Craven County July 2022

Population
102,989

County Seat
New Bern

Median Income
$52,687

Population Density Designation
Rural

Our visit to Craven County began in downtown New Bern. New Bern was the first capital of North Carolina and the birthplace of Pepsi. The charming, historic downtown overlooks the Neuse River, and we spent our first evening in Craven County exploring the downtown while meeting with community members.

The next morning, we traveled to the campus of Craven Community College (CCC). The primary campus sits roughly ten minutes away from downtown New Bern.

CCC president Ray Staats welcomed us to campus by sharing a few key facts about the college. CCC is the 22nd largest community college out of the 58 community colleges in the state, he said. The college is spread across the main campus, the Volt Center for Workforce Development, which is in downtown New Bern, and a satellite campus in Havelock.

Craven County is a generous supporter of the college’s work according to Staats. “Our support from the county government is deep and wide. And we deeply value their support.”

Staats also walked us through their focus on collaboration, pointing to the Havelock campus’ work with the local naval base to provide trained staff. Staats also pointed out that Craven launched a truck driving program earlier than their neighboring community colleges and provided both trucks and instructors to support its launch.

The college continues to support workforce needs according to college leaders. Gary Boucher, the Vice President of Students, walked us through their work with local industry. The availability, accessibility and affordability of workforce housing is a constant challenge for industry, the college and the broader county alike according to Boucher. Boucher went on to share that the challenges around workforce housing were exacerbated by Hurricane Florence destroying hundreds of homes in 2018.

Later in the morning, we traveled to the Volt Center for Workforce Development. Jeff Schulze, Director of Trade Programs for the Center, and Eddie Foster, Dean of the Volt Center, welcomed us. The Volt Center was established to provide workforce development training in downtown New Bern.

Staats and Boucher provided the context for the center’s founding by pointing out many of the students they aim to serve have transportation issues. “Our goal was to take needed workforce training directly to the students and their neighborhoods as much as possible,” shared Staats.

We toured their flexible workforce development classroom. The space was designed to support industry needs now and in the future. Training materials can be wheeled in and out — and the space can be transformed at any point. We also walked through their welding stalls, advanced manufacturing space and their brand-new culinary classroom. The center was full of students of all ages working to obtain industry-valued credentials.

After our tour of the Volt Center, we drove a few minutes down the road to Peletah Ministries. Dr. Dawn Gibson welcomed us to their space by sharing some of the history of Peletah’s work serving their community. They have been on the frontlines of hurricane relief, food recovery and distribution, job placement and COVID-19 response for the communities they serve.

Gibson was joined by representatives from CarolinaEast Health System who praised the grassroots health care efforts of Peletah. We also had a chance to hear from Susan Husson, the Executive Director of Interfaith Refugee Ministry who shared more about her organization’s work to resettle and serve refugees from around the world who were settling in Craven County and the surrounding region.

We also toured the Peletah Academic Center for Excellence (PACE) School founded by Peletah Ministries. PACE serves students’ educational needs, but it also focuses on their social and emotional needs, according to Gibson.

Our trip to Craven County spanned the educational continuum from early childhood at Peletah to workforce development for adult learners at the Volt Center. Blue Cross NC President and CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde noted the depth and breadth of the visit during his remarks at Peletah when he declared, “None of us can do this work alone. If we are going to move the needle on the social determinants of health — and the social drivers of education — then we must all collaborate across our communities.”

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

U39702, 9/22