They don't just get educated here and leave.
Among the ones who come home or stay here after high school are one capacity development director and one flower farmer. There are dozens more. They may well be among our best hopes for the future.
Addie Harris leads capacity development for Blue Ridge Hope, a local nonprofit that seeks to minister to the whole person around issues of grief, mental health, nutrition and after-school mentoring.
Addison Greene grows flowers for a living.
Harris says her burn is for social justice and adds that mental health is a social justice issue. In a recent blog article she wrote, "The idea that one's harmful mental health condition is a reflection of laziness or weakness is a common banner society lifts when confronted with the reality of our current mental health crisis. Another solution has been to write off certain individuals as 'crazy' or 'insane,' otherwise translated as untreatable, unworthy. Not only those we write off, but the everyday working Joe or Janet are silently suffering too, with one in four Americans experiencing at least one major mental health crisis in any given year."
In addition to her advocacy for the mentally ill and others in crisis, she writes grants, works on fund-raising events and efforts, supervises the after-school mentoring program known as Hopeworks, and manages all of the organization's outside communications through social media, print and other outlets.
She is also certified in Tai Chi and balance training and will be leading classes in both in the near future.
The next fund-raising event for Blue Ridge Hope is set for October 23 in conjunction with Ruffton Roots, the community garden folks in Rutherfordton. The event will include food pickup at the garden and a virtual, online gala.
Addison Greene farms flowers on his family's Ellenboro farm. The last few years have seen him, along with his mother, caring for great grand and grandparents. A 2019 graduate of East Rutherford, he suspended a college attempt to offer elder care and gardening. He currently sells flowers at the Rutherford County Farmers Market and to customers who know him.
Next spring he plans a "U-Pick" garden that will feature tulips, daffodils, and ranunculus. His passion for flowers comes in part from his grandmother Rose Dodson, and in part from "Just seeing the smiles on people's faces when they see a beautiful bloom."
The business is located at the family farm, 586 Lake Davis Road, Ellenboro.
He has brought new life to his family's garden spots and even does art work on found furniture.
The website for the farm is inbloomflowerfarm.wixsite.com.
While Harris credits her parents, especially her mother, Greta, for giving her the freedom and encouragement to make her own decisions and make her way in the world, Greene is solidly influenced by three generations who cultivated and gardened on the family land.
Harris says growing up in Salem Church in the Washburn Community gave her an acceptance of all kinds of people, and "helped me grow in my faith." She loved being involved with the church's youth group and said the good times and teachings "helped me accept people and the world. I never felt condemned by my church."
She said at high school graduation, "I thought I had everything figured out. Attending UNC-A was enlightening. I grew in knowledge and emotional intelligence. They taught me the responsibility of privilege and gave me a passion to fix things I know are wrong."
She said the drag down into home study required by the Covid shutdown was not too hard of an adjustment for her as she had already completed an online associate degree from Isothermal, but she did miss the social life of being on a college campus.
Harris and Greene are two young folks betting on Rutherford County as a place to work, live, and serve. There are many others.