Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

The children are the future in rural counties

Superintendent Don Phipps talks about his community

Superintendent Don Phipps talks about Beaufort County’s Career Academy


“Come back home.” It’s a plea I heard from my parents because they missed me. But it was never a call from a community that needed young blood to keep it alive. I grew up in Raleigh. There were plenty of transplants moving in to replace the flow of young students going out. 

As I travel the state and visit rural communities, I increasingly hear the plea from educators and community leaders: Please don’t leave, please come back. 

The goal is to give students a vision for what they can do with their lives and a means to pursue it. 

It’s an easy thing to ask. A harder thing to foster. 

Some kids never leave home. In rural communities with little resources that can sometimes mean a life destined for little-to-no opportunities. 

Statewide communities are trying to find ways to give students options that make staying at home viable and attractive. 

I visited Beaufort County and talked with the Schools Superintendent Don Phipps about this issue. It’s a small town, ruled mainly by agriculture, and, at one time, textiles. But now they’re having to find new ways to help students build careers locally. 

North_Carolina_Map_Highlighting_Beaufort_CountyThe school system developed a career academy. Eventually they hope to expand it to more professions, but right now it’s focused on EMT and firefighting. The goal is to give students a vision for what they can do with their lives and a means to pursue it. 

But what about students who go to college and see no opportunities drawing them back home? Phipps says the school system is trying to find ways to address that as well. 

They work with local companies, bringing them into the schools to talk to the students about their choices. Early on, students need to see that a good life, a future is possible in Beaufort County. 

Making sure there are more local companies where students can eventually work is out of the superintendent’s hands. That is something for the governor, the General Assembly, and local political and business leaders to address. But that, too, is a piece of this puzzle. 

In 2013, Beaufort County had a population of 47,777.  By 2030, 28 percent of the county will be 65 or older. As they old grow older and the demographics change, the children are the future. 

… as they old grow older and the demographics change, the children are the future. 

 I always laughed growing up when I heard that phrase. But increasingly, as I visit small rural areas around the state, I learn that for many people, it’s a true statement. Not just that, but an urgent one. 




Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.