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LEAF Lines - Summer 2015 Edition

Golden LEAF's 2010 investment in pump station helped land 1,075 jobs in Robeson County
Infrastructure prepared
St. Pauls Industrial Park site
for industry readiness

A Golden LEAF Community Assistance Initiative grant awarded to the Town of St. Pauls in 2010 is paying off now that the town will be gaining a chicken processing plant and hatchery expected to result in the creation of almost 1,075 new jobs. The $504,993.47 grant provided the final needed infrastructure to prepare the St. Pauls Industrial Park site to be ready for industry recruitment.

Robeson County

"It would have been impossible to get the site up to snuff without the Golden LEAF grant," said St. Pauls Town Manager J.R. Steigerwald. "My predecessor, Stuart Turille, worked hard to get the initial grant to make this happen."

In June, Golden LEAF also awarded a $300,000 grant to the City of Lumberton and an $820,000 grant to the Town of St. Pauls for upgrades to their wastewater systems to increase the capacity needed for the Sanderson operations as well as other potential new industry.

"Our water and sewer needs are just so great," Steigerwald said. "We are grateful to Golden LEAF for providing us the money we need to deal with our highest water and sewer infrastructure needs."

Sanderson Farms will create 1,000 new jobs in connection with its new facilities, including 75 jobs at the hatchery and R&D center. The new jobs will pay an overall average annual wage of $27,924, plus benefits, including 50% of the cost of employee-only health insurance. The unemployment rate in Robeson County was 8.7% in May 2015 compared to the May state average of 5.7%.

"At the county level, greater than 30 percent of our community is at or below the poverty level," said Steigerwald. "Sanderson Farms will help take us from withering on the vine to a possible boon community. Our community now has a bigger future with much more opportunity."


Collision Repair program places interns in high-paying internships, full-time employment upon
program completion
Golden LEAF provides
audio/ visual equipment for
high-tech training program

Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) is leading the way in high-tech automotive training with its Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology associate degree program, the only program like it in the nation. Created in 2014, 68% of its students currently have internships with offers of full-time employment upon completion of the two-year program. The industry will need to fill more than 180,000 high-tech positions in the next five years.

"Students can expect to make $40,000-$50,000 upon completion of the degree," said FTCC Program Director Paul Gage. "The majority of our interns have been placed in sites in Fayetteville. Most companies will look at hiring whole teams since they are already accustomed to working together."

Students train in a state-of-the-art, 25,000-square-foot body shop and classroom building that provides a real-world work environment with all the latest tools of the trade. A $200,000 Golden LEAF grant helped the program obtain much needed audio/video systems and tablets to enable the recording, viewing, and transmitting of training sessions, as well as provide ways to communicate with coworkers and instructors over loud machine noise.

FTCC Program Equipment

Having the latest technology allows the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program to provide multiple methods of teaching and learning to more than one team simultaneously.

"The Golden LEAF grant made us fully functional," said Gage. "We have equipment that no one else has seen in a training environment. Our industry has moved to an advanced manufacturing process now, which can't be replaced by robots. We need to have highly trained professionals ready to take over these jobs now."

Five interns are working at Gerber Collision & Glass in Fayetteville. Their intern director Brent Watson is pleased with both the program and the caliber of students he is working with this summer.

"I'm fortunate that I'm located in Fayetteville because I can get these students out of Paul's program," said Watson. "Most graduates of a program come out 'green,' but not these students. All of their work is hands-on, so they have already worked on today's cars not just restoring old models."

FTTC intern

FTCC student Michael Kamaka works as an intern at Gerber Collision & Glass in Fayetteville.

To close the current skills gap, FTCC collaborated with the Inter-Industry Conference for Automotive Collision Repair (I-CAR), Gerber Collision, Nationwide Insurance, PPG Coatings, and the North Carolina Business Committee for Education to create the associate degree program.

To learn more about the program, click here.


STEM-based workforce strategies garner praise
500 members of the community attend Swain County Schools'
first STEM Night

Swain County has a population of just under 15,000, but its school system is thinking big. Students, teachers, parents and members of the community are embracing an effort to build the knowledge and skill of the county's young people in science, technology, engineering, and math, more commonly called STEM.

On May 5, 2015, Swain County Schools held its first STEM Night where more than 500 members of the community saw how the school system is building student and teacher enthusiasm for a focused STEM workforce training initiative.

