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Ignite Davie can help meet workforce needs

The signs tell the story.

Gildan is hiring, Comfort Bilt is hiring, Ashley Furniture is hiring. And the list goes on.

Over the past several years, business and industry have struggled to find a skilled workforce to meet their needs. The 2020 pandemic worsened the challenges, and the lack of skilled workers to fill open positions is even greater today.

Estimates for residents 25 years old and older in 2019 showed that 42.2 percent have a high school diploma or less and 21.3 percent have some college but no degree. In total, 63.5 percent do not have an associate or higher degree.

“We can reasonably extend that to say that potentially 63.5 percent of Davie’s workforce does not have the training and education necessary for the jobs available,” said Carolyn McManamy, Davie Connect director.

“Just as companies invest in high-quality tools and equipment for their business, we need to invest in Davie’s workforce. Education and training beyond high school impact the individual and the community.

“Ignite Davie College Promise has the potential to impact our current reality and improve the educational attainment of our county, but we must ensure the Promise will be sustainable for current and future generations,” she said.

Ignite Davie is a place-based last dollar scholarship, which means students must live in and attend school in Davie County. Beginning with the Class of 2020, Ignite Davie pays tuition and fees for students to attend either campus of Davidson-Davie Community College full-time. A stipend of up to $250 per semester is also included for books. Students may pursue a certificate, diploma, or associate/transfer program.

Ignite Davie is applied after all other funding sources. It is not based on academic merit or financial need. It is for all residents.

Early estimates projected that a $3 million endowment would successfully pay the last dollar scholarships and fund the program into the future. In fall 2021, Ignite Davie has commitments of $2 million. The “Inve$t in our Kids” capital campaign is designed to raise the remaining $1 million.

“One of the many things I am proud to participate in through the Davie Community Foundation is helping with Ignite Davie so that all future Davie graduates can have the opportunity to attend community college for free,” said Davin Brown, foundation board member.

In 2019, community partners collaborated to make the initial $925,000 investment in Ignite Davie. These partners made five-year commitments toward the $3 million goal: County of Davie, Davidson County Community College Foundation, Davie Community Foundation, Davie County Chamber of Commerce, Davie County Economic Development Commission, Phillip and Darlene Fuller, United Way of Davie County, and Zachary Wright.

In addition to the partners, Davie County is full of people who seem to rise to the occasion when there is a need or a program that is important for children or the community. More than 300 donors have contributed amounts ranging from $20 to $125,000.

“While serving on the Davie Community Foundation Board I have become keenly aware of the generosity of our community,” said Candy Poplin. “Participating in the kickoff for Ignite Davie has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my tenure with the board.”

Peggy Wallace of Mocksville is one of the early contributors to the program. Peggy has 18 great- grandchildren, 13 of whom live in Davie County and could benefit from Ignite Davie.

“I think this is the best thing Davie County has done for education – ever,” she said. “I just think it’s a wonderful program. A lot of kids wouldn’t be able to go to college without it because they just don’t have the ability to pay. I am so happy the fundraising has gone as well as it has. Our kids deserve the chance to better themselves.”

Wallace has given to Ignite Davie and has instructed her family to add to Ignite Davie from her estate when she dies.

Clyde and Gladys Scott were also early contributors to Ignite Davie and have grandchildren in the county who may one day benefit from the program.

“Our family is a proud supporter of Ignite Davie.  We hope that Davie High students will seek out opportunities like Ignite Davie College Promise for post high school assistance.   This program is a wonderful way to prepare local young adults with a college education and skills to enter the workplace,” said the Scotts.

Although she doesn’t have children or grandchildren who will benefit from the program, Ruth Hoyle, a retired librarian, was moved to give because she believes that Ignite Davie is good for the community. “Anything we can do to improve the lives of young people is worthwhile. Ignite Davie is an investment in our future.”

The importance of Ignite Davie doesn’t just resonate with seasoned adults. Young couples and singles are giving to the Promise, too.

Rebekah Powers, teacher at Mocksville Elementary School, made a direct commitment to the Promise through payroll deduction. In talking with her class about Ignite Davie, she pointed out that not only would her students be eligible when they are high school seniors, her 2 year old and the baby she is carrying will also be eligible.

William R. Davie Elementary Assistant Principal Sam Brown has a personal and professional understanding of the importance of Ignite Davie. As a young person, going to a four-year school right out of high school wasn’t an option due to finances. Sam got his start at Surry Community College where he discovered his passion for education.

“Community college gave me time to grow and mature, and I had great professors at Surry, especially in English,” said Sam. “After graduation I transferred to UNC Greensboro where I majored in English and got my teaching license.”

Sam taught English at Stokes Early College for his first seven years in education.

“I was blessed to teach in an environment where I could see the impact community college had on kids. They got the support they needed, and some are graduating from four-year schools now,” said Brown. “I definitely want our 3-year-old daughter to have the opportunity to be part of Ignite Davie. Hopefully by giving now, I can help make sure the Promise is available when she is ready.”

Cassidy Webb, who graduated from Davie High in 2013, the University of South Carolina in 2017, and law school at Wake Forest in 2020, is the youngest Ignite Davie donor to date. Now a practicing attorney in Washington, DC, she recognizes the valuable role education has played in her life and wants to pay it forward.

“As soon as I heard about Ignite Davie, I knew that it was a program I wanted to support. While there are so many valid paths to pursue after high school, I firmly believe that if someone wants to continue their education, tuition costs should never be a deterrent. I’m so proud of Davie County for prioritizing this initiative and am excited to see how it continues to change lives.”

Visit www.IGNITEDAVIE.com/donate  or mail a check payable to Davie Community Foundation with Ignite Davie in the memo to 135 S. Salisbury St., Mocksville.

For additional information about Ignite Davie, visit www.IGNITEDAVIE.com  or contact McManamy at 336-753-6670.