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We Drive It: Inside the North Phillips School of Innovation

EducationNC’s new short documentary, We Drive It, highlights the work of a team of passionate educators and scholars in rural North Carolina.

In the high-poverty area of Edgecombe County called the Northside, schools have historically lagged behind on test scores and other metrics. That’s why changemakers there decided it was time for something radically different. It was time to build a new school from the ground up, a school specifically designed with students in mind.

The ultimate goal of this innovative new school? Self-actualization for students. Throughout a yearlong planning process, the team asked students and parents in the Northside what their dream was for school. Then they traveled across the country looking for innovative new approaches to teaching that they could bring home.

The result was a collection of learning experiences that create a brand new innovative school model: The North Phillips School of Innovation.

It’s a place where students experience social-emotional support from the moment they show up. In the morning, students meditate on their goals and affirm the successes of others in the space. They learn the required academic standards by completing exciting passion projects. And they discover the richness of their own identities, taking charge of their agency in the world.

This documentary follows the School of Innovation during its first year, which functioned as a pilot run. Next year, these innovative practices will be expanded to all eighth through 10th graders in the Northside of Edgecombe County.

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