Swain County Schools STEM Night

From laptops to science kits to robotics, 500 community members came out to experience some of Swain County School System's STEM offerings.

The Golden LEAF Foundation awarded an $827,000 grant to Swain County Schools to help strengthen 21st century literacy and STEM skills at the schools by providing one technology device to each student in fourth through eighth grades, as well as laptop carts, power towers, professional development for teachers, and science lab equipment and kits.

"Our teachers, students and parents are all excited about STEM," said Regina Gilchrist Ash, STEM Director for Swain County Schools. "The students have lesson plans with real depth, carried out by our creative and collaborative staff. For the first time, we have all the tools we need to put these ideas into action."

Sue Breckenridge, Executive Director of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) in the Office of the Governor, praised the program for benefiting students, teachers, parents, and the state.

"There is no reason North Carolina cannot be number one in workforce STEM skill development," said Breckenridge. "I'm so impressed with all that is occurring in Swain County. It's so gratifying to see residents gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of STEM skills. I was especially impressed with the number of parents involved. I think those parents who were truly in the 'competitive spirit' may end up being the most supportive of their children seeking STEM careers."

Swain County Schools STEM Night

Sue Breckenridge (far left) hears from students and parents at STEM Night about how the technology, tools and curriculum are helping with learning.

Fifth grader Braylon Aldridge presented at STEM Night. His mother, Katie Aldridge, is excited that the school system is providing the curriculum and tools to strengthen areas aligned with her son's career interests.

"Braylon is very creative and loves science," said Aldridge. "He recently presented at the community STEM night. Last year he had the opportunity to present the 3D printer/Coding at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching teacher conference at Western Carolina University. We are excited for him to have this experience."

Breckenridge's visit was connected to her work at NCBCE. She is involved with educational programs all over the state and several projects in which Golden LEAF is a funding partner.

"Golden LEAF is making a difference - from Fayetteville Technical Community College to Southwestern Community College to Swain County Schools," said Breckenridge. "Collectively, we can make a difference."

Click here to view a short video from Swain County School's STEM Night.


High-tech radiation machine provides fast effective cancer treatment in Beaufort County
Project has served 52 patients, created 5 highly skilled jobs

Vidant Beaufort Hospital's Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center in Washington, NC, is providing the most cutting edge technology in cancer radiation treatment east of I-95 with its new Clinac Linear Accelerator, funded in part by a $550,000 Golden LEAF Community Assistance Initiative grant. The addition of the new equipment has helped create five new jobs, retain two highly skilled positions, and increase the number of new referrals from oncologists not previously using the center. In the first four months, 52 patients have received a total of 1,092 treatments from the new machine.

Nancy Kreisher of Washington was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014. After surgery on December 18, 2014, she learned that she would need radiation treatment.

In early February 2015, Kreisher became one of the first patients treated at the cancer center with the new Clinac Linear Accelerator. Kreisher received radiation treatment every weekday for 7 weeks. Knowing that she had access to the latest technology gave her a sense of comfort and confidence, she said.

Vidant Beaufort - Patient and Caregivers

Pictured are (front row from left) patient Nancy Kreisher, and her caregiving team at Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center: Dr. Robert McLaurin, (back row from left) Kristina Howell, Lori Bailey, Valerie Brookins, and Chris Overall.

In Eastern North Carolina, the cancer mortality rates are significantly higher than the national average, and 15 percent above the state average, mostly as a result of too many cases of cancer in the region being detected in later stages, according to the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry. The Marion L Shepard Cancer Center is working to combat these statistics through high tech treatment options and education about the disease.

"We want to get the message out that we have the best technology," said Dr. Robert McLaurin of the Center."But it is not all about the technology: it's about early detection; it's about participation with recommendations from the physician; it's about lifestyle change. We're trying to get people to understand if they get in here and get to their doctor early we can usually cure the cancer."

Vidant Beaufort - Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center

The Clinac Linear Accelerator is faster and more efficient than the cancer center's previous accelerator treatment (Photo courtesy of Washington Daily News).

"The main aspects of the linear accelerator that are superior to the previous accelerator are the precision of delivery of the radiation," said McLaurin. "The Clinac Linear Accelerator allows us to take CT scans of the patient every time they are on the treatment table to make sure we are delivering the radiation to the right spot. And the entire treatment only takes about 2 minutes."

