Meet our new Deputy Director!

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Pictured above is our new Deputy Director, Alissa Ellis, on her first day of third grade at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. Alissa is a lifetime resident of Chapel Hill, a mother of a seven year old, and a coffee aficionado! Read about her first days at the Jackson Center below.

It has been a profound first couple of days on the job. Although, I must admit, so far nothing feels like “work” in the laboring sense. My first task has been to learn the history of the Northside and Pine Knolls communities and of the Center itself, absorbing everything that I can about the legacy and culture of this beloved community. And so, fittingly, I spent my first hour on the clock taking the walking history tour of the Northside Community. It took my breath away…  As a long term resident of Chapel Hill, I was amazed and profoundly moved by an ongoing history and a struggle that I had never fully learned… 

My family first moved to Chapel Hill when I was almost four years old and I attended Frank Porter Graham Elementary in the early 90’s. Many of my friends at FPG were the youngest in generations of lifelong Chapel Hillians. But, in all of my time in Chapel Hill, I had never really learned or witnessed legacy of the historic communities that built Chapel Hill and the University. Listening to the stories as I walked around the community, I saw, heard, and felt the depth of the roots of this community. Beyond the legacy of Northside & Pine Knolls, I learned more about the profound impact that the most recent tide of development has brought. This is a struggle that I was aware of as a Chapel Hillian, but it is a struggle that I did not feel personally. I have been priced out of apartments in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but I have not lost my neighbors or generational home to the tide of development around me. The walking tour made me feel the community – in all of its strength and struggle – in all of its evolving diversity. 

For as long as I can remember, Chapel Hill has been a community of change and growth. I have never known Chapel Hill to be static – whether it was the ebb and flow of students that come in the fall and leave for the summer or the years-long, rapid influx of new permanent residents. To begin to understand the profound impact that these changes have had on the historic communities here in Chapel Hill is to be intimately involved in supporting the work of the communities to preserve and make their own history. Joining the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History is the perfect way for me to support the preservation and thoughtful growth of the historic Northside and Pine Knoll communities. It is a way for me to deeply learn and invest in the town where I grew up. I am so thankful for the opportunity to listen to the community and for the opportunity to support the Center’s work in preservation, education, and dialogue. 

Alissa Ellis, Deputy Director

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