By Erin Reinhart ’23
For spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Morganton, North Carolina with eight other Holy Cross students. I had never done the Immersion Program before and I wanted to take this chance on my last spring break. I truly had no idea what to expect going into this experience; I did not know much about my site, or how the program is run. I knew that Morganton, NC was in the Western part of the state, that it was a smaller-town, and that something within the city had something to do with sustainability. Spring break opened my eyes to the depth of history, resources, and fantastic people of Morganton.
I had never been to North Carolina before, so quite literally everything I experienced was new. Arriving and driving through the winding roads in the pitch dark of the night was certainly a new experience. Learning how beautiful and drastic the North Carolina landscapes can be was all new to me. I was introduced to Bojangles, a fast food chicken chain, which I highly recommend. I was quickly accustomed to the generosity of the North Carolinian people when I ran into some car troubles. But beyond anything, I was introduced to the entire textile industry that once lived in North Carolina, one that many Carolinians are trying to get back.
My group spent the week at The Industrial Commons (TIC), a non-profit organization that advocates for sustainability, fair work conditions, and community engagement by supporting different for-profit companies who work on those issues. TIC helps to support farmers, textile factories, and related companies. Our work and information throughout the week was focused on the textile industry and how people all over the Carolinas are trying to bring clothing and other textile manufacturing back to the region, after most of the industry has been moved overseas throughout the past few decades. It was fascinating to hear how big of an industry textiles were in the Carolinas pre 1990; I had no idea that they were the world center of textile production. We met with people whose entire job is to collect textile scraps and make them into something new (definitely recommend you look into Smartwool and buy some of their socks!). We toured a textile cut and sew factory that functions as a co-op, combating the various factories in the region that abuse their workers. We were able to see a vast amount of people working so intently on making more ethical, sustainable, and U.S.-based products. Everyone we encountered truly cares about creating a more sustainable future.
I was also so delighted to learn more about the city of Morganton. I put my own biases aside and learned that this was not just a small, rural, all-white, southern town. Morganton is a flourishing city, with great numbers of Guatemalan and Hmong immigrants, and is one of the centers for sustainability efforts in the country. We spent one day hearing from a number of different locals about their personal stories. Some were born and raised in the area, some were immigrants, but they all found a deep love for the area and its residents. Morganton, NC surprised me in so many ways, but most importantly with how many people truly have such great visions of the future.
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