The passion Avery Payne ’21 has for nonprofit work dates back to 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.
He’s continued giving back while at Randolph, leading the Black Student Alliance and volunteering with the College’s food pantry. In 2019, Payne took part in an alternative spring break trip to Portugal, working with a food rescue project that uses unserved, leftover food to feed those in need.
This summer, he’s working as an education 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.”
Payne initially headed the organization’s LearnTogether Initiative, which provides free tutoring and mentoring services to students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District and surrounding schools.
Part of the focus has been equipping students to be successful during virtual learning so they can be on target or even ahead once they return 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.”
His more recent work has focused on community development and community organizing, using his connections in the city to find other organizations they can 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.”