written by Janice Mukhia
Partners for Rural Impact (PRI) from Berea, Kentucky partnered with urbanCORE, UNC Charlotte’s hub for engaged scholarship, Cato College of Education, and Save the Children on the 2023 Rural Summit: Cradle to Career, at The Westin Charlotte, April 3-4, 2023. The Rural Summit provided a platform for over 340 educational leaders from across the country to address the educational needs of rural America. It gave teachers, principals, superintendents, legislators and nonprofit leaders the unique opportunity to discuss diverse topics and ideas that ensure all youth, from elementary through postsecondary educational levels, have the resources to succeed and pursue rewarding careers.
UNC Charlotte’s strategic partnership with PRI provided a cohesive, interdisciplinary opportunity to discuss and address the unique challenges involved with increasing educational opportunities across rural America. Dr. Malcolm Butler, Professor and Dean of the CATO College of Education, facilitated a lunch plenary session on immigration and inclusion highlighting strategies to advocate for immigrant populations and how citizens can raise awareness on behalf of immigrant populations. The panelists were Frank Saraco, Principal at Celeste Henkel Elementary School in Statesville, NC, Emily Francis, UNC Charlotte alumnus and High School ESL Teacher in Cabarrus County Schools, and Sil Ganzó, Founder and Executive Director, ourBRIDGE for Kids. With Dr. Butler’s keen direction, the group effectively shared their personal and regional perspectives on building synergy between immigration, education and community outreach.
The Summit also provided a platform for local school districts to participate and share perspectives with national educators and thought leaders on improving educational outreach to rural communities. Reeves McGlohon, Executive Director of Southwest Education Alliance, was instrumental in setting up two of the sessions. Beverly Pennington, Executive Director of Student Services, Al Yasneski, Lead School Psychologist, and Dr. Jarrod Dennis, Superintendent of Stanly County Schools held a session on strategies for establishing foundations for wraparound services in rural school districts. Casey Rimmer, Director of Innovation and EdTech, and Jay Jones, Director for Union County Public Schools, held a session on creating K-12 pathways for a future in AgTech.
Cato College of Education and urbanCORE also hosted an evening reception for its VIP guests at the Dubois Center on April 3. Dreama Gentry, President and CEO of PRI, welcomed guests. This was followed by greetings and an overview of urbanCORE’s mission and social impact research initiatives from Dr. Byron White, Associate Provost for Urban Research and Community Engagement. Dr. Malcolm Butler wrapped up the greetings by highlighting the importance of a strategic partnership between PRI and UNC Charlotte. Dr. White and Dr. Butler emphasized the important crosswalks between UNC Charlotte and PRI’s mission to ensure success of students in rural as well as urban communities. This included initiatives that support current research, education reforms, and training highly qualified teachers.
For more information on the 2023 Rural Summit, Partners for Rural Impact, urbanCORE and Cato College of Education, visit partnersrural.org/ruralsummit, urbancore.charlotte.edu, and education.charlotte.edu.