Imagine how communities could progress if neighborhood leaders were trusted to define and decide on the best ideas to support their community's opportunities and solutions to its challenges.
United Way of the Greater Triangle's newest funding strategy looks to neighborhood experts in addition to existing nonprofits to define what is right and wrong in their communities and decide on the systemic solutions needed within distinct Triangle neighborhoods and communities.
Neighborhood Impact is kicking off with an investment of more than $100,000 in 9 community organizers whose work impacts the Triangle. United Way worked in partnership with Dr. Terrance Ruth — Professor for NC State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences — to identify the leaders.
Neighborhood Impact has developed People, Place, and Proximity models to guide funding decisions and innovate existing systems of investment, community engagement, and storytelling. The following outcomes will be measured across each model:
• Shifting power in definition and decision-making
• Amplifying lived experience as expertise
• Restoring community autonomy through reimagined systems
Meet The Leaders
Byron is the Training & Capacity Building Manager for Wake County, returning to NC Counts Coalition in May 2021.
Byron has an educational background in Social Work earning his degree from North Carolina A&T State University in 2011. Less than a month after graduating Byron entered the Advance Standing Program at North Carolina State University where he received his Master of Social Work degree in 2012.
As a proud Raleigh native Byron has a passion for helping others regardless of their circumstances. Prior to joining NC Counts, Byron spent several years working in youth development with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Eastern North Carolina as well as here in Raleigh.
Byron is the co-founder of What’s The 919: A Raleigh Resource Guide, a collective of local leaders committed to bridging the gap between people and the information needed for them to be more informed and engaged citizens.
With the grant provided by United Way, Byron is creating a venue to engage community members in civic life, by providing culturally accessible information and action steps about complicated political topics and issues that directly affect the lives of his community members.
Felicia Arriaga, PhD
Felicia Arriaga is a Visiting Research Scholar at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs teaching Race, Power, & Inequality and Race & Public Policy and a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Sociology in the criminology concentration at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Felicia’s research interests are in the areas of race and ethnicity, immigration, and crimmigration (criminalization of immigration policy and procedure) aka La Polimigra. Her forthcoming book Crimmigration NC (tentative title) highlights how federal immigration enforcement programs are implemented through local law enforcement in the new immigrant destination of North Carolina. Felicia is originally from Western, North Carolina and completed her undergraduate, Master’s Degree, and PhD in Sociology at Duke University. She considers herself a public-sociologist and hopes that her scholarship and community work will contribute to more fruitful discussions around crimmigration/polimigra policies. She’s especially interested in how these policies and procedures relate to issues of criminal justice accountability, transparency, reform and abolition.
Kamal Bell focuses on introducing STEM values to youth using agriculture as the pathway. He developed Sankofa Farms Agricultural Academy, which is a year round program that focuses on educating students from different socioeconomic backgrounds about the importance of food production. His goal is to educate diverse audiences about the importance of science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.) while simultaneously developing food pathways of their own.
Kerwin Pittman was born in Germany but raised in Raleigh, NC. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Recidivism Reduction Educational Program Services, Inc. (RREPS), a nonprofit geared towards reducing the recidivism rate in North Carolina. He is a social justice activist in the City of Raleigh with a particular focus on criminal justice. Kerwin also sits on the Racial Equity Task Force To Combat Structural Racism In The Criminal Justice System, headed up and created by North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper. Kerwin believes in being a voice for the voiceless. He is also an author who penned the book “Love Yours: A Guide on How to Love Yourself,” a self help book slated towards self empowerment of love in ones self.
Maria Mayorga (she/her/ella) is Latinx Civic Engagement Coordinator at Blueprint NC. In her role, she supports the civic engagement efforts of Latinx organizations statewide. With more than a decade of experience in nonprofit management, she is passionate about access to higher education for first generation and Latinx youth. Throughout her career Maria has worked on various education, immigration and direct services efforts with organizations like the Latino Coalition of Randolph County, NC Cooperative Extension of Randolph County, YWCA High Point Latino Family Center and Hispanic Federation. Maria has the privilege of serving on several local nonprofit boards, including Guilford Child Development, Guilford Partnership for Children, Sunrise-Amanecer, and Welfare Reform Liaison Project. Maria was born in Nicaragua and has resided in NC since 2003.
With the grant from United Way, Maria Mayorga is organizing a Latinx Infrastructure to bring equity for this population into the world of philanthropy.
Melissa is the pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, and a graduate of Duke University and Princeton Theological Seminary. She spent times studying in Israel/Palestine, Kenya, and England. Much of her formation took place in the L’Arche community of Portland, OR. Now she prefers the Eno River and her garden in Raleigh, NC. She is the chair of L’Arche North Carolina and a steering committee member in broad-based organizing in her county. Melissa’s writing has appeared in Christian Century, Sojourners, Geez, Anabaptist Witness, The Bias, Faith&Leadership, and Anabaptist Vision. From time to time she publishes academic writing. She and her spouse parent three children.
With funding from Neighborhood Impact, Melissa aims to directly fund neighborhood leaders to address the issues that precede police involvement in her community.
Troy Johnson is the founder and visionary of YM4C-Young Men 4 Christ Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that promotes character based education, life skills, social vitality, and physical activity to young men ages 8-17.
Troy Johnson was born in New Jersey and raised in Georgia by his mother and his grandparents. It wasn’t until his early teens that he developed a consistent relationship with his father.
Now married with three children of his own, Troy is faced with raising children who are challenged with the society norms that include, but are not limited to bullying, social media shaming, peer pressure and popularity among teens. These things coupled with the tension between local law enforcement and the black community has given Troy the opportunity to be better and not bitter. Through the love of his children, the hurt of his past and a word spoken over his life, YM4C was born.
Troy Johnson uses culturally relevant activities to empower youth to gain social, emotional, educational, and professional skills they need to overcome disadvantages.
Yasmin Fozard is a landscape architect who engages youth in opportunities for education on natural resources, landscapes, and the environmental ecosystems in and around North Carolina