Group aims to boost early childhood development

By Todd Cohen RALEIGH, N.C. — By the year 2020, two in three  jobs in North Carolina are expected to require higher education. Yet in 2015, only 38 percent of fourth-graders in the state R…

Source: Group aims to boost early childhood development

Jasper Collins and the ‘Ellisville Patriot’

Renegade South

By Ed Payne

(NOTE:  This brief history of the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Ellisville Patriot is being posted both to explain the newspaper’s relationship to the theme of the Renegade South and in the hopes that someone may possess some yellowing remnant of this fleeting Piney Woods publication–Ed Payne.)

On April 26, 1895 the citizens of Ellisville, Mississippi were greeted by the appearance of a third weekly newspaper in their small community, the Ellisville Patriot.  While the rival Ellisville News acknowledged the event with a few dry comments, the more partisan New South launched a vicious attack upon the upstart publication, its politics, and most especially its co-founder, Jasper Collins.  The fact that New South editor Frank Parker and Jasper Collins belonged to the same Masonic Lodge did not inhibit Parker, who characterized his journalistic rival as “the old Beelzebub”—which was among his milder invectives.  But the sparks…

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A Golden Opportunity

Margaretta Peale, Cake with Raisins, 1829
Margaretta Peale, Cake with Raisins, 1829

Did you know that in the southern United States—when a snowstorm is approaching, the three most important items to stock up on are wine, eggs, and bread?

I was absolutely certain this was true— until last week. If the snow is even whispered, we immediately dash to the grocery store to stock up on “survival rations” to get us through what we consider to be a most unnatural disaster.

What do you stock up on in a storm?

Pondering this gave me another idea. Would it be more interesting to consider the question another way— What are you stocking up on in your life?

I didn’t know it at the time, but this storm turned out to be my golden opportunity to gain a personal insight.  Something happened that day that caused me to examine how intentions and actions play out in our lives. Do our actions either honor or dishonor our core values?

NCSU's WWII Memorial Bell Tower in the snow (2015)
NCSU’s WWII Memorial Bell Tower in the snow (2015)


Raleigh goes into a frenetic feeding frenzy right before a snow storm. When I finished work for the day and had arrived at the grocery store, multi-tasking all the way, a shopper caught my eye. There she is, this elderly lady making her way with determination down the aisle and holding on tight to her cart for stability. Clearly, she’s in some distress. Folks are zipping around her as fast as they can.

We chatted and I learned that Maria lived what I’ll call a “giving” life. She’s a retired college professor.  In that one moment, I made a life-changing friend with a single act of thoughtfulness. I had no idea “who” she was at the time— but I do now.

Why do I share this story? Most of us truly seek to discern what is written on our hearts. We hope to find a significant purpose in our lives. In one form or another, this is the universal search for the meaning of life.

I’d been experiencing an internal struggle.  Here’s what I’m trying to figure out.

  • What has God written on my heart?
  • How can I read it clearly— and do it?

A couple of weeks ago over lunch, a friend offered her feedback on how she sees my dilemma. She suggested that she has observed that my three most apparent operating principles are:

  • Standing firm in my values and withstand with grace.
  • Engaging with a clear purpose and good intent.
  • Speaking truth to power.

For the past year, I’ve been stepping-down my hours with the Alumni Program and preparing to transition off StepUp’s staff.  Following the death of my husband, becoming part of the StepUp family was a terrific experience. Though this work helping people in need of a second chance, StepUp re-connected me to a community of caring and thoughtful change-makers.

Kauffman Foundation Facilitator Training (2014)
Kauffman Foundation Facilitator Training (2014)


Last year I completed The Kauffman Foundations’s entrepreneurship training. Combining business coaching with this new knowledge, my plans are to focus on connecting with others to build something meaningful, such as a StartUp Community, a non-profit, or a triple-bottom-line venture. I’ll also travel to Penland School of Crafts to further develop my skills as a jeweler and metalsmith.

As I prepare to meet the future, I’m aware that I’ve felt excitement and panic in equal measure. The storm slowed me down and meeting Maria replenished my spirit.

