There is a love and passion for the Martinsville-Henry County region that drives Autumn Morris. It’s at the core of her being. A native of Henry County, Morris has seen the region go through it all. The good times, and the bad. “From an early age, I was always impressed by the resilience of this community,” Morris says. “Nearly everyone in my family lost their jobs when the majority of textile and furniture industries left the area. The memories and emotions of that time will always stick with me. However, the thing that will stick with me more is how each person in my family worked to reinvent themselves and to find a different career path. That is not an easy task, and the unexpectedness of this change intensified the challenge.”
A desire to help others is in Morris’s blood. Her father has spent countless hours mentoring the area youth through baseball, while her mother helped unwed mothers, and her grandfather spent years ministering to residents in a local nursing home. Morris says she now wants to follow in their footsteps by helping others. “Though Martinsville-Henry County has faced challenges, it is the spirit of the people that will keep us moving in the right direction. These people may not always have a big title or a prominent position, but they are the people who make us great.”
After graduating from UNC and spending some time working in Cary, NC, Morris returned to Henry County in 2011. Today, she and her husband, Zach, live in Horsepasture with their young daughter, Maggie. Professionally, Morris is the Director of Communications & Marketing for New College Institute. The primary focus of her job is to get the word out regarding all the programs and services that NCI provides. “That can be challenging at times because we are a unique organization, and we offer a wide spectrum of programs and services,” according to Morris. “Often, people will be acquainted with one aspect of what NCI does and not aware of the many other opportunities available here.”
NCI plays a vital role in the Martinsville-area community by creating opportunities for individuals to improve their career outlook through academic programs that align with industry needs. Morris explains, “I hear so many of our students say, ‘I didn’t think I would ever be able to reach this goal, but NCI made it possible for me.’ We represent an option for students to achieve their academic goals by offering flexible schedules, personalized support services, and affordable programs.” Students at NCI are connected with local employers and are in high-demand once they graduate. “We are proud of our students, and we want to continue creating pathways for individuals to succeed,” says Morris.
The future of NCI will align with the future needs of employers. “We are committed to adapting and creating academic solutions to meet industry demands,” states Morris. “These solutions will take many forms—post-secondary degrees, certifications, credentials, apprenticeships, professional development, and more. In most cases, NCI works with a university partner (i.e. Longwood University, Averett University, University of Virginia, etc.) to make academic programs available here. This creates opportunities for individuals to expand their careers and accomplish their academic goals right here in Martinsville.”
And for Morris, that’s what it ultimately comes down to: being able to raise a family, have a career and make a difference in the community where it all started for her.