At the Trust, we’re working to improve the quality of life for residents in Forsyth County by partnering with an amazing group of nonprofits and foundations as part of our Local Impact program area. These organizations are committed to changing economic, health, and education systems so everyone in our community can thrive. We’re excited to share some updates about what we hope to accomplish together, and why it matters.
Connecting with Shenell McClurkin Thompson
Shenell, a senior program officer at the Trust, oversees our Local Impact work in Forsyth County. And for her — it’s personal.
“I work at the Trust because I believe Forsyth County has so much to offer. I was raised here; my husband and I returned to build our family and careers here. I also know that the disparities in this community are deep and many of the people I went to school with are stuck.
As we look at the reopening of the community, recovering from COVID-19, we know there are families who are still out of work, youth who are disconnected from employment and school, and high rates of infant mortality within families of color. All of this makes it challenging for our youngest children to get off to a strong start and for families to thrive.
The Trust is committed to listening to the community to address these disparities and ensure that every child and resident thrives. I want to be a part of the change.”
Supporting youth and their families: Great Expectations
One way we are furthering that change is through our special initiative, Great Expectations. The Trust is working with the community to ensure that children in Forsyth County enter kindergarten ready to learn and leave set for success — regardless of their race, location, or economic status.
Advancing access to high-quality pre-K with The Pre-K Priority
We support community coalitions like The Pre-K Priority, which is working to improve kindergarten readiness by increasing access to high quality pre-K for every child in Forsyth County.
The Pre-K Priority has established an education task force, and Action4Equity and Latino Community Services are bringing parents and families of color into the conversation to ensure their voices and needs are well represented, heard, and met.
Furthering family, friends, and neighbor care with Imprints Cares
Where do most families in our county get their childcare? They turn to some of our community’s most essential providers: family, friends, and neighbors.
We’re working with the Family, Friend and Neighbor Steering Committee, led by MDC, to support these caregivers and ensure they have access to high quality resources and training. A community coalition is analyzing the state’s childcare policies and regulations to understand the impact on family, friend, and neighbor providers.
Imprints Cares is piloting a home-visiting program, which utilizes the “Parents as Teachers” international, evidence-based curriculum. Through twice weekly visits, bilingual educators offer providers information about child development, access to age-appropriate developmental activities, ways to do screenings for food insecurity, and improve the quality of care for children overall.
“It is critical to support informal care providers and to provide them with the tools that they need to help the children they serve enter school academically, socially, and physically ready to learn,” says Berta Andrade, director of Ready for School Programs at Imprints Cares.
Working for equitable birth outcomes in Forsyth County
Every expectant family in Forsyth County deserves a healthy birth outcome for their newborn — regardless of their race or economic status — but disparities for people of color are far too prevalent. At the state level, Black children are more than twice as likely as white children to die in their first year of life. In Forsyth County, Black and Latinx infant mortality rates are higher than infant mortality rates for whites. To change the systems creating these disparities, the Trust is working with local organizations to support the development of community-informed action plans for closing gaps in infant mortality rates.
“We can’t have the conversation about improving birth outcomes without talking about race,” says Shenell. “That’s why we’re working to address the trauma Black and Brown mothers endure, and support more equitable birth experiences.”
Building an Inclusive Economy
Connecting youth to opportunities for success
It’s the right of every youth in our county to have access to a good education and a good job. However, too many young people ages 16-24, the majority of whom are Black and LatinX, are disconnected from education and employment opportunities. Far too often, this leads to youth experiencing higher rates of poverty, homelessness, substance misuse, and interactions with the justice system.
That’s why the Trust is working with grantees like the Winston-Salem Urban League. “Our goal is to discern the reasons young people are disconnected and identify solutions to reconnect young people to employment and education opportunities,” says James Perry, president and CEO.
James believes the entire community will benefit when youth are connected to opportunity. “Consistently, communities with high poverty rates and low rates of educational achievement are found to have higher crime, more health challenges, more housing challenges, fewer and less lucrative employment opportunities, and fewer services and amenities. To retain Forsyth County’s status as a desirable community, it is essential to increase education and employment opportunities for young people.”
James and his colleagues will produce a report of their findings to serve as a roadmap for changing the system. “We are hoping partners in the nonprofit, philanthropic, government, education, criminal justice, and corporate communities will come together to learn from the solutions presented in the report, and work together to repair the system, employ our youth, and support their educational success.”
Training youth for careers
The Trust and our partners at The Winston-Salem Foundation and The Center for Trauma Resilient Communities are supporting Second Harvest’s efforts to prepare youth who have been in foster care for careers in the restaurant industry. Second Harvest is offering a 13-week culinary training initiative that provides youth with skills and real-world work experience. The approach: give students the tools they need to secure lasting employment and a living wage, and connect them with employers who need skilled workers.
“By providing job skill training and other resources to youth in our community, our goal is that employers will be able to hire with a greater sense of confidence, and experience better workforce stability. It’s a win-win for employers and youth,” says Rebecca Nelson, director of Second Harvest.
The trauma-informed initiative “provides a safe space to grow in workforce readiness and life skill development,” adds Rebecca.
To stay updated on our and our partners’ work with the Local Impact program, you can sign up for our e-newsletter and reach out to Senior Program Officer Shenell McClurkin Thompson at email@example.com.