Thank you for celebrating our 12 year anniversary at our Charity Cocktail Reception, either in person or in spirit.

 Our August 30 event was a great success and we are so close to our goal to“Fund Our Why”

We are very excited to announce The Nest’s new campus The Nest at The Simmons YMCA and we would love your support for Charlotte’s most vulnerable refugee, immigrant and underprivileged students to continue receiving the life-changing ‘gift of education’ to become first-generation graduates.

The Nest embarks in flight onto new horizons and seeks to rebuild and strengthen it’s Nest and looks forward to a wonderful evening with you. 

Please DONATE below.


 I’m able to attend the August 30th Event.


 I’m unable to attend but I would like to contribute to the event. 

Nest in the News

Featured In EdNC June 28, 2019 | Click the + to read article

When H’Thin Rochom came to the United States in 2005, she was too young to remember much about her family’s home in Vietnam. But that part of her identity certainly followed her into Charlotte.

When she started falling behind in middle school, she knew there was a problem. But it felt like nobody cared — like she was being pushed through the system anyway, especially in her ESL classes. That was before she was invited to attend the Nest Academy.

In 2008, Charlotte resident M.C. Hildreth was helping tutor local refugee and immigrant students through One7 ministries at the public library uptown. Hildreth said many of them couldn’t speak English.

She said when she approached the public school system looking for a way to help, she found an overburdened ESL (English as a Second Language) program that was having challenges with the refugee population.

So Hildreth decided to open a small private school for refugee and immigrant students. She called it The Nest Academy, a Christian school that was initially girls-only. They began the first school year in 2009 with five refugee girls who were struggling in school. Since then, the academy has expanded to cover grades five through 12, and includes boys, too.

This year, H’Thin Rochom was the sole member of the 2019 graduating class. That’s not an unusual class size for the school, which has graduated nine students since its inception 10 years ago. Each year, Hildreth said, they have the same graduation ceremony regardless of how many students are graduating.

Unlike most private schools, the students here pay nothing to attend. Their tuition is covered by fundraising from individual donors in the private sector. Hildreth said this year, corporate donors contributed for the first time.

Robert was director of multimedia for EducationNC. He is a journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker in the Triangle. Robert attended both public and private grade schools in North Carolina and graduated from the Media and Journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has produced video content for The News & Observer, ABC11-WTVD, UNC-Chapel Hill, The News Reporter and more. His short documentary Princess Warrior received an Excellence in Filmmaking award at the 2017 Carrboro Film Festival. Visit his website at


Featured In the Charlotte Observer June 5 2021 | Click the + to read article

‘What we’ve built is a family’: 3 graduate from East Charlotte school for refugees
JUNE 04, 2021 03:33 PM

MC Hildreth, founder and head of school of The Nest Academy, left, embraces 2020 graduate Emily Adrong, right, during graduation exercises on Friday, June 4, 2021. The Nest Academy is a tiny school on Charlotte’s East side that is primarily for refugee and immigrant students. Friday the school graduated three students two from this year’s class and Adrong who did not have a ceremony last year due to COVID-19.

There was a time when Emily Adrong took refuge cowering behind her mom — a woman who sold cows and borrowed money to help her family flee the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Emily was barely out of her toddler years when she came to the United States in 2007. The family had survived for weeks in rain-soaked jungles to escape religious persecution.

The little girl was shy and avoided people. She didn’t know English. She really didn’t even know how to speak her own language. She languished in the Charlotte public school system for years, struggling to make friends and falling into what she calls “a deep pit.”

At one of her lowest points, she was introduced to The Nest Academy, a tiny, tuition-free private school on Charlotte’s East side — a sanctuary, of sorts, where refugees, immigrants and under-privileged students learn to thrive.
“I see people get scared about where they came from and their story,” she said. “I just want to inspire them that it’s OK to open up because that’s what makes you special.”

Pushed back one year because of COVID, Emily, now 19 and a college student, went through commencement exercises with two other students Friday morning during The Nest Academy’s class of 2021 graduation. She’s the first in her family to graduate from high school and attends Central Piedmont Community College. She’s planning to transfer to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“I can honestly say that coming here to The Nest Academy was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said.


Mary Catherine (MC to those who know her) Hildreth was directing a nonprofit for refugee youth in East Charlotte and heading an after-school tutoring program for K-12 refugees when she felt compelled to do more.
“These children were slipping through the cracks in the educational system,” Hildreth said. “They were struggling academically, socially and emotionally to the point where they were honestly hopeless.”

Hildreth opened the academy in 2009 with five refugee girls — it was initially for girls-only. Since, The Nest has grown to 27 enrolled students at the end of this recent school year, including boys, and it’s watched 12, first-generation students earn their high school diplomas.

Students have come from as far as Vietnam, Thailand, Ethiopia, Iraq, Malaysia, Uganda, Mali and Cambodia. All are legal immigrants.

Emily Adrong, left, smiles with fellow graduate Tuet Siu, right, during graduation exercises on Friday, June 4, 2021. The Nest Academy is a tiny school that is primarily for refugee and immigrant students. Friday the school graduated three students two from this year’s class and Adrong who did not have a ceremony last year due to COVID-19.

