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“Check your ego at the door,” said Mark Story at the NC Chamber’s Education and Workforce Conference in August 2019. “This is about the students.”

It’s why so many of us loved Story.

His unexpected death last week at the too young age of 52 left those of us who know him reeling as our hearts and minds wrestled with the loss of our colleague, but also with the loss of his leadership.

Story had been the CEO of K-64 since September 2017.

K-64’s mission is “fostering collaboration between education, government, and business to develop, attract, and retain a future-ready talent pool to meet growing workforce demands and ensure a bright economic future for Catawba County, NC.”

Courtesy of K-64

K-64 is a public-private partnership. It was created by the Catawba County Commissioners, and it is managed by Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC). The partnership includes six priorities: career adaptability, character and soft skills development, employer engagement, one to world technology, tech-savvy educators, and work-based learning.

“K-64 is turning education inside out by directly connecting local students with a world of opportunities.”

— Catawba Valley Community College

“I tell folks I spend a lot of time as an interpreter,” said Story. “Getting the business folks to understand the framework education has to work in, getting the education folks to understand the pathways.”

Garrett Hinshaw, the president of CVCC, said, “Mark Story was a one of a kind leader and difference maker. Mark was about one thing, getting things done. He inspired people to see the value in others, and we can all use his example to make our communities the best they can be.”

It’s up to all of us now to rally around K-64, CVCC, and the Unifour region Story adored to carry on the momentum of his work — and take this bright spot to other regions of our state, making sure all of our students have the opportunity, as he said, “to go as far as they are willing to take it.”


For more information on K-64, take a look at this program profile by ncIMPACT.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC and the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.