Train the East: $1 Million Grant Expands Community College Options for Latinos in Eastern NC

A $1 million grant inspired by their Latino Initiative experience is helping four Eastern NC community colleges better serve their Latino populations. Connections made during our 2022 program to Mexico led four college presidents to come together with plans to expand access for Latinos to community college degree and training programs.

Eastern North Carolina community college presidents took their Latino Initiative experience with us and ran! Presidents from Wayne, Sampson, Lenoir and James Sprunt community colleges developed the Train the East initiative to better serve area Latino students. Their efforts earned $1 million grant from the Anonymous Trust in 2023.

The four community colleges will recruit, train, and support students from Latino communities in rural eastern North Carolina. The intended outcome is a skilled and credentialed workforce for the six counties served by the community college collaboration: Duplin, Jones, Greene, Lenoir, Sampson, and Wayne.

“In Wayne County, there is a higher drop-out rate among diverse groups, especially Latino males,” said Wayne County Community College President Patty Pfeiffer. “If we can provide greater access to education and training opportunities that lead to high-skill, high-wage careers, and encourage students to finish high school, we are providing life-sustaining opportunities. I believe first generation college students often produce second generation students.”

The grant supports efforts including hiring bilingual outreach coordinators to share information with high school students and their parents about community college program and scholarship opportunities. The overarching strategies of Train the East support expansion and development of curricula and workforce training opportunities for Latino students.

Creating generational change is at the heart of Train the East.

“For our students and those we will serve through the Train the East Initiative, we know the community college provides educational opportunities that can produce generational, life-changing opportunities,” President Pfeiffer said.

News Story:
A New Initiative is Breaking Down Barriers for Latinx Students in Eastern NC
The Train the East initiative and the $1 million grant award was featured in an EducationNC story. This nonpartisan, nonprofit organization was “established to provide an independent source of news, data, and analysis about education for the people of North Carolina.”

A new initiative is ‘breaking down barriers’ for Latinx students in eastern NC

BACKGROUND: Latino Initiative 2022 Program in Mexico
Program Goals:
The Latino Initiative Strengthening the Talent Pipeline program was dedicated to increasing high school completion, post-secondary credentialing and degrees, as well as job placement and retention among the Eastern North Carolina Latino population

The Data Behind the Goals
• As of 2019, the Hispanic population in the United States is over 60.47 million.
• Latinos represent 9.6% of North Carolina’s total population, and only 15% of this population have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
• In 2015, there were 355,000 Latino children in North Carolina, but only 50% of high school age Latino students plan to enroll in a community college.
Source: Carolina Demography – Hispanic/Latino, NC vs. U.S.2019

Learning from Mexico
During our time in Mexico, we met with education and industry leaders and experienced many facets of Mexican culture. Highlights related to education and training included stops in Queretaro City, a magnet for talent and innovation in the aviation industry. We met with state and city officials and visited think tanks and innovation hubs for connecting higher education to industry.

We also spent time in Guanajuato, a state that has many connections in North Carolina. There we visited an industrial park and several innovative education and training centers. We also gained inspiration from local community partners who work to better the communities surrounding the industrial areas.

The 2022 Delegation
The 2022 Latino Initiative delegation included administrators from K-12 education, community college presidents, higher education administrators, executives from local industries, economic developers, and elected officials. Each regional team was spearheaded by the local community college president. More than 70 leaders connected across sectors to collaborate on this project.

Our Sponsors
Thank you to our generous Sponsors who made the 2022 Latino Initiative possible:
• Anonymous Trust
• John M. Belk Endowment
• Smithfield Foods
• Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation