Iredell County March 2023


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation
Regional City/Suburban

Our visit to Iredell County touched two very different locations, but a common theme emerged from both sites: Community-based strategies to support young people can promote resilience and create opportunity.

The first stop was at Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County, which houses an innovative service to help children through bereavement. Rates of childhood grief have increased significantly. With so much need, it’s easy for children who are experiencing loss to fall through the cracks – especially those children grieving for people who aren’t immediate family (e.g., a friend or a teacher). Rainbow Kidz is a locally funded initiative that uses in-school support groups, individual counseling, summer camp, holiday programming and more to fill gaps that schools, churches, many parents and even hospice counseling can’t cover.

Rainbow Kidz helps children in Iredell County cope with grief after losing a parent or care giver.

Relationship building is critical to the organization’s success. They have worked hard to open lines of communication so that educators, faith leaders and social workers know where to turn for help when a young person is grieving.

A highlight of the presentation was a family’s own shared story. When a mother brought COVID home from work, she infected her husband of 22 years. During his long hospitalization, he caught a fatal staph infection.

On the day that he died, the mother reached out to Rainbow Kidz for help guiding her two sons through their grief. Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from the organization’s programming: The mother explained that her sons teach her how to let her feelings out.

President and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County Mike Smith said about Rainbow Kidz’s work, “When we talk about value-based care, this is value.” He explained that when a child’s mental health needs don’t get addressed, it can negatively impact their well-being for years to come.

The next stop was the Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont – a hub of activity that creates more pathways to opportunity. Over lunch, several community, business and school leaders shared why they have a stake in keeping children on track toward happiness and prosperity.

Roughly 42% of the county has completed a post-secondary program, leaving local industry starved for skilled talent. Other residents lack transportation or childcare or face other barriers to work.

“People feel paralyzed because there’s so much to navigate,” said Iredell-Statesville Schools Chief of Strategic Planning and Student Services Dr. Boen Nutting.

“Iredell Ready” is a cross-sector initiative addressing these challenges head-on by helping students and businesses connect. The initiative embraces a K-64 mindset: It’s never too early to get students thinking about rewarding career opportunities; it’s never too late to re-engage adults.

Iredell Ready’s success depends on bringing industry, education and community leadership together to problem solve. To change the perception that local jobs are unrewarding jobs, students are invited on field trips to work sites and virtual factory tours; hospital administrators come into schools to share career opportunities.

“The perception of factory work is shaped by what factories used to be like: Dirty and dull. People need to see that these work environments are clean, high-tech and cool places to work,” said Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh.

The school system gets students thinking early about professional opportunities. The Iredell-Statesville School Superintendent Dr. Jeff James outlined how the “Major Clarity” program tests 5th grade students to gauge their academic strengths. Based on those findings, 6th grade students investigate relevant career opportunities. Later, they take classes to build the skills needed for the occupations they’re interested in. The goal is for 10th grade students to be “laser-focused” on viable pathways ahead: Employment, entrepreneurship, education or enlistment.

Major Clarity helps students find direction. The Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont helps them maintain the course. As the organization’s Director of Development Brady Johnson explained, poverty is associated with low academic performance. When students face food insecurity or distractions at home, they can’t concentrate on their studies. Aspirations could slip out of reach.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont closes educational gaps through programming throughout the year. The organization serves 18 public schools; in 2022, more than 300 students were members, 187 attended summer camp, and 47 girls attended a leadership camp. And nearly 40,000 daily snacks and meals were provided.

Testifying to the impact of this work, Blue Cross NC Senior Vice President for Government Markets Fran Gary introduced herself to the group as a proud beneficiary: “I grew up as a Club kid. It probably saved my grandmother’s life having a place for me to go after school, and I know my experiences with the Boys & Girls Club in my youth were critical to the development of my reading skills and my entire being. I’m proud to be here.”

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.

All other trade names are the property of their respective owners.

U39702, 4/23