I love the opportunity I have to serve as President of the Golden LEAF Foundation. I’m so grateful to those who had the foresight to create it in the first place, as I believe it has served North Carolina very well for 20 years.
I often get asked what is the best part of my job. It’s a great and sincere question, and there are many enjoyable aspects. But perhaps where my heart is centered is with the college students from rural North Carolina who Golden LEAF supports through its scholarship and leadership development program. These Golden LEAF Scholars are personal to me, and I am as proud of them as I am of my nieces and nephews.
For much of my professional career in state budgeting, I was blessed to do important work. The millions and billions I played some small role in helping policymakers allocate made a real difference in people’s lives. But it took coming to Golden LEAF to see how dollars work more clearly on the ground, and there’s no place more visible to me than students we support, highlighted in this All in NC.
Before I sat to write this column, I finished two letters of recommendation – one for a young woman who was a scholar of ours from Onslow County, well on her way to finishing dental school at ECU in 2021, and who I’ve known since she was a senior in high school; and the second for a young woman from Columbus County who will earn her Master of Public Health at ECU in May, and seeks to teach undergraduates about the social determinants of health. I have seen them grow, and I know they will change the world. Golden LEAF provides the network support to help them find out what is possible.
Read in this issue about our partnership with the globally-recognized Center for Creative Leadership and our program director Julie Griffin. Hear the stories of Carley VanHoy – who is a leader in the classroom as well as the holder of the most selfies of a scholar with me – and of Gennifer Jones, who current scholars know as their former English teacher, but known to Golden LEAF as one of our most magnificent Anson County investments. Read about Justin Jeffress, a young man of great faith and great height (he loves being called “Big Country”). His brother was one of our original scholars, and Justin has done the name proud.
Hope is not a strategy, but it is a virtue. We have just a few days left until March 1, to receive applicants to find out who will join Carley, Gennifer and Justin as the next class of Golden LEAF Scholars with the benefits of financial aid, leadership development and paid internships. Let your favorite young person with deep roots in North Carolina make their case.
We cannot let any talent go to waste. And at Golden LEAF, this is part of the strategy.