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True Carolina Blue: Chanitta Deloatch

Something about Chanitta Deloatch is infectious: you catch the public service bug just from listening when she speaks. When I met her during the MPA student orientation, I knew right away I wanted to talk with her.

Chanitta is from Murfreesboro, a small town in northeastern North Carolina with a population of just over 2,000. She describes the town as a place where “everyone knows everyone or they know someone in your family.” This small town upbringing gave Chanitta a strong sense of community, which has shaped her public service ideals. “I know how much was put into me by my community,” she says. “I want to give back.”

Chanitta loves to travel, and she has especially fond memories of her trip to Europe as a high school student. “As I look back, the trip was wonderful,” she says, “but the experience of getting there is what I remember most.” Her family could not finance her travels. Determined to go, Chanitta raised money by washing cars and writing letters to businesses and people in the community asking for their support. “My community gave me that opportunity,” she says.

Chanitta was raised by her grandparents. Her mother, with whom she had daily contact as a child, was a senior in high school when Chanitta was born. Chanitta has never met her father. She credits her family and church youth leaders for her own commitment to education and public service. “They always told me my options were endless,” she says.

Chanitta’s church community encouraged her to get involved in public speaking, and she was often asked to speak at
church events. “Those experiences gave me the opportunity to verbalize to other young people that they should always reach for the sky,” she says.

The first person in her family to go to college, Chanitta graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in criminal justice. In her studies, she was particularly moved by a juvenile justice course, especially when she learned about the high rate of incarceration among African-American males. “I chose a career in public service because I believe change needs to happen,” Chanitta says. “I believe the only way to do that is through the public sector.”

As an undergraduate, she interned with the court services branch of the NC Department of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention in Pitt County, and she was hired as a juvenile court counselor upon graduation. Although she loved being a court counselor, Chanitta wanted more interaction with the clients she served. “With a case load of 32 children, one visit per child was about all one could do each month,” she says. “That just True Carolina Blue: Chanitta Deloatch wasn't enough interaction to create the impact that I wanted to have.”

Chanitta found the MPA program’s dual-degree option with the School of Social Work especially appealing. It was a large part of her motivation in applying to UNC-Chapel Hill. “It meant a lot to me to be accepted at the University of North Carolina,” she says. “I believe the prestige of a UNC degree will go a long way in my career.”

Chanitta received a Nanette V. Mengel Scholarship from the MPA program. She is also a North Carolina Child Welfare Education Collaborative Scholar through the School of Social Work and is obligated to work in a local Department of Social Services for two years upon graduation. “Those scholarships made all the difference
to me,” she explains. “I could not have come to graduate school without financial aid. I really appreciate the support
I have received from the Mengel family and MPA alumni.”

Chanitta is looking forward to serving children and families, but she ultimately hopes to create and manage public policy. “The MPA degree is going to make that possible. I believe my options are endless after graduation. I don't want to settle or restrict myself. At the end of the day, it’s not about the money, but the change I will be able to effect. For me, that is true happiness.”

This profile was first published in the Fall 2008 issue of Impact newsletter.