“It’s hard work,” said Hildreth, whose school includes eight paid staff members, five full-time volunteer teachers, and a slew of specialists and volunteers. “My thinking, starting out, was if we could teach one girl to read and write, show her to believe in herself, the ways of the American culture, it would be a success.”
Unlike most private schools, the students at The Nest Academy pay nothing to attend. They are fed breakfast, lunch and a snack free-of-charge. Fundraising from individual and corporate donors also helps pay for uniforms, transportation, textbooks and supplies and birthday presents.

A private donor also paid for the 4,500-square-foot building on Eastway Drive that is leased. It contains four classrooms and a cafeteria.
Several local agencies refer students to the school, Hildreth said, including Catholic Charities and the city’s Refugee Support Services.
“We really didn’t speak about the academy publicly because these students had faced really tough circumstances — refugee camps, sexual abuse, witnessed murders,” Hildreth said. “The girls were very fragile. Education was the draw, but it was about helping them find hope. We had to create a nest just to be able to teach them.”


Since the mid-1990s, about 17,000 refugees have resettled in Charlotte, according to SHARE Charlotte, a one-stop shop connecting nonprofits in the city. About 130,000 immigrants live in the city, making up about 14% of Mecklenburg County’s population.

Most refugees, Hildreth said, are seeking safety in the U.S. because of famine, persecution and war. When they arrive, many students can’t speak English, and can’t read or write.
“It’s an uphill battle from Day 1,” Hildreth said. “Children even become translators for their parents.”

MC Hildreth, founder and head of school of The Nest Academy, left, and 2020 graduate Emily Adrong, right, applaud her graduating during graduation exercises on Friday, June 4, 2021

Elias Enniss is a middle-upper school teacher who joined The Nest staff in the spring. He was drawn to the school because of the unique nature of its mission.
“The kids at The Nest Academy weren’t supposed to make it,” Enniss said. “The public school system combined with other difficulties brought situations in the lives of these children that left them broken and seemingly hopeless.”
But he added, “No child is too far gone.”


While Hildreth’s mission is to provide a safe haven for these children, the school is facing a crisis.
The Nest Academy operates on a $375,000 annual budget — all coming from private funding. All the food the school feeds the students is donated.
“We are in desperate need of doubling that,” she said. “We’ve hit the bare minimum. We are month-to-month with our budget.”

Students also are in danger of not having a school building. Hildreth said the situation “is messy,” but the academy’s lease is nearly up and it won’t be able to stay in its current location at 2223 Eastway Drive. They may have to be out by August 2022.

The Nest Academy is a tiny school on Charlotte’s East side that is primarily for refugee and immigrant students. The school has survived against all odds. It operates on a $375,000 annual budget and relies on donors to help out the school’s 27-student enrollment. On Friday the school graduated three students — two from this year’s class and one from last year who did not have a ceremony due to COVID-19. Jeff Siner [email protected]

“We opened Aug. 19, 2020, despite COVID, and we never closed the doors,” Hildreth said. “We beat the odds of a worldwide virus. We learned through this pandemic to find out what happens when you don’t give up.
“This is nothing new for these students. We don’t have the finances. We won’t have a building. But I have some pretty amazing students around me.”
Hildreth said she’s working to identify another property, even welcoming someone who would want to donate.

Read more here:


Featured In the Charlotte Observer March 19, 2020 | Click the + to read article

MC Hildreth wanted so badly to wrap her arms around her students and their families as they filed in and out of the quiet cafeteria of The Nest Academy off Eastway Drive.

But there was a pandemic brewing, which is why they were there on Wednesday afternoon — to pick up provisions Hildreth and her staff had rounded up for what could be a long isolation for members of the tiny school that serves 24 low-income students, mostly Latino immigrants and refugees.

The private school, founded in 2009, is free for students.

On one side of the cafeteria sat boxes loaded with veggies and flatbread and shredded cheese, all donated by Cici’s Pizza. Nearby, six cafeteria tables were loaded with cereal and canned goods, bread, fresh fruit, soap and hygiene products.

The relief effort was the result of a sinking feeling that hit Hildreth hard on Sunday while she stood in line buying groceries and supplies for herself and her own three children: If she was having trouble finding the essentials, she had to find a way to help her school’s families get through the crisis.

“Their needs are great every day on a normal basis,” Hildreth said.

On Monday, she sent an email blast to 600 school supporters, and within minutes, donations were rolling in.

Hildreth took the $1,000 that was donated and spent Monday and Tuesday filling carts with groceries and supplies and notifying families that help was coming.

“We wanted to ensure them that we had their kids, that we were going to continue to teach their kids every single day and that we would continue to feed them,” she said. For many, “this is triggering something that reminds them of the fight they’ve been in before, the fight for their lives, to flee their country.”

One mom named Luz, who has two kids at The Nest, smiled widely as she picked out her groceries. She has a compromised immune system because she suffers from Lupus, so being able to get food from a sparsely populated cafeteria instead of a grocery store was a big help.

“This is incredible,” she said.

Hildreth helped families carry boxes out on Wednesday afternoon, and bid students farewell.

But while they wouldn’t see each other in person for awhile, they’d be seeing each other daily via Chromebook. Last week, school staff sent students home with Chromebooks in case schools were closed.

“This is where the strength of the community really is able to be shown,” Hildreth said, “by linking arms with one another.”

By: CRISTINA BOLLING |  Photography & Video By: JEFF SINER