Avery Payne ’21 developed a love for giving back in high school.
During his junior year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native worked as a veterinary assistant at a clinic that offered discounted vaccines. He also volunteered for an organization called CROSS Missions, which brings youth from up and down the East Coast to provide community service in Charlotte.
“It boosted my love for my city and the passion I have to bring back prosperity and equality and equity,” said Payne, a religious studies major who leads Randolph’s Black Student Alliance.
He continued those efforts this summer, working as an educational access and equity intern with the new nonprofit, Greater Charlotte Area Mutual Aid. The organization was created with the goal of connecting members of the Charlotte community with the resources they need during the pandemic.
“It was created initially as a Facebook group to bring people together to share resources as well as stories, trying to connect and regain that social aspect of society as we’re all working virtually—but doing it in a way that’s constructive and helpful for those who don’t have the resources or capacity to deal with these issues,” Payne said. “The group is building connections and starting initiatives to provide resources and structure for people who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
Joey Chong, co-founder and chief operations officer, called Payne an impactful leader who did outstanding work and always brought a smile to team meetings.
“From developing meaningful relationships with community partners to creating a digital resource library, Avery demonstrated an unwavering commitment to supporting the community he calls home,” Chong said. “We can’t wait to see how he will continue to help.”
Payne initially headed the organization’s LearnTogether Initiative, a free, online tutoring and mentoring service offered to K-12 students in Charlotte.
Part of the focus was equipping students to be successful during virtual learning so they could be on target or even ahead once they returned to in-person learning, he said.
Payne also helped develop a holistic tutoring program.
“It’s moving from that basic tutoring model to something more enriching and driving for the students,” he said. “With online learning, when there isn’t an instructor telling students what to do throughout the day, it’s the students taking the initiative to do those things. Part of the idea is to get students to want to learn, helping them develop a passion and a drive to learn more.”
Toward the end of his internship, Payne began to focus on community development and community organizing, using his connections in the city to find other organizations they could partner with to help those in need.
“After we make it through this crisis, we’ll stick around for as long as we’re needed to benefit the community outside of just COVID-19, to still be that network of resources,” he said.
It’s exactly the kind of work Payne hopes to do after graduation, inspired by his religious studies coursework.
“Learning about people, cultures, and belief systems has given me an appreciation for the differences that exist among them and a desire to allow for those differences to be resilient,” he said. “I found myself being able to do that in the nonprofit field, working in public policy, public safety, or public health.”Tags: 2020 summer internships, Avery Payne, nonprofit work, religious studies, student internships, summer internships, Vita No. 9