson County, it would be easy to miss what makes it special if you didn’t take the time to take a closer look. And growing up here, it was easy to feel “trapped.” I remember being positive I’d go to college, leave, and move to a bigger city. While many of my classmates did that, so many more have remained here or returned. 

What I didn’t understand as a teenager was that communities like ours are what make small towns thrive. Communities that band together to make things happen — whether it’s to raise support for families in need, create athletic programs that have a lifelong impact, or faith communities and small businesses that leave lasting impressions. 

Anchored in Clinton documentary, shot, produced, and edited by Robert Kinlaw.

Another thing I’ve grown to love about Sampson County in my adulthood is that often, transplants love our town and community as much as those who’ve lived here their entire lives. What you find in rural communities are people who care about making a lasting impact and being part of real, influential change. 

Within the larger community here, there are small communities that make Sampson County exceptional. I like to think of it as they say in the 1980s sitcom, Cheers. Living in a small town like ours, there is always somewhere that you can go “where everybody knows your name.” Whether it’s a church, restaurant, school, board room, etc., there are folks around our towns who know you — or your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings. 

That’s the benefit of a rural area. We can get things done because of the people we know and the connections we make. Collaboration and teamwork keep our communities going. And by making the most of our resources — whether abundant or limited — rural areas learn how to become adaptable.   

There is so much to love and appreciate about Sampson County. Like any other place, there is always work to be done and improvements to be made, but luckily, we have plenty of people interested in putting in the work. 

Behind the Story

Robert Kinlaw shot the footage, produced and edited this film. Cheyenne Davis wrote the article you see above. Caroline Parker managed the project.

Cheyenne Davis

Cheyenne M. Davis is a writer with roots in Sampson County. She has a passion for education and her community. A member of the Coharie tribe, Davis is passionate about elevating Indigenous stories and voices.

Robert Kinlaw

Robert was director of multimedia for EducationNC. He is a journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker in the Triangle. Robert attended both public and private grade schools in North Carolina and graduated from the Media and Journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has produced video content for The News & Observer, ABC11-WTVD, UNC-Chapel Hill, The News Reporter and more. His short documentary Princess Warrior received an Excellence in Filmmaking award at the 2017 Carrboro Film Festival. Visit his website at robertkinlaw.com.

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is a multimedia storyteller for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, and STEM education.