Author Archives: Susan Hayden

BRCC’s “whodunit” fundraiser features president’s untimely “demise”

You have to laugh when you read about the BRCC Educational Foundation’s latest fundraiser. It features a murder mystery dinner — only the “victim” is Blue Ridge President Jim Perkins.

Harrisonburg’s Rocktown Weekly writes about the murder mystery dinner, to be held Oct. 3 at BRCC’s