Emily Jackson

Emily Jackson
Location: Asheville, North Carolina Cohort Start Year: 2017 Project Topic: Food Systems and Nutrition Populations Served: Children and Families, Low-Income Communities, Rural Communities
Program Director
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

I have lived my whole life in western North Carolina, in the mountains of Appalachia, and I cherish my home and community. It is the land of old-time music, a rich agricultural heritage, burley tobacco, and moonshine. It’s a place of extremes—extreme beauty but extreme isolation, richness in flora and fauna but a lack of necessary economic opportunities. Increasing the number and quality of early childhood education programs is a solution to improve the Culture of Health in western North Carolina. By giving them the best early childhood experiences possible, we are setting children on a course to become active citizens and healthy individuals.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Reduce Expulsions and Suspensions of Children of Color in Early Childhood Education Systems
Preschool expulsions and suspensions that disproportionately affect children of color (predominantly black children and black boys in particular) underscore widespread injustice and racial inequality in our early childhood education system. Expulsions and suspensions for young children lead to children experiencing less engagement and connection with peers and teachers, more disciplinary action later in their academic careers, higher rates of dropout or fail out in high school, and higher rates of incarceration later in life. My strategic initiative will integrate anti-bias and racial equity training into the early childhood education programs in North Carolina community colleges and increase awareness about this crisis. My goal is to abolish the practice in the state and provide early childhood educators with the resources needed to make expulsions and suspensions unnecessary.

Whether as a teacher, as a domestic violence advocate, or in my current role in farm-to-school activities, I have deepened my understanding of the needs of rural people and the challenges they face. I also see the strengths of rural places and know how to bring people together for the common good. I have learned to be a good listener and an honest communicator. I speak the language of rural Appalachia.

Click here to watch Emily’s Legacy Project video.