After winning All-America County status, Davie County’s tired but elated delegation returned home from Denver, Colorado, to a warm welcome from family, friends, and the community. Davie County is one of only ten communities across the country to receive this prestigious award from the National Civic League this year.
Touched by the turnout, the team expressed its appreciation for the welcome and the support. “It was heartwarming to see the surprise welcome as we approached the government center,” said Ken Gamble, Mocksville town manager. “I’ll never forget the looks of joy on the faces of our youth and adult team members. Davie County is so awesome!”
“There was a lot of time, energy, and financial support from many people to make the trip to Denver a success,” added Anthony Davis, director of CTE and Federal Programs for Davie County Schools. “The dedication of the youth toward winning the All-America City Award was amazing. Seeing how the young people came together with the adults of our community trying to reach a common goal is so encouraging. Many of these young people didn’t really know each other when we started this endeavor, but now they have made friendships that will last a lifetime. This trip has reassured us that Davie County is headed in the right direction with our youth programs, but it has also reminded us that we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue to collaborate for the betterment of our community.”
In keeping with this year’s focus on youth, 12 student representatives from IGNITE DAVIE College Promise, S.U.R.F Board Students Grantmakers, Davie High’s Career and Technical Education Program (CTE), and the Davie Respect Initiative were charged with planning and presenting Davie’s program. After a couple of brainstorming sessions, they developed the idea of highlighting each program through a graduation ceremony. Several weeks of hard work and preparation followed.
“We put a lot of time into creating and practicing our presentation, and it came together in the end,” explained Grayson Haynes, a rising senior who represented CTE.
The team of 32 Davie County adults and youth flew to Denver on Thursday, June 8th, to prepare for the weekend competition. Friday was spent in rehearsals, followed by the opening ceremony and time to explore the city.
Saturday was the Big Day, and with the support of their program leaders, county and municipal representatives, community leaders, and parents, the students gave a ten-minute graduation-themed presentation about the impact the programs listed above are having on the youth of Davie County, followed by a Q&A from the judges.
One judge called the presentation “joyful and inspirational,” adding that she had learned much. You can watch Davie County’s presentation beginning at timestamp 1:08 here at the All-America City Awards Facebook page.
After their amazing performance, the jubilant group had the exciting chance to attend a Major League baseball game thanks to a generous benefactor. Although the Denver Rockies lost, it was fun to relax, eat junk food, and celebrate a job well done.
Intermingled throughout the weekend were opportunities to learn and share ideas and perspectives with other communities during presentations and peer discussions of community projects. One particularly poignant presentation the group attended was Motus Theater’s “Stories of Marginalized Voices,” which depicted the devastating impact of immigration and the criminal legal system on young people.
During the AAC Civic Action Fair Saturday night, attendees toured exhibits from finalist communities to learn about their history, culture, and more. Following the fair, Bermuda Run Town Councilwoman Melinda Szeliga, who spearheaded Davie County’s display, said, “From learning more about the incredible programs that are right here in Davie County – and the students who are leading and participating in these programs – to learning about the impactful programs presented by the other national finalists. I now have a wealth of knowledge and best practices to share with our Davie community!”
Our youth participants were excited to share their programs and ideas with communities from across the country, including during a youth-led roundtable discussion on Sunday.
“This experience has shown me different youth programs that other cities are implementing in their communities, which has given me ideas to bring back into our small town to help make it a better place for all ages,” said rising senior Brooklyn Lakey, who represented S.U.R.F.
Fellow S.U.R.F Board member Sean Lane, a rising junior, added, “This conference has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience to connect with other communities around the country on a personal and educational level.”
The weekend culminated in an awards ceremony on Sunday night. The moment everyone had been waiting for became a nail-biter for Davie’s delegation as the National Civic League’s board members began recognizing the ten winners in no particular order. Finally, at number nine, the team heard the words they had longed to hear, “This community has been equipping students for the future. This community has been funding youth projects. This community is igniting the future. This All-America County is Davie County, North Carolina!” After cheers, tears, and squeals of excitement, the entire delegation took to the stage to accept the award as a team. Watch Davie County receive its award live (timestamp 1:29).
The triumphant team finished the night celebrating their win at the conference’s ice cream/dance party.
“Being a part of the All-American City group as an elected official and a mom has been rewarding in so many ways. I’ve been honored to be a part of this prestigious group, and proud doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about Davie County’s youth programs. Plus, watching all the other wonderful presentations this weekend has been inspiring and eye-opening as to what we can do together in the days ahead,” said Kelly Funderburk, Davie County Register of Deeds.
Sylas Johnson, a rising 8th grader at South Davie, who represented the Davie Respect Initiative, summed up the feelings of the entire delegation well. “The trip to Denver has been fun and unforgettable. The continuous effort of dozens of people to work together and present the best of Davie County to the jury while making memories and new relationships is a testament to why Davie County is an All-American County.”
Elected officials expressed their pride in the team and their thoughts about being named an All-America County.
“We are so proud of the team that took the Davie County message of working together to achieve out to Denver. Our wonderful community is certainly deserving of the All-America County designation. Our best days are certainly ahead of us!!” exclaimed Mark Jones, chairman of the Davie County Board of Commissioners.
Equally proud, Bermuda Run Mayor Rick Cross said, “Being recognized as an All-America County is an acknowledgment by others that our commitment to our youth, and our future, runs deep across our Davie County community. Watching the team prepare for the trip to Denver, then make the presentation and answer questions, I am incredibly optimistic and energized for our county’s future. The commitment we show to our county’s youth through the programs developed is commendable. The way the youth of our county has taken those programs as their own, and added their own passion and commitment, is awe-inspiring.”
Cooleemee Mayor Jessica Almond commented, “ What an amazing opportunity it was to have students from Davie County go to Denver to represent Davie County and bring back a win and put Davie County in the spotlight.”
” I am so proud of the team that went to Denver and presented on behalf of Davie County for this prestigious award. I am more proud of all the folks throughout our county that work every day in organizations and businesses that make it possible for us to be considered an “All-American County,” added Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin.” We are truly blessed to live in such a great community, full of citizens that care for each other and constantly strive to make it better each day. We are Davie County!”
The delegation and a National Civic League representative will celebrate the award with Davie County on July 1, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. at Davie County Community Park as part of our 4th of July festivities.