Let me weld these disparate thoughts back together with this question.  When you to think back on the big storms in your own life—  What are you stocking up on?

How we choose to spend our time defines who we are. Those choices speak volumes about what we truly value.

To me, it’s people. It’s my favorite verse, “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” I’m embracing this journey, knowing I have everything I truly need. Faith that the Lord has written it on my heart.


startup nc reentry

The era of excessive mass-incarceration in America is coming to a close.

Let’s keep blame and politics out of this. It’s time to simply get down to the business of planning effective community reentry and coordinating what is needed for success. How can you help?

Thought leaders from across the state, including NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, are gathering for the North Carolina Reentry Symposium on Saturday, June 6 in Burlington, NC. The purpose is providing an open forum for the exchange of information on NC’s reentry process. All stakeholders are invited to attend to obtain a greater understanding of the issues surrounding reentry. We’ll hear more about what is currently planned and who will be involved in facilitating successful reentry We are resolved to engage in a renewed dialogue to build a stronger, more successful, more connected statewide reentry network.

Why does it matter?

Having volunteered at Butner for AlphaUSA and after spending six years working with StepUp Ministry, it’s apparent that the number one problem facing those with a criminal conviction is employability. As a volunteer at Butner (FCI-II), the people we minister to have real fears about being even being allowed to make it in society. Those who have completed their sentences continue to repeatedly be branded “offender” on the outside and online. The consequences of a criminal charge or a conviction are severe and long-lasting. How does a person coming out of prison obtain life-sustaining employment paying a livable wage?  Barriers are everywhere. Fair access to employment, housing, and transportation are essential to building permanent stability.

Here’s my view as one collaterally involved in the justice system. I believe in second chances. As a society, we have punished them— and now we are duty-bound to develop and implement a thoughtful policy approach and process that actually helps people reenter society successfully.

“At what point do you quit offending?”

Boots on the ground reentry nc june 6

Boots On The Ground!

Putting together an event like this requires a great deal of help and coordination.  Do you have something to contribute to this effort?

For more information, sponsorships or to volunteer, please contact:

LouRonna Richardson 

(314) 607-8850

NC Reentry Symposium

Saturday, June 6 8:30AM – 5:00 PM

Trinity Worship Center
  *   3157 S. Church St.   *   Burlington, NC

Pre-Register at:

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the issues surrounding successful reentry in North Carolina.

Mary Jane Clark, 
StepUp & AlphaUSA Prison Ministry NC Team 

Quick PodCast on Startup Weekend with Teaming for Technology NC

Startup Weekend NC  is focused on entrepreneurial opportunities in the IT and E-Waste sectors.  Together with Teaming For Technology, we are convening the Triangle area’s creative minds to look for solutions which profitably address this global problem.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 11.14.34 AM

Sept. 26-28 in Raleigh, NC


Problems are opportunities.  This problem is global and it’s growing.   Here’s the million-dollar question: What happens to old electronics and why does it matter?    Listen to the attached mini-podcast with Al Reynolds of T4T walking and talking us through the issues.

Some e-waste products are refurbished, however, only a tiny fraction of used computer parts are recycled. Even when we take old computers, laptops and printers to a recycling center, we have no guarantee that it is actually recycled – not in the way most of us think of recycling. Much ends up as e-scrap, creating toxic waste problems with serious environmental consequences here at home- and particularly in 3rd world countries.

StartUp Weekend is a small experimental competition with the potential for global ramifications and real profit. Sponsored by Teaming for Technology, StepUp Entrepreneurship Program, and NABocker.

  • Space is limited and acceptance is a competitive process
  • Complete entire application (email MJ Clark to request)
  • Deadline for submission – Friday, September 12, 2014
  • $25 application fee submitted to StepUp, 1701 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh NC 27608

Questions? Please contact Mary Jane Clark,  StepUp Entrepreneurship Facilitator at

MJ on Twitter

Be happy, put regrets away – and do some good along the way.