[This post is excerpted from a speech that Landon Manning delivered to the State Board of Education in April 2012.]
I believe I was fortunate to have attended public schools during at time that education has been a priority in North Carolina. During my K-12 education, initiatives such as Smart Start, More at Four, class size reductions and the establishment of Gateways for promotion have reinforced to my classmates and me that education is important, and that our state leaders expect every student to learn and achieve.
Most recently, the Early College initiative has motivated students in my county and others to pursue college coursework while still in high school. As a member of the first Early College class in Tyrrell County, I have come to realize that college really is for every student, not just the elite students in our school. Our ability to have an Early College high school in our county, even though the nearest institute of higher education is miles away in a neighboring county, has meant that the majority of my classmates are graduating with some college credits and the knowledge that we can be successful at the next level.
The opportunities that have been provided to me, despite the fact that I attend school in a very rural, remote area of northeastern North Carolina, have allowed me to compete on a level playing field with students from across the state and nation. Being selected as a Park Scholar for the NCSU class of 2016, the first Park Scholar ever selected from my school district, is evidence of this.
However, I am very concerned about the opportunities for students who follow me, both in Tyrrell County Schools and in other schools in the northeast region. Education is the key to future success, for our citizens as well as our region. Employers cannot locate to areas without an educated citizenry, and educated citizens cannot stay in places without job opportunities. I know that our public schools have been working diligently to provide the educated citizens, and that our leaders have worked to attract employers to northeastern North Carolina.
My classmates and I fear that the recent budget cuts, resulting in the loss of teaching positions, programs and extra curricular opportunities to public school students, mean that those who follow us will not have the same opportunities we have had. We are moving backwards instead of forwards, slowly eroding all of the progress that has been made over the past two decades in improving public education in our remote region of North Carolina.
I ask that you continue to advocate not only to restore funding and programs that have been eliminated during the recent economic downturn, but that you continue to push for more funding for public education. In particular, the Early College initiative has been successful in motivating my classmates to believe in themselves and succeed.
Landon Manning is a 2012 graduate of Columbia Early College, an NCNSP-partner school. He will attend NC State University as a Park Scholar.