When Dr. Millicent Rainey began kindergarten, she attended a school house with a mere three rooms.
Now, with 52 years of teaching under her belt, she is still teaching in Orange County, using her available resources to conduct an academic and cultural enrichment summer program in a similar fashion to the classroom of her youth: held in a small building, with a large number of wide-eyed, teachable children, and using each nook and cranny to the best of her ability in order to create a fun learning environment.
“This is my home,” Rainey said. “I was born and reared in Efland, went to the school on the hill that was only three rooms, and I started at Efland-Cheeks when I was in the third grade.”
Rainey is the executive coordinator for the education programs at the Efland-Cheeks Community Center, which is powered by the United Voices of Efland-Cheeks, and has served as a public school teacher, administrator, school board member, and a community icon in education.
At the Efland-Cheeks Community Center, Rainey works with Assistant Coordinator Bobby Cobb, whom she taught at Efland-Cheeks Elementary years ago.
Recalling his time as a child in Efland, what stood out in Cobb’s mind was this community center, a sort of heartbeat of Efland it seems, as it played a fundamental role in his youth.
“I’m a product of the old Efland-Cheeks community center – I lived in that center, I walked to that center everyday in the summer as a boy,” Cobb said. “We had male mentors, boy scouts, cub scouts, they took us on hiking trips – those things make a difference to me. I’m passionate about this community center and program because it makes a difference – it really makes a difference for these kids.”
The Efland-Cheeks Community Center – which has grown and continues to grow – is more than a basketball goal, some soccer fields, a playground, or the numerous recreational opportunities available – it is a place that fosters relationships within families, within communities, and is a center that offers educational resources and events for those of all ages.
United Voices of Efland-Cheeks
This flourishing is due to the dedicated work of the community, and especially the United Voices of Efland-Cheeks – an organization with its 25th year anniversary in August, and the organization that powers the community center and its educational drive.
Its beginnings date back over 25 years ago, as two organizations, both in Efland and in Cheeks, fused over common concerns stemming from the lack of police protection, transportation resources, recreation facilities, and more.
So the Efland-Cheeks Development Association and the Perry Hills Homeowners Association came together and formed the United Voices of Efland-Cheeks (UVEC), which lives up to its name: an organization that listens to community concerns and reports back to the county to help create a safe and growing space.
The organization advocated for these concern, especially long response time from the police when a crime was reported.
“It was a relatively new community, a subdivision, and people were proud of their homes and properties,” UVEC President Elvira Mebane said. “But people were frustrated, this was just a stigma they did not want to have in their community.”
They met with county officials, judges, the sheriff, and brought these facts to light – eventually with one event pushing their concerns into action. More patrols were added, and eventually the placement of a police substation.
This is how the past 25 years have worked: hard work and advocacy for large amounts of time until receiving the necessary change.
They are proud to announce they have partnered with the county, and effective August 1, United Voices of Efland-Cheeks will be the sole operating entity of the community center building – responsible for the programming and everything else – a two year agreement.
“We feel humbled and honored for that partnership with the county,” Cobb said. “[For them] to bestow that trust in us to run our own facility in our own neighborhoods, that is important to us, that way everyone can feel like they have a seat at the table – it has been a long time coming.”
Alongside this success, the county has allocated and set aside funding for 2018-19 to build a new community center that will hopefully help provide more space and therefore educational opportunities.
Academic and Cultural Enrichment Summer Camp
This community center and organization has grown and their summer enrichment program is a prime example of the good that comes from listening to the community.
With the summer program finishing up its second year, it looks to continue to grow exponentially, as they were at capacity early on in the summer.
Last year they had 35 students, with Rainey and scare volunteers teaching all of the students, ages pre-k to 17 years old.
This year, with added resources, they were able to have four teachers and four teachers assistants, one of which is bilingual.
Teaching students pre-k through 11th grade, they have a specialist in writing, nutrition, computers, and music.
Their subjects include: language arts, math, science, social studies, current events, etiquette, and character development.
“We’re trying to bridge gap where they were when they left school in May and where they will be when they go back in august,” Rainey said.
The program is free and includes a free lunch, and they have regular field trips, this year visiting the North Carolina Museum of History, visiting several parks in Raleigh, going to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, and a literacy day in the Burlington City Park. While in Greensboro they will visit UNCG, Greensboro College, A&T University, and Bennett College.
On August 2 they will finish their summer program, complete with a 6 p.m. showcase and dinner, showing the community what they have learned and worked on during the summer.
Though summer is almost over, the planning and advocacy has not and will not cease.
They are already planning fall events, educational academies, and more.