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Four N.C. graduate students have been chosen for a grant that will allow them to provide financial expertise and assistance in rural N.C. communities.

The four students were chosen by the UNC School of Government and Appalachian State University and will be funded by a $764348 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation.

One student is from UNC-Chapel Hill" two are from Appalachian State University and one is from UNC-Wilmington.

The UNC-W student is taking graduate courses at UNC and so was eligible for the grant.

Rural N.C. communities have increasingly faced struggles due to the faltering economy.

""Ultimately" the communities are distressed" said Amanda Reid, a graduate student at ASU who also received the grant. Addressing the issue up front in each community is the primary focus.""

The program was designed for graduates getting their master's degrees in public administration to serve in rural local governments" said Will Lambe" associate director of the UNC School of Government.

""Right now" we are in the process of selecting the towns in which the students will work. After selecting the towns" each student will create specific jobs that are designed to cater to the needs of each town.""

It is unclear exactly what each student will be working on because the selection of the towns will not be finished until the end of March.

""Since many towns need help" the students will not just work in one town. Each student will work full time in up to three towns so there should be up to 12 towns receiving help Lambe said.

The towns involved in the program will profit from the hands-on work that the students will offer.

The most immediate benefit is a professionally trained young motivated graduate working for them building a capacity for the community to do whatever they need to do he added.

Maybe creating jobs" creating a budget or just as simple as having new young perspective and energy.""

The grant covers training expenses" two years of tuition and fees and pays for full-time employment" Lambe said.

 ""The focus is to help communities build capacity in leadership"" said John Gowan, a graduate student at UNC-CH who was chosen for the program.

This program really gives me an opportunity to experience things that I wouldn't otherwise"" he said.

For Gowan, the experience of working in rural towns is an opportunity that he said he knew would be a great fit.

It's a different world when you get outside of big cities. I noticed the discrepancy between areas that have resources and areas that don't. I felt a calling to change that.""

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