10 to Watch in 2022: Norma Honeycutt

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2022

Partners in Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycutt is trying to take the local nonprofit to the next level and provide a service missing in Rowan County.

The Post named Honeycutt one of its 10 to Watch in 2022 as Partners in Learning is in the middle of a campaign to build a new facility off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The new facility would serve as a replacement for its Catawba College Center, one of two the nonprofit operates to provide child care, early childhood education and family services.

The nonprofit has a waiting list of hundreds of children whose families are trying to get services. The new facility would also provide a clinical space for the nonprofit’s Applied Behavioral Analysis program. ABA is a therapeutic method that is an early intervention for people with autism.

The technique is the standard for improving early outcomes for autistic children, but there is no clinic in Rowan County that offers the service, but PIL recently hired a therapist to jumpstart its program and plans to have a clinical wing in the new facility.

The nonprofit serves a large number of children with special needs, and all its classrooms are fully integrated.

The nonprofit has already collected millions for the new facility and the land for the development was donated by Gerry and Brenda Wood.

Honeycutt, 59, has been at the helm of the organization for 23 years of its 25-year history. Prior to coming to PIL Honeycutt was director at South Rowan Academy in China Grove.

She was born in Maryland but her family moved to China Grove when she was 7 years old. She graduated from South Rowan High School before attending Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, completing a bachelor’s degree at UNC-Charlotte and a master’s degree at UNC-Greensboro.

Honeycutt got into early childhood education because of her love of children. She said her personal experience with children with special needs brought her to Partners in Learning because of their mission to include children with special needs.

She led the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, with ever-changing rules separate to those in public schools passed down to child care settings by the state.

In 2022 she hopes to collect the funding the organization needs to move ahead with the new facility and begin its clinical services.`

Who would play you in a movie?

Lucille Ball. She was full of energy and funny. She was an out-of-the-box thinker when it came to solving problems and was always able to rally the support of her friends to help her in her shenanigans. She always had a can-do attitude and wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way. She was ambitious and determined to make things happen.

What would you want for your last meal?

A dessert tray. I have a sweet tooth.

Biggest personal challenge in 2022?

My biggest personal challenge is to continue to step outside of my comfort zone to raise the additional funds needed to build the new Partners In Learning early care and education, child care, and clinical services center.

Biggest personal hope for 2022?

This pandemic soon comes to an end, and we remember the lessons we have learned about the growing needs of the young children and families in our community. When we support our youngest children in having the opportunity to fulfill their potential, we create the best outcomes in health, education, and economic well-being for everyone in our community. I hope to break ground and be well on our way to building our new site at our new location on Martin Luther King Avenue.

Who will you be watching in 2022?

Elected officials to see how they choose to “build our early care and education system back better.” Regardless of their race, family income, or zip code, every child deserves an equitable opportunity to high-quality early care and education.

What would you do if you won $10 million?

I would build a financial bedrock for Partners In Learning and my family by establishing an endowment and trust. My husband and I would also travel more.

What’s your reaction to being named as one of the “10 to Watch?”

I am honored and humbled and give God all of the glory. I hope to earn this honor by leaving a legacy that changes the trajectory of lives for my staff, children and families that I serve.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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