Kreisher said the treatment process was seamless and quick.

"It actually took you longer to get dressed than it did for the treatment," she said.

Dr. Andrew Ju, a radiation oncologist with ECU Physicians in Greenville, spends one day a week in the Washington clinic. Dr. Ju has a special interest and expertise in treating cancers of the head, neck and prostate. Because Dr. Ju believes the equipment is so advanced, he sends some of his patients to Washington for treatment.

Vidant Roanoke-Chowan in Ahoskie is expected to get the new linear accelerator this fall, according to Vidant officials.


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Message from the
Dan Gerlach

Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President

In 2013, the General Assembly fully diverted Golden LEAF's historic 50 percent share of incoming Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) payments to the General Fund because of the state's budget challenges. Now that the State's income outlook is much brighter, the NC Senate budget proposal would restore almost 15 percent of the MSA payment ($20.1 million) to the Foundation annually. While this is not the 50 percent included in the state's consent decree, the Senate proposal would help the Foundation to be able to keep making major commitments for projects in tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural North Carolina. The economic recovery and the needs of our communities are providing more demands for Golden LEAF funds, and we want to provide all the support we can to meaningful projects to make our state better, in ways both big and small.

We appreciate the Senate's leadership, and are optimistic that all state leaders will see the benefit of providing our organization with the funding to supplement and fill gaps where others cannot.

A recent announcement in Robeson County brings the news of 1,075 desperately needed jobs in a county with a high unemployment rate (8.7% compared to the State's 5.7% as of May 2015). Golden LEAF has been able to put $1.6 million in three public water/sewer infrastructure grants that helped land the processing plant and research and development facility.

Our transitioning military as well as civilians are benefiting from a new cutting edge training program, which will result in high-paying jobs in the auto repair industry that are available now and in the future. This program is using state-of-the-art equipment to train for high-tech positions that are not replaceable by robots. When the first class graduates, each student is already guaranteed a job in the field.

Since inception, our over 4,100 scholarship recipients are raising the level of educational attainment for our rural areas. These scholarships, of up to $12,000 in assistance over four years, help our students attend our state's four-year colleges and universities. Golden LEAF Scholars express the interest and hope to live and work in rural NC. In this edition of LEAF Lines, you will read about Bethany Pope, a scholar I met when she was still a freshman in college, who is working as a social worker in rural Avery County. I am proud of all that she has accomplished, her deep concern for others, and for the other scholars who have similar desire to serve and lead in rural North Carolina.

Our workforce needs 21st century knowledge with strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Swain County Schools and our state's first regional school located in northeastern NC - hundreds of miles apart - are both working to prepare their students for successful careers by incorporating the use of technology and strong STEM curriculum in their schools.

Also in this edition, learn about how a grant to support a high-tech radiation machine is helping provide more effective and efficient cancer treatment and increasing our skilled healthcare workforce in the northeastern part of our state. This region has had consistently higher mortality rates than the state, but is working to combat the statistics with education and treatment options and access. We appreciate your interest and involvement in our important mission.


Dan Gerlach can be contacted by
e-mail at


Golden LEAF awards 215 four-year scholarships to students from 68 rural NC counties
Scholars receive up to $12,000 in scholarships, an additional $8,830 through optional leadership program

In April 2015, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded scholarships to 215 students from 68 rural NC counties. The Golden LEAF Scholarships total up to $12,000 over four years of college. Scholars are eligible to take part in an optional leadership program worth an additional $8,830 for participation in training and internships throughout their college career.

RCHS Scholars

Dan Gerlach (center) presents Nile Fisher (left) and Juwan Lockhart (right) of Richmond Senior High School with Golden LEAF Scholarship certificates. Fisher will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and Lockhart will attend UNC-Pembroke this fall.

Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation, personally met and presented scholarship certificates to over 120 scholars at their high schools across the state.

"Through this scholarship, students will gain valuable knowledge and skills," said Gerlach. "Our hope is that they will return to their hometowns or other rural areas to help our communities prosper."

Golden LEAF Scholarships are available to students from qualifying counties, who demonstrate financial need, to help them attend college at participating four-year North Carolina public or private colleges and universities. Since its inception, Golden LEAF has provided over 4,100 scholarships to help North Carolinians attend 4-year institutions.

For more information, visit:


Golden LEAF scholar returns to work, live in rural NC
Bethany Pope finds
dream job through
Golden LEAF-funded
internship program

Bethany Pope

Bethany Pope attended Appalachian State University with a Golden LEAF Scholarship from 2010-2014.

Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient and recent college graduate Bethany Pope has decided to live and work in rural Avery County as a social worker at The Crossnore School, a Children's Home in Western North Carolina serving the needs of abused, neglected, and abandoned children.

Originally from Alexander County, Pope attended Appalachian State University with a Golden LEAF scholarship and participated in the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program during her four-year college career.

Pope started working at the YMCA in Avery County during her sophomore year, thanks to the internship program offered through the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program.

"I completed an internship at the local YMCA, and I realized the need for outreach in the community," said Pope. "I wanted to become involved with families who couldn't afford their basic needs."

The following summer Pope worked as an intern in Watauga County at the Community Care Clinic, a healthcare facility that provides services to individuals who do not have health insurance.

"Both of these experiences opened my eyes to the field of social work," said Pope. "and I knew that I could never work in any other field."

After she earned her bachelor's degree, she continued on to graduate school so she could become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

"I knew I wanted to work with children in foster care," said Pope. "I had just completed a year-long internship at The Crossnore School and wanted nothing more than to get a job there. Thankfully, the last week of my internship I was offered a position as a therapist. I began the process of getting my LCSW-A, and I'm loving it!"

Pope is grateful for what the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program helped her learn about herself and sense of community.

"I am thankful to be working in rural NC," said Pope. "I receive so much support on a daily basis from fellow coworkers and others in the community. I would not be where I am today without the Golden LEAF program."


NC's first regional early college high school focuses on developing workforce
Students provide perspective on
school's success

In the spring of 2017, the state's first regional school located in Jamesville, NC will graduate approximately 32 students with associate degrees at no cost to the students. Graduates of the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience (NERSBA) will be prepared to serve the northeastern region as skilled employees or to enter college as juniors.

The school is an early college high school, which means it serves students for five years - all four years of high school and a fifth year of only college classes. It serves students come from Beaufort, Martin, Pitt, Tyrrell, and Washington counties.

"We are striving to provide a solid workforce that can have a direct impact on economic development in northeastern North Carolina upon graduation," said Hal Davis, Principal of NERSBA. "We offer a different way of approaching school, a different way of learning, by developing leadership skills and people skills."

NERSBA concentrates on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses with a strong focus on biotechnology and agriscience. It also uses technology to enhance learning. One of the early college high school's goals is for each student graduating from NERSBA to obtain at least 60 hours of college credit.

NERSBA students launch catapults

In a special topics science class, 9th grade students built their own versions of catapults to demonstrate their understanding of motion and forces.

According to Davis, "Our school would not have had the caliber of program without Golden LEAF's support."

NERSBA was awarded a $200,000 Golden LEAF grant in February 2012 to help the school with salaries, technology, curriculum development and textbook purchases. In June 2014, Golden LEAF awarded a $175,000 grant to support a Director of Technology who coordinates and supports the technology resources needed to provide online instruction for college classes. The grant also helps transport students to community college and North Carolina State University facilities to complete lab requirements not available on NERSBA campus.

One of the unique aspects of the school is that every student is a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA).

Eleventh-grader Tyra Smallwood of Washington County has taken 10 online college classes and will be the early college's FFA chapter president her senior year.

"I like the career development events in FFA," said Smallwood. "The events teach you how to run business meetings. In FFA, you really learn to work together as a team. It prepares you for life."

NERSBA students interviewed

(From left) Acacia Richardson, 9th grade of Beaufort County; Jonathan Williams 10th grade of Tyrrell County; Effrin Martinez 10th grade of Martin County; and Tyra Smallwood, 11th grade of Washington County, explained why they love attending NERSBA and how it is different from other schools they have attended.

Tenth-grader Jonathan Williams of Tyrrell County said he is most impressed with the school's focus on academic success.

"Teachers here care if you pass or fail," said Williams, who has taken four online college classes. "Instructors here try everything to help you. They give you their all and hold us accountable for what we do or don't do."

For more information on the state's first regional school, click here.


© 2015 Golden LEAF Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.


The Golden LEAF Foundation   301 N. Winstead Avenue   Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone 252-442-7474   Toll-free 888-684-8404   Fax 252-442-7404   Email

© 2015 Golden LEAF Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved