Our Team

Our goal has been to convene a team of influential and creative leaders from a wide range of communities, sectors, and organizations. The core leadership team is supported by a number of organizational staff members and expert advisors. 

Rokiesha Suber
Faith Community Leadership

Wendy Walden
Greenville Technical College

Gage Weekes
Hollingsworth Funds

Crystal Noble
Department of Juvenile Justice

Julio Hernandez
Clemson University

Faith Adedokun


Jerry Blassingame
Soteria Community Development Corporation

Christen Hairston
Greenville Health System

Whitney Hanna
Greenville County Schools

Hank Hyatt
Greenville Chamber of Commerce

Jil Littlejohn
Urban League of the Upstate, Greenville City Council

Ansel Sanders
Public Education Partners, Greenville Count

Shaquan Kearse
Community Works


The NSEM team is supported and facilitated by Grady PowellFaith Adedokun, Hilary Rikard
and the social impact consulting team at Openfields

Victoria Wornom played a key role as team support for the first year of the project as part of her involvement
with Furman University's Community Engagement Initiative. 


GVLNSEM Team in Durham.JPG

About NSEM

The South boasts centers of fast growth, technological innovation, and educational excellence, yet still faces some of the nation’s highest poverty rates and lowest rates of economic mobility.  The picture for Southern youth and young adults is especially stark: it is harder here than anywhere else in the U.S. for young people in the poorest households to move higher up the economic ladder as adults, according to data from the Equality of Opportunity Project.    

In 2014, MDC, a nonprofit organization that has been publishing research and developing programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and addressing structural inequity for more than 40 years, published the State of the South report, calling for the creation of an “Infrastructure of Opportunity”—a system of pathways that connects all young people, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and geography, to educational credentials and rewarding work in order to help them move up the economic ladder.

In order to inspire and equip communities to respond to the State of the South, MDC initiated the Network for Southern Economic Mobility (NSEM) in 2016.  NSEM is a group of Southern communities—Athens, GA, Chattanooga, TN, Greenville, SC, and Jacksonville, FL—committed to increasing upward economic mobility for youth and young adults in the lowest income brackets. The Network is designed to help communities deepen, accelerate, and align strategic investments for systemic change that position youth and young adults for economic success.

The Network is a two-year initiative with multiple opportunities for cross-site and community level learning, systems analysis and strategy development, and implementation coaching.  The Network members will examine how well the existing systems are working to support economic mobility for young people facing the most difficult barriers to advancement, analyze the policies, systems, and culture that impede or accelerate their progression, and adapt relevant systems to improve pathways. Through our committed leadership team, Greenville strives to develop a targeted, cross-sector approach to solving this problem.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the mission of Greenville NSEM?

Our mission in 2017-2018 is to: 
1.    Develop as a high-functioning collaborative, cross-sector team
2.    Develop an actionable plan with measurable outcomes for improving economic mobility for youth who face significant barriers to economic mobility in Greenville County

What are the expected outcomes of this work in Greenville?

At the conclusion of the two-year commitment with MDC we hope to have a:

  • Detailed systems and data analysis of those youth in the lowest income brackets and the principal barriers to economic mobility
  • Powerful, informed leadership group, equipped to challenge institutional inequity and implement an integrated action plan that fosters a dual-customer system (youth and employers), accelerating youth mobility efforts
  • Set of actionable priorities to build stronger organizations with the culture, skills, and management capacity to refine existing programs, aggregate and realign resources, and spur innovation


How can individuals or organizations get involved?

In 2017, our team is focused on learning and listening, as well as scoping out an initial approach to addressing economic mobility. As the project progresses we intend to reach out to more partners with the aim of developing a multi-stakeholder effort to begin to implement the work.

  • At any time reach out to our team at connect@gvlnsem.net, or to one of our team members. We would be happy to share more about our work.