The City of Fayetteville is the sixth largest city in North Carolina and is the proud home of Fort Bragg, the largest military installation by population in the world. Experiencing unprecedented growth and transformation, Fayetteville has become one of the most diverse cities in the state.
Like most communities, in recent years, Fayetteville has wrestled with issues around public health, growth, social justice, racial equity, and the relationship between law enforcement and residents. The community has responded by relying on the power of conversation and collaboration, working toward the common good and approaching everything with the desire to succeed and improve. These qualities have earned Fayetteville the moniker of America’s ‘Can Do City.’
The Market House Repurposing Project
Following nationwide protests in the summer of 2020 and critical conversations around racial disparity and social justice, Fayetteville began exploring options for Market House, a longtime community fixture and historic landmark. After careful consideration, the city determined it was time to bring the community together to address head-on the full, true, and accurate history of the city, including the Market House.
The city leaned into the conversation and went to the community and civic leaders for assistance and input. A working group of diverse community stakeholders was assembled to identify, develop, and prioritize strategic recommendations for the repurposing of the Fayetteville Market House. After the extensive conversation, the working group presented five repurposing options and then sought extensive input and engagement from a diverse cross-section of the community.
Several community events were hosted and included diverse individuals in terms of age, race, gender and professional background. Following the events, a report was compiled and shared with the city council; the recommendations prioritized structural modifications, arts exhibits connected with a true and accurate history, and themed events promoting education and enrichment. At the request of the council, additional opportunities for community feedback were provided, including a virtual online survey, three additional in-person feedback sessions, and affinity group meetings with a variety of civic organizations.
The collective body of feedback led to the proposal of a dramatic repurposing plan for the storied structure. While frustration and anger engulfed many communities grappling with equity conversations, Fayetteville engaged in those tough conversations to find solutions to move forward together, rather than apart.
Fayetteville-Cumberland Youth Council (FCYC) and the Fayetteville NEXT Commission
Fayetteville prioritizes engaging youth through the FCYC and the Fayetteville NEXT Commission, both of which have positively impacted the community.
FCYC provides an avenue for youth to develop leadership skills while implementing innovative service projects. The mission of the group is to generate a passion for and desire to serve their community in a meaningful way. Each year, they develop and implement a variety of innovative service projects that help the community and also instill in the members the importance of their engaged commitment in the neighborhoods where they live.
FCYC was recently recognized for the Most Innovative Service Project, The Period Project, which involved collecting women’s menstrual products and distributing the donations to schools and organizations.
With the success of FCYC, the city council also wanted to provide opportunities for generations entering the workforce and in early career stages. Fayetteville NEXT was established to advise the city on economic development and social matters as well as potential actions affecting young adult residents. Through their engagement, members establish and sustain diverse and inclusive network connections for young adult residents and connect young adults to engagement opportunities with the larger community.
Education, Mentorship, and Empowerment Programs
With an eye toward building capacity, improving relationships between youth and public safety personnel, and increasing workforce and job readiness, city departments have brought innovative and impactful programs to give pathways for young people to grow and learn.
Aviation Career Education (ACE): The Fayetteville Regional Airport (FAY) organized ACE to provide middle and high school students the opportunity to explore careers in STEM and aviation-related fields. The academy included hands-on experience in various aviation areas and advice on pursuing a career in aviation.
Police Activity League (PAL): PAL is a program of the Fayetteville Police Department aimed at preventing juvenile crime and violence through mentorship, athletics, education, and recreational activities.
One activity was a two-week Summer Empowerment Camp. During the camp, the youth members came up with and voted on drug use as the topic that they felt was affecting their community. With the help of police officers, the youth members conducted research to write and film a public safety announcement addressing the dangers of drug use in the community.
PAL activities and mentorships are preventing juvenile crime while building strong relationships with local officers.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT): The Fayetteville Fire Department hosts an annual Teen CERT Academy for high school-aged individuals to teach them skills in disaster preparedness, medical operations, search and rescue, teen bullying awareness, gang awareness, interaction with law enforcement, CPR Certification, fire extinguisher training, and other hands-on lessons from the fire department. The training is provided by various emergency services organizations in the community, and the program empowers youth to respond to their community’s needs in the aftermath of a disaster. The academy also encourages teens to educate their peers and communities about disaster preparedness and other important skills. The program is supported by volunteers and donations from the community.