The Office of Gov. Bev Perdue honored Ashley Thrift, outgoing Board Chair for The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC), the organization that leads Smart Start, with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine on Thursday morning at the organization’s offices in Raleigh. The award is one of the highest honors the governor can bestow on a North Carolina citizen. Former Governor Jim Hunt was also on hand to honor Thrift.
Thrift has been a member of the Board of Directors of NCPC since 1995. He was appointed Board Chair in 1997 by then-Gov. Jim Hunt and reappointed by Gov. Mike Easley. Prior to his statewide service, Thrift, who lives in Winston-Salem, was the first Board Chair of the Forsyth Early Childhood Partnership where he led the successful effort to qualify the county to become part of the Smart Start initiative.
Over the years, Thrift has traveled the state and nation speaking out on behalf of young children at-risk of school failure. He has visited all 100 North Carolina counties to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood development and funding for Smart Start. For years, he traveled weekly to ask legislators and business leaders to support early childhood efforts.
“Ashley’s warm and personable nature allows him to connect with everyone from parent volunteers to legislators,” said Tannis Nelson, acting Board Chair for NCPC. “His efforts have resulted in needed financial, legislative, and grassroots support to serve more children and expand Smart Start’s reach.”
The award presentation took place during a regular meeting of the statewide board. Howard Lee, Executive Director of the North Carolina Education Cabinet, Stephanie Fanjul, President of NCPC, and Karen Ponder, former President of NCPC were also on hand to honor Thrift.