Robert Grant III’s profound view of the future stem from his roots as a middle school history teacher in greater Spartanburg.
“I always taught in schools where the majority was below poverty level, and I absolutely loved it. It was the most wonderful experiences with diversity to show that kids of all different backgrounds can learn how to work together effectively,” Grant, the 29-year-old coordinator of Greenwood’s Community Indicators Project said.
“I’ve seen some things that kids have gone through that adults shouldn’t have to go through, and I was blessed to be a part of the solution.”
In June, the Greenwood native with a master’s degree in public administration from North Carolina State University was brought in to oversee a dynamic initiative that pairs community stakeholders with funders to tackle some of the area’s most pressing problems.
Grant’s boss, United Way of Abbeville and Greenwood Counties President and CEO Denise Manley said Grant made a strong impression as officials were looking for the perfect fit to run the project.
“He was very approachable and his communication skills are off the charts. He can articulate anything to anybody. He is very process driven and when you put all those aspects together, that’s exactly what we were looking for,” Manley said.
Manley and others involved with the project’s growth said expanding it to the level they wished would not be possible without a full-time coordinator – a person whose organizational skills and humanitarian streak needed to be in full balance.
“Because of his teaching background and having that relationship with those kids and with the indicators project – although it’s not solely geared to those with lower incomes – there are a lot of aspects of the project that certainly will enhance the quality of life of individuals in a lower income bracket, and he’s able to understand that.”
A product of Greenwood schools, Grant graduated from Greenwood High School in 2005 and earned a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina State University in 2009.
His father, Robert Grant Jr., worked in the United Center for Community Care building on Phoenix Street when it used to be the Emerald Center.
“He and my mother, they both set the tone of community service for me,” Grant said.
He’s also guided by his faith. Grant attends Shaws Creek Baptist Church in Trenton, where his cousin R.C. Holloway is pastor.
“My personal belief is that God has blessed our community with the passion, with the mind set of, ‘think other before self,’” he said.
This year, the Indicators Project is focusing on five areas: Curbing domestic violence, reducing adult illiteracy rates, creating new pathways to employment, providing dental care to the uninsured and responding to a massive population of feral cats.
“Greenwood is only as strong as those connections that are established today, and that member of society who might be in hardship today could very easily be the answer to a problem to a problem that we face as a county tomorrow and so by investing in them, we invest in each other, he said. “When we look at Greenwood, there is the potential that the individual who will cure cancer is residing here, the very one who may be our nation’s chief executive might be here today.
“There is limitless potential but the thing that makes it limitless is the mindset of the people, and the mindset here is that in order for Greenwood to advance, we need to advance those who are in the most need, and I have seen that time and again.”
Jeff Smith, chairman of the Indicators Project board, works across the hall from Grant as CEO of the Greenwood County Community Foundation.
“The organization skills you’ve got to have as an educator are really critical to this, because there are lot of people you have to corral and push in a common direction, and I think that’s something he’s really been able to do,” Smith said. “He’s been very self motivated, he’s learning on his own.”
Grant said his current post makes it easy to show up to work each day.
“Typically, when you are able to bring together so many different people from so many different areas that desire to see the place they live improve and more importantly to see those who are in the most need be able to advance, that sparks something, that makes you just eager to get up and get right to work each morning,” he said.
Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter@ABensonIJ.