Supporters Of Our State. Believers In Mankind. Drivers Of Change.

Transforming postsecondary educational opportunities to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs.

Message from Chair

Dear Friends,

Dr. Robert Ross, president of the California Endowment, has dedicated his life to advocating for and improving children’s health. A few months ago, I heard him deliver a stirring keynote address to the Grantmakers for Education conference. In Dr. Ross’s field of healthcare, like in our field of education, there are ingrained, complex systems that must change to ensure both a level playing field and an economically viable future. Dr. Ross opened his remarks with a challenge he received from a member of his youth advisory committee—“Y’all gotta get woke.”

Get woke is a phrase often heard among young, urban activists, those who live in the shadow of systemic imbalance. By passing on that directive to a room of educational philanthropists, Dr. Ross dared us “to lift consciousness out of a deep slumber and into the fight for social change.” How many of us, he wondered aloud, are willing to shake off all traces of complacency and truly jump into the fray?

Those of us in the room representing the John M. Belk Endowment were particularly moved by his words, for if we are to succeed in transforming postsecondary educational opportunities to meet North Carolina’s evolving workforce needs, then we must continue to act with intensity, commitment, and purpose.

This year, we are announcing a new goal for statewide postsecondary attainment. Inspired by Lumina Foundation’s commitment to our nation, we commit to do our part to increase the proportion of North Carolinians attaining degrees, certificates, and other high quality credentials to 60% by 2025.

This goal came from a thorough analysis of our state’s current educational pipeline, which we completed as a part of our 2016 strategic planning process. During this process, we also refined our guiding principles, our theory of change, and how we will measure impact. In other words, we have spelled out how we will continue shaking things up and look forward to sharing that with you in the coming months.

This goal is achievable thanks to the work that our grantees are already doing in North Carolina: College Advising Corps is strengthening our nation’s high school students’ access into the college pipeline; Single Stop is streamlining and coordinating student resources through a technology platform that supports financial stability; NC Works is a new partnership between the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Department of Public Instruction, and Community College System office.

This goal is bold and will serve to guide all that we do. But we cannot do it alone. We continue to partner with our fellow reformers—grantees, community colleges, universities, business leaders, non-profits, and public servants—because we are always stronger together.

As we look ahead to 2017 and beyond, we will continue rebuilding the postsecondary education pipeline to lead our state to stronger economic vitality. We will address the systemic and cultural barriers that impact postsecondary access and completion. We will help align postsecondary institutions with employers, industries, and economic needs. In sum, we accept the challenge to get woke, to stay woke, and to help our partners across North Carolina and the nation to do the same.


MC Belk Pilon, Chair