Golden LEAF Staff Spotlight: Jason Rochelle

Golden LEAF Staff Spotlight: Jason Rochelle

May 25, 2023

Briefly describe your role at Golden LEAF.
As a Program Officer, I conduct due diligence on applications, including assessing local industry demand for proposed initiatives, alignment with Golden LEAF Foundation’s priority outcomes, and the potential for a positive economic impact on N.C.’s rural communities. For current projects, I provide ongoing monitoring to ensure initiatives are implemented effectively and efficiently.

Describe yourself in three words.
Creative. Curious. Diligent.

What’s your favorite part of your job and why?
As we make investments to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural communities, I get to participate in the transformative work of local governments, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. Beyond the initial investments in projects, Program Officers interface with grantees throughout the life of an initiative, helping shape the work to ensure the greatest outcomes. Being able to engage with local partners in this important work is a privilege and responsibility for which I am very grateful.

What is your favorite pastime outside of work?
My two favorite activities outside of work are fishing and traveling. Having been raised on the North Carolina coast, saltwater fishing was something I loved growing up. Later, I attended graduate school at Appalachian State, and fell in love with trout fishing in the beautiful creeks and streams of our state’s mountains. If I have a fishing pole in my hand, I am a happy person.

Traveling is another passion of mine. I love learning from exposure to other cultures. Once my wife and I had children, we wanted them to gain that same perspective. As a result, you will find our family traveling near and far, especially during the summer.

What is your biggest work-related accomplishment within the last year?
I gain significant satisfaction when projects I am working with have successful outcomes. This past year I saw several projects flourish. A few specific projects come to mind, including the Cumberland GROW program at Fayetteville Technical Community College, which provides technical training and employability skills to former incarcerated individuals and helps connect those individuals to local jobs in construction, manufacturing, and maintenance. This was just one of several projects that either helped create new jobs or helped train people for jobs in rural communities this past year. 

Beyond my current projects, I was able to highlight the successes of past Golden LEAF funded initiatives like Surry-Yadkin Works, which developed a new career pathway and apprenticeship model for high school students. I highlighted the project for a new audience, with the potential for the model to be replicated elsewhere throughout the state. Lastly, I participated in internal research efforts to inform the work of our Board as they contemplate future Board-led initiatives. This has been particularly gratifying as it taps into my previous research focused education and experience.

What motivates you to support long-term economic development in rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed communities?
What motivates me most in this work is that I grew up in a rural, tobacco-dependent, economically distressed community in eastern N.C. My grandfather and great grandfather were both tobacco farmers, and my dad grew up on the same farm. I saw the financial stress all around me as that industry began to contract. 

As a first-generation college student, I also understand the immense importance of providing a pathway to success for rural students as well as rural communities. Golden LEAF Foundation provides financial investments that help rural students and communities achieve that success. To me, the Foundation’s mission is a very personal one. From that perspective it is a mission that is easy to support.

Learn more about Jason.

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