Business, Latest News, News

UNC-Chapel Hill to expand assistance to local governments in economically distressed communities thanks to generous gift from SECU Foundation

School of Government, UNC-Chapel Hill, April 2018

UNC-Chapel Hill to expand assistance to local governments in economically distressed communities thanks to generous gift from SECU Foundation

$500,000 grant to Lead for North Carolina will place 20 fellows in government offices across the state to help strengthen local communities

(Chapel Hill, N.C.— March 22, 2019) – A $500,000 grant from the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation will enable the UNC School of Government to train and place college graduates in city and county governments in distressed communities across the state. The gift will support Lead for North Carolina, an effort announced in 2018 to cultivate a new generation of public service leaders in the state.


Lead for North Carolina will recruit, train and place the state’s most promising young graduates in two-year paid fellowships in local governments. It aims to strengthen public institutions and local communities that have few or limited resources to address their complex issues.


“SECU Foundation’s investment in Lead for North Carolina will help attract young people to local government as a career and encourage college graduates to work in their hometowns or in distressed communities,” said Mike Smith, dean of the UNC School of Government. “Public officials have told us they need to expand their workforce, and I’m thrilled SECU Foundation has chosen to invest in North Carolina communities by entrusting us with training, placing, and mentoring these fellows.”


The first Lead for North Carolina training program will begin in July with a cohort of 25 fellows. Twenty of those graduates will be named SECU Fellows, and the grant will cover their first year’s salary and housing stipends. Training programs will prepare fellows to work in one of four areas: emergency management, community health, citizen engagement or business process improvement. As part of their training, they will also take a bus tour of counties across the state to see firsthand the collective challenges these communities face. In August they will begin their fellowships with the participating local governments in their area.


“As strong supporters of education, we are proud to partner with the UNC School of Government for our first venture in education funding for college graduates,” said Bob Brinson, SECU Foundation Chair.  “This is an incredible opportunity for North Carolina’s young adult leaders interested in exploring public service careers to learn more about the inner workings of local government and the communities they serve. The Foundation’s grant is an investment in the future of our state, one that we hope will provide significant and long-term dividends for our state and citizens.”


All of the participating counties where SECU Fellows will be placed are considered Tier 1 communities according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s annual ranking of all 100 counties. The rankings are based on economic well-being and the 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1 communities.


Lead for North Carolina is a part of Lead for America, an organization started by Carolina alumnus Joe Nail, which places recent graduates in local government positions across the country. Lead for North Carolina is also supported by the following strategic partners: the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and the North Carolina City & County Management Association.



About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 74 bachelor’s, 104 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s nearly 330,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, US Territories and 161 countries. Over 178,000 live in North Carolina.


About SECU and the SECU Foundation

A not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members, SECU has been providing employees of the State of North Carolina and their families with consumer financial services for over 81 years.  The Credit Union also offers a diversified line of financial advisory services including retirement and education planning, tax preparation, insurance, trust and estate planning services, and investments through its partners and affiliated entities.  SECU serves over 2.3 million members through 265 branch offices, nearly 1,100 ATMs, 24/7 Member Services via phone and a website,  The SECU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization funded by the contributions of SECU members, promotes local community development in North Carolina primarily through high impact projects in the areas of housing, education, healthcare and human services.  Since 2004, SECU Foundation has made a collective financial commitment of more than $154 million for initiatives to benefit North Carolinians statewide.


University Communications: Media Relations, (919) 445-8555,

Office of University Development: Lisa Marie Ferrell, (919) 962-5247,

SECU Foundation: Jama Campbell, (919) 839-5562,