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Carmen Bumpass

Carmen Bumpass comes from a huge family. That means lots of kids. She’s always enjoyed babysitting younger cousins, but she didn’t know that love for children could blossom into a career. Now she has a great bedtime story to tell—and it’s hers.

Q) What was your upbringing like in Person County?

A) I feel like growing up in Person County definitely had some benefits. I was fortunate enough to have both sides of my family live there, so I spent a lot of time with my dad's side of the family and also a lot of time with my mom's side. As I've gotten older and met different people from different places, I’ve learned that a lot of people didn't have those experiences growing up. So I'm very fortunate to have had that experience. I enjoy being from a small town and such a small community; having everybody kind of know everybody just creates a loving feeling that I don't know that people in larger cities necessarily have.

As far as school, I went to South Elementary and then to Southern Middle and then Person High. I can't say that I had any negative experiences. I will say, though, that growing up with the same group of kids from elementary school to middle school, and then getting to high school and meeting kids from the North side of town was different. It took some time to learn how to mingle with them because it felt like it was always a rivalry between the two middle schools. But we all came into Person and learned how to interact and get along, so overall it was a good experience.

I cheered all through high school. Cheering was everything for me…it’s what I lived for. So those were some of the best years of my life.


Q) What has your educational path been like?

A) After high school I went to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I chose UNCG because, at the time, I wanted to be a nurse, and UNCG had one of the best nursing programs in North Carolina. But I got there and failed chemistry. And I quickly realized that if I struggle with this simple science, then maybe I needed to do something different. That was my sophomore year, and so that was kind of a tough setback because nursing was the reason I chose UNCG. And I remember having a conversation with my advisor and she asked, “What do you do in your spare time?” And I said, “Well, I spend a lot of time with my younger cousins and on the weekends I babysit them.” And she asked, “Well, have you ever thought about doing something in the field of early childhood?” I had no idea what that was. And so she said, “Just take a class, see how you like it, and then if you don't like it, then we'll meet back together and try to come up with another plan for you.” And so that's what I did, and that's how I found my path into early childhood.

Q) What is your career path and what are your proudest achievements?

A) During my last semester I was in a class with a lady who was the director at a childcare center, and she asked me if I wanted a job? So I started working part time at the childcare center, and then once I graduated, I became full time. I started off in the 4 and 5-year-old classroom, and I was there for about two years. And then I moved to the 2-year-old classroom and I worked with them for three years. And after being with that program for five years, I started to get…I don't want to say tired, because I loved the kids, they are what kept me coming every day, but I needed to do something different. I needed to grow. And in that position and in that particular program, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for me to grow. I just got to a point where I was like, I'm a college educated woman and I am struggling to just make ends meet. And so this is when I started to really look into the wages of early childhood and I realized for the first time that early childhood professionals are really at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the way our economic systems are set up. And I was, at this time, just above the poverty line; it was really, really difficult for me to just maintain basic necessities. So I had to do something different. But I didn't want to completely leave this field because I love children. I love making a difference in the lives of children and their families. So I reached out to my college professor to talk to her about some options, and she connected me with my current job. 

So my job now is to assess the quality of childcare programs for the state of North Carolina. We go into programs and we look at things like teacher/child interactions. We look to make sure children have an adequate amount of materials to use each day and that they have enough time to engage with those materials. We check for sanitation practices, of course, and also different types of safety issues. So we look at the overall picture of the program, what the children experience on a daily basis and the quality of that care. I've been doing that now for six years.


Q) What organizations or community endeavors do you participate in?

A) I teach children's church at my home church, Zion Christian Center. So every second and fourth Sunday, I travel from Greensboro to Roxboro to teach the children. I've been doing that for at least seven or eight years. I really enjoy that because it gives me that taste of being in the classroom and having more of a hands-on experience with the children. I don't get to do that so much anymore with my job.

I also regularly donate to an organization called A Simple Gesture, which provides food for children and their families in the Greensboro community. Here, as in other places, we are having an issue with childhood hunger. So I just pick up extra stuff when I go grocery shopping to donate to that organization.


Q) Why is it important that women be recognized for their foundational work in our community and our nation?

A) I feel that, unfortunately, it's taken our nation so long to truly recognize women for all that we do. To recognize us beyond our physical appearances. I mean, women are involved in so many things. Beyond being moms and caretakers of children, we are entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, athletes, and so on. And I think that needs to be celebrated so that future generations of women will be inspired to be all that and more.

When I was growing up, I didn’t see women being highlighted for their many talents. We were just talked about based on our looks. But now we have a platform and an opportunity to show what all we are capable of. Now little girls can see a future that has more in it than just being a wife and a mom. And, of course if that’s what you want then that’s great. But when I was growing up, I didn’t really see a future beyond that. So I think it’s great that such possibilities are now being highlighted.


Q) What do you miss about living in Person County?

A) I really, really, really miss my family. Before my sister got married, she and I lived together for about eight years, and so now she lives in Fayetteville and it’s just me left in Greensboro. So I really miss having family close. I also miss being able to stop by Wal-Mart and see a friend from high school, or running into somebody that I haven't seen in a long time and being able to catch up. Outside of social media, you don’t really know how people are doing when you’re not around. And even with social media, you still miss that face-to-face personal connection and the ability to share stories with one another. I've grown to know people here in Greensboro, but it’s just a different feeling. It’s not like being back home.


Q) What do you envision for the future of Person County?

A) I would like to see Person County provide more opportunities for young people to encourage them to want to stay. More job opportunities would make Person County more appealing and would also encourage people who have left to want to move back. Also, there just needs to be more activities, and a variety of activities so that all members of the community can benefit rather than just a select few.


Q) What is your advice for girls and young women who look to you as motivation?

A) Remember to love yourself. Take care of yourself. Figure out what that means for you and stick to it. You have to work hard. Take some risks. Be willing to fail; you are going to, so be prepared for it. But even when you do, know that it's not the end of the world; your goals are still attainable. Just remember the core values that you learned as a child and hold on to those values and morals. They will keep you as you journey into adulthood.

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