Mission: We exist to connect adolescents and their support systems to programs and resources that influence positive life outcomes.
Vision: To see adolescents grow into thriving adults. CONNECT Community, Inc. connects adolescents (ages 10-24) as well as their caregivers and support systems (ie school faculty and staff) who live in rural Robeson County to resources and opportunities that lead adolescents to higher rates of successful transitions into adulthood.
Founder Kewanda Merritt had the incredible opportunity to teach in the United Arab Emirates and explore various countries, witnessing iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Egyptian pyramids that she had only previously seen in encyclopedias. This experience made her reflect on the fulfilling life she had created for herself, especially from a small rural town in southeastern North Carolina. Kewanda realized that her ability to build such a life was due to the exposure and opportunities provided by her parents and the presence of positive female role models in her community. Inspired by this realization, she took the initiative to organize a girls' development conference for young girls residing in South Lumberton. The event started as a one-day gathering in 2016 but gained so much momentum that it expanded into a two-day meeting in 2017. It eventually evolved into a monthly program throughout 2018 and 2019, continuing to empower and inspire young girls in the community.
In 2018, while working as a Student Success Advocate for the local school system, she recognized that for adolescents to thrive and grow their network to include caregivers, they must also be supported. Thus, CONNECT Community Inc. was established to nurture the bond between young people and their support systems which are critical for their development. Additionally, we aim to connect families with resources, tangible assistance, and an emotional support network.
In 2020, CONNECT Community Inc. was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, allowing us to expand programs for male and female youth and caregivers. In July 2022, we launched our inaugural in-school weekly program, CONNECT Girls, in partnership with Lumberton Jr. High School.