Where everybody knows your name

heather-901.jpgAt John Tyler Community College, everybody knows your name. “You are not a number,” says Heather Rice, who says faculty members call her by name even in larger classes. “I feel so welcome here.” 

Heather joined classmate Justina Kim and about a dozen others for a visit to the General Assembly today to share their community college experience with legislators.

“I wasn’t the best student in high school,” says Heather, who graduated in 2006. “I needed a fresh start.” Now with an associate’s degree within reach, she’s ready to transfer to VCU to complete a teacher education program and teach elementary school.

Caring faculty has also made the difference for Justina Kim, who at 22, found at Tyler the supportive environment she needed to succeed.  Kim started college at University of Hawaii when she was 17, “but I found the transition to college life very hard.”justina-902.jpg

With her parents in the armed forces (her mother is currently deployed in Iraq), she found herself starting again at John Tyler, getting to know the faculty, and took a professor’s advice about majoring in business and accounting. “I love John Tyler,” she says. “The faculty relationships have made a great difference for me.”  An excellent student, Justina is president of the college’s PTK honor society. She has a college transcript that will get her in anywhere — but needed the confidence and maturity to back it up.

They are just two of the students seeking to use Virginia’s Community Colleges as a stepping stone to a baccalaureate degree.  John Tyler’s group was full of potential transfer students — from nontraditional students going back to school after several years to homeschooled students who find the community college atmosphere a better transition into higher education.

Transfer was also today’s theme at the community college display on the ground floor of the General Assembly Building. With guaranteed admissions agreements with more than two dozen public and private colleges and universities, opportunities abound. 

Karla Boughey, legislative aide for Sen. Walter Stosch, reminded John Tyler students that it was Sen. Stosch who proposed the transfer grant legislation that provides for scholarships moving on to the four-year colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.  Sen. Watkins shared his own transfer success story about a nephew, now at Virginia Tech, who turned a lack of achievement in high school around and excelled at a Virginia Community College.

Justina’s achievements are being noticed by four-year institutions. “I never thought I would be getting a letter from Cornell inviting me to apply,” she says, although she’s also considering George Washington, Georgetown, and the University of Virginia.

“John Tyler has certainly opened doors for me.”

Pictured:  Heather Rice, top; Justina Kim, bottom

Posted by Susan Hayden


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