Elaine Townsend Utin (B.A.Ed. ’12) has been named as a Forbes “30 Under 30 in Education” honoree for 2018.
Townsend Utin and Ricky Hurtado were named together for their work as co-executive directors of the NC Scholar’s Latinx Initiative (N.C. Sli), a project of Carolina’s Center for Global Initiatives.
Honorees are recognized primarily for using innovative methods to open up access to quality education to new and often underserved groups.
N.C. Sli’s mission is to broaden the spectrum of paths and opportunities for Latinx students, including in educational, leadership and civic engagement fields. The initiative serves to make North Carolina a more welcoming and equal environment for its growing immigrant population by investing in the next generation of Latinx leaders.
One of N.C. Sli’s most successful programs prepares Latinx high school students for a college education and works to develop leadership skills beginning in the students’ sophomore year. The High School Scholars Program encourages students to engage with their culture and interests in order to find their path forward when making the jump to post-secondary education, as well as being rigorously prepared for the college application process.
Participants receive mentorship from current college students, resources that link them with financial aid and scholarships, and other resources that allow them to develop professional and leadership skills.
Hurtado and Townsend Utin, both first-generation college graduates and UNC alumni, have worked to expand educational opportunities to first-generation college students and especially to those coming from immigrant families. Both previously worked with nonprofits that provided opportunities, especially in education, to low-income communities and communities of color before coming to N.C. Sli.
During Hurtado and Townsend Utin’s tenure as co-executive directors, 100 percent of N.C. Sli scholars have graduated high school and 90 percent have continued to college. The White House has recognized the program as a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education for its work.
Townsend Utin was a highly successful undergraduate student at the School of Education, where she majored in middle grades education. During her senior year she won a Fulbright award, which sent her to work teaching English for a year in South Korea. She was the undergraduate student winner of Carolina’s 2012 University Diversity Award. And, she has been inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, Carolina’s oldest and highest honorary society.
During her undergraduate years, Townsend Utin served as co-director of the Scholars Latino Initiative, a forerunner of N.C. Sli. She graduated as a Walter White Buckley Jr. Public Service Scholar, a recognition that celebrates students’ commitment to service, their work to foster connections between Carolina and the community and in developing fellow students’ capacity for engaging in service.
After her year in South Korea, she earned a master’s degree in Technology, Innovation, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education before returning to Chapel Hill. The School of Education honored her in 2014 with its Outstanding Young Alumni Award.