By Atinuke Diver, LR32
Director of Compliance
The PowerAmerica Institute at NC State University
“Is that a school or a mall?” I asked as our bus pulled into a construction site—the 58 acres and 327,640 square feet of LEED-designed space slated to open as the new South Garner High School. Over the next hour spent touring the site, I understood that this was no mall. And after spending a day listening and learning about the business, politics, and economic impact of education in greater Raleigh, my Leadership Raleigh 32 classmates and I also learned that when it comes to education in Raleigh, it’s personal, complicated, and ever-changing.
From our morning panel discussion with representatives from the Wake County Board of Education and the Wake County Board of Commissioners to the educational options roundtable discussions about charter, private/independent, magnet, and home schools at the end of the day, my classmates and I drew upon our lived experiences. We reflected on our own educational backgrounds, our experiences as parents and caretakers striving to make the best educational choices for the children in our care, as the spouses and partners of teachers or administrators navigating the growing demands of a school system in a rapidly growing area, and as advocates with preferences for certain educational options over others.
In his 2004 book and 2005 TEDTalk, “The Paradox of Choice,” psychologist Barry Schwartz, posits that having more choices and options actually makes us more paralyzed instead of freer. I’ve often thought of this paradox while listening to Raleigh parents discussing the myriad of public educational options accessible to their children each school year through the Wake County school assignment process. While enjoying the aptly themed St. Patrick’s Day reception hosted by Smith Moore Leatherwoood at the end of our day, I asked one classmate, “Well, what’s the alternative?” We concluded that having more choices is better than having no choice. I think Mr. Schwartz might agree.
From the exterior, Vernon Malone College and Career Academy and the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative Garage couldn’t look more different. But they both share distinct roles in the changing environment for 21st century secondary and post-secondary education and highlighted the important role the Raleigh business community has in connecting our students to professional opportunities. Our tour of Vernon Malone gave us an inside look at the potential for Career and Technical Education to lead high-school students towards a pathway of prosperity, whether that be post-secondary education or employment. Our panel discussion with undergraduate and graduate EI students was both inspiring and eye-opening as they shared their experiences in leveraging the program to create businesses and the need for greater interaction between students and the business community to keep and grow their businesses in Raleigh instead of Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boston.
Lesson of the Day
As community leaders, one the greatest opportunities we have is to bridge the gaps of access and opportunity between our companies, organizations, and industries and students throughout greater Raleigh.
Learn More About Leadership Raleigh
Applications for the 2016/17 program year are currently being accepted. Learn more at www.leadershipraleigh.org.