Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Cecilia Holden, President and CEO of myFutureNC

Critical Conversations with Scott T. Hamilton featuring Cecilia Holden, President and CEO of myFutureNC

March 14, 2024

Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Cecilia Holden, President and CEO of myFutureNC via Zoom and filmed an episode of Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.

Holden has served as President and CEO since November 2019. Among other public service, she served as the Chief of Staff for the North Carolina Department of Commerce and Director of Government and Community Affairs for the State Board of Education. Holden holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Duke University, a certificate in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina School of Government and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Business from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

myFutureNC is a statewide nonprofit organization focused on educational attainment and is the result of cross-sector collaboration between North Carolina leaders in education, business, and government.

Holden shared a little background about how myFutureNC was established. She shared that in January 2017, MC Belk Pilon, President and Board Chair of the John M. Belk Endowment, and Margaret Spellings, then-president of the University of North Carolina System, recognized that their organizations’ strategic priorities aligned in identifying strategies to address the talent crisis in North Carolina. Through an about two-year commission with data and researchers, the commission determined that they needed an attainment goal. The commission decided that the goal was to have 2 million people between the ages of 25-44 with degrees and credentials by the year 2030 to fill the state’s workforce needs. Holden added that the goal is the State of North Carolina’s goal and that the North Carolina General Assembly through bipartisan support and the Governor’s signature made the goal a state law.

Holden stated that myFutureNC focuses on three strategic goals. She said they measure progress on the goal of 2 million degrees and credentials by 2030. myFutureNC identifies and advocates for policy solutions that will increase the attainment goal. She added that myFutureNC accelerates action all across the state by advocating for action at the grassroots level.

In February, myFutureNC held eight simultaneous events across the state to release a status report on the progress being made to attain the goal of 2 million degrees and credentials by 2030. Holden shared that they released the most recent data based on the census. She said that the state is trending in the right direction. Holden said that 82 of the state’s 100 counties have increased their education through degrees and credentials. She added that while the state is trending in the right direction, the goal is slated to fall short by about 71,000 people with the educational attainment needed to achieve the goal. The dashboard that tracks the attainment can be found here.

myFutureNC has several best practices they are focused on to help build the goal. For example, the adult learner population is one of the focuses. The John M. Belk Endowment, the N.C. State Belk Center, and the Community College System are laser focused on those that stopped their education and getting them back in to complete what they started. The UNC System has Project Kitty Hawk. Project Kitty Hawk is a business model focused service that UNC System universities can partner with to get a range of services to develop online programs and to attract, support and retain adult learners. The North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities have several initiatives across its institutions focused on adult learners.

Holden added that myFutureNC is focused on scaling other best practices like the Surry-Yadkin Works model that focuses on getting high school students in paid Pre-Apprenticeships in local businesses. These students gain valuable real-world experience, earn high school credit, earn college credit, earn industry-recognized credentials, and earn a financial stipend for travel. In 2017, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded the initial program called Next Generation College and Career Academy of Surry that turned into Surry-Yadkin Works. Learn more about how this successful model started by clicking here.

One of the goals of myFutureNC is to have communities adopt their local recommended goal to achieve 2 million degrees and credentials by 2030, said Holden. New information came out in February, and she said the hope is that each county will adopt their goal, put a plan in place, and execute the goal. You can find the county profiles and goals by clicking here.

For more information about myFutureNC, visit

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