Charles Layne, 18, grew up in Antioch.
“Antioch was great,” he said. “I used to bicycle down to Antioch Middle and play basketball and soccer. I wouldn’t be who I am without it.
Charles called it a place that has a real sense of togetherness. At the age of 12, he moved to Mount Juliet.
“I went through one of my yearbooks a couple of years ago and realized I was one of the only white kids at my school in Antioch, and I didn’t even know,” he said. “People in Mount Juliet weren’t accustomed to that kind of diversity, and I think that’s why it was so different.”
SUPPORT FROM the STATE
“I switched high schools about four times because home stuff was all over the place before I decided to go online. I graduated with the first class at Tennessee Virtual Online School (TVOLS) then I went to Vol State for the Tennessee Promise.”
Charles dual enrolled his senior year at TVOLS with Volunteer State Community College. By the time he finished as a high school senior (and valedictorian of his class), he has enough credits to qualify as a college sophomore.
During high school, Charles had the opportunity to work with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m not necessarily a social justice warrior, but it was cool seeing the whole shebang and what goes on behind the scenes,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to go college. I didn’t think I’d have that opportunity.”
Charles said he had the GPA to go, but it was more of financial reasons.
“But the state really stepped up, and Tennessee was pulling through.”
Over the last summer, Charles had an opportunity to shadow at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and volunteer with them for the governor’s conference as a part of Tennessee Achieves and the state’s Drive to 55 initiative. He said it was interesting and cool to be a part of something like that.
Charles started volunteering with the Tennessee Rescue Mission and said after high school volunteering became more important to him.
“Seeing all those people like that was rough,” he said. “I saw kids my age going to school and dropping out. The people I grew up with in Antioch didn’t have the same opportunities as others just because they weren’t told about them.”
He said it is unfortunate and there should be real change in those communities so that students know their opportunities.
After school Vol State, Charles was offered a presidential scholarship at Belmont University. He did the math, and after calculating the scholarship funds, he realized it would still be too much money to attend.
So he turned his attention to Trevecca Nazarene University.
“I contacted their admissions, and they offered me an awards package. I went and met with them, and the admissions counselor said the school would give me a full-ride. It was dope,” he said.
Charles started his freshman year at Trevecca this past August.
“It’s been really great. I’ve never been a part of a community like that.”
This year, he decided to step out of his comfort zone and run for student government representative.
“My whole struggle has been not taking advantage of opportunities that I should,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it, but then I thought I might succeed and do well and who knows, so I went for it.”
In his spare time, Charles does graphic design work for fun. He thought it would be interesting to combine his love for design with his new student government campaign a unique experience on his resume.
“I ran off Harambe as my icon, so it was a little sticker with Harambe in the middle of it that said, ‘Chuck for Rep, a voice of a generation.’ And I won,” he said laughing.
Now as a representative, Charles said the job works more in the event planning capacity.
“We can make suggestions but it’s more of a presentation of power,” he said.
Majoring in community development, Charles recently had an internship at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development that showed him a path for the future.
“They’re the ones in charge of recruiting businesses and handing out all those incentives and stuff. In the rural counties of the state like DeKalb and Cannon, the TDECD goes and talks to city mayors and city planners. They do a tour throughout the year and then meet to talk about how they can help their local industries.”
He said he choose a major in community development because it’s an interdisciplinary course.
“I could have taken any other business administration degree, but I also want to go to law school if the opportunity presents itself which is why I’m throwing myself out there.”
Charles was recently nominated for the first Supreme Court justice for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.
He said he’d like to be a public attorney or a divorce attorney in a small town somewhere but overall just wants to be involved with helping people within the law.
“And then 2034, there’s always the presidency,” he said. “This has proven that I can do it.”
Charles said there are many issues that Davidson County and the city of Nashville alone are going to be facing in the future, but said it’s primed to be the “it” city.
NASHVILLE GROWTH, COMMUNITY, and CONCERNS
“I’ve been watching the growth,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m a part of it, but I’ve been seeing what’s going on in the city. I remember going downtown and seeing the sky, but you can’t do that anymore. “
Charles said Nashville and the surrounding communities he grew up in mean a lot to him. He said now he love the hip coffee shops popping up and seeing Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge lit for certain occasions and the skyline.
Because he loves the city so much he has some real concerns about it.
“The flood a few years ago was a terrible thing, but what did we do after? We all came together, and we rebuilt and re-grew. Investments were out the wazoo, and now we still have money pouring into places like East Nashville,” he said.
Charles said because of that, gentrification is a problem and people are being displaced out of their communities and moving down the I-24 corridor toward LaVergne and Smyrna.
He said public transit and infrastructure are also areas of concern for him.
“Our budget surplus last year was 800 million dollars,” he said. “That’s enough to fund the 1.3 billion transit deal entirely upfront.”
Charles said community is an emotional word for him. When he thinks of a community, he thinks of living at Trevecca and volunteering at the Nashville Rescue Mission, The Salvation Army and the Under the Bridge Ministry with the homeless community.
“The community is the people who pass you by every day.”
He said his graphic design work is just a hobby right now but hopes to use it to his advantage in the future. He said it’s fun and a creative expression.
“Picking up graphic design was one of those things that I thought, anyone can get coffee and make reports, but if I can help with creating a flyer or something, then I can do it,” he said.
Charles said he likes graphic and artistic work that is thought provoking and that means something.
He is currently running for a student position on the TSAC Board of Directors, which is the provider of financial aid for post-secondary institutions in the State of Tennessee.
In response to recent events on campus following the election, Charles and a group of peers are leading an initiative with the university to encourage a healthy political dialogue and provide support to any undocumented students to local high schools.
Wish him luck on his future below in the comments.
Thanks for reading Nashville!