As an out of state student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have come to realize that the education I received is far from the norm. In my four years at Carolina, I have become heavily invested in remedying the inequities that exist in our country’s education system. I have grown even more grateful for my education and become extremely passionate about providing equitable opportunities for all students. To have knowledge is to have power; and I am a firm believer that every child has the ability to succeed as well as the right to a sound basic public-school education.

Through my work with Every Child NC, I have gained a greater perspective of the educational inequities that children in North Carolina face every day. It is not uncommon that children lack resources that we may take for granted—whether it be pens and pencils or internet access. For the past 7 months, thousands of students statewide have been learning virtually without reliable internet access. As a student, I know firsthand that virtual learning is incredibly difficult— and without internet, learning online becomes entirely impossible. As a result of the pandemic, the inequities that students face are more evident than ever before.

While acknowledging that such inequities exist is heartbreaking, it has ultimately motivated me. It has ignited in me a desire to spread awareness and to contribute to systemic change. It has shaped my decision to become a teacher through Teach for America. It has enabled me to have uncomfortable conversations with my peers. And above all, it has empowered me to vote. This election is pivotal not only at the federal level, but also at the state level.

I am proudly registered as a North Carolina voter. Though educational inequities exist back in New York, I have worked directly with the education system of North Carolina. I have both seen and heard about the lack of resources in our rural schools, as well as the discrimination that students face based on race, religion, disability, and so much more. With my awareness of these inequities, voting here is so important to me. I urge you to vote to make a difference in our education systems in North Carolina. Most politicians have not experienced the inequities firsthand, so we need to ensure that they are willing and ready to help those who struggle with the lack of resources each day. Teachers can only provide so much to their students with the money the state has allocated to education, and for that reason changes in policy need to be made.

My hope is that one day every child can receive the opportunity to succeed. By providing each child with a sound basic education, we provide him with a chance to change the world. We need to continue working to close the opportunity gap that many children are exposed to the moment they enter the world. The most immediate way to contribute to this change is to get out and vote.

Alexa Marie Edwards is a Statistic and Analytics Major, Neuroscience Minor, Spanish Minor for the Professions. She is volunteering with Communities for the Education of Every Child NC through her Apples Service-Learning Internship.