The Support Center: Turning Challenges into Opportunities
From the start, the mission-driven Support Center was intrigued with the potential of public charter schools in North Carolina. Working with Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, they are advancing their mission of generating economic activity, creating jobs and making North Carolina a better place to live by providing the brightest future for our children.
The Support Center is on a mission to create economic opportunity in North Carolina by providing start-up loans that generate jobs, particularly in low-wealth areas. Always alert for new opportunities to serve, Support Center President and CEO Lenwood Long, Sr. met with Darrell Allison, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, and what began as a conversation led to a relationship that grew into a bond and, ultimately, a meeting of the minds.
The Support Center became an indispensable partner in the launch of Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy in Bertie County. Says the soft-spoken but charismatic Lenwood Long, “Where there are businesses and opportunities, that’s where we want to be.”
The Support Center is all about nurturing opportunities, cultivating businesses and harvesting dreams. Oftentimes those dreams spring from the minds of those underserved by traditional banks, female, African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Many times they are drawn to North Carolina’s poor and rural areas where they turn good ideas into success stories. Coming from such a background himself, Lenwood is especially attuned to the needs and alert to the opportunities in those areas.
That is the case with the Heritage Collegiate Academy in Bertie County. Here was a great idea whose time had come and where finding the start-up capital would make the difference between success and failure. Many charter schools launch with an abundance of enthusiasm, but a scarcity of cash reserves. From an initial conversation with Darrell Allison, Lenwood Long and Support Center Vice President Roberta McCullough dove into the research, finances and logistics behind public charter schools in North Carolina. The more they learned, the more intrigued they became. They discovered that the vision which drove establishing public charter schools in rural and underserved areas dovetailed with the Support Center’s mission of creating economic opportunity, generating jobs and making a difference in the lives of North Carolinians. Out of that initial meeting, active exploration and deep research, Lenwood came to the conclusion, “We have to make this happen.”
Lenwood and Roberta see this budding partnership as a natural fit to their mission because a successful operation is being launched and jobs are being created. Roberta notes, “One nice thing about Heritage is that it’s doing exactly what we hope to do in the future for students there. It brought back a native of Bertie County to run the school which is the kind of thing we want to replicate and, with good education, you can do that.”
She and Lenwood envision this public charter school stabilizing the community because good schools have that magical effect of bringing a hometown together while taking justifiable pride in the accomplishments of their bright students. The Support Center has the foresight to know that parents and students in the area want, need, and deserve a choice of schools, regardless of their income or zip code.
In some areas, public charter schools can access capital right away, but in others it may be more difficult. The Support Center knows that mainstream banks might not have the resources or the inclination to help launch a public charter school like the Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy. Lenwood jokes that those wanting to establish a school “might be able to get in the door but they couldn’t get in the office.”
It’s from those kinds of challenges that opportunities blossom. North Carolina has the need, Parents for Educational Freedom has the answer, and the Support Center has the capital to bring them together.
Looking ahead, the Support Center sees a mutually beneficial business relationship that will continue into the future. For them, it’s an opportunity to stay true to their mission and broaden their markets throughout the Tar Heel State – in rural, urban and in-between counties. For the North Carolina Public Charter School Accelerator Program, it’s a chance to take a successful blueprint for establishing public charter schools and replicate it statewide.
Both parties are excited about the chance to work together and explore new opportunities to advance the cause of bright minds, better schools and educational excellence in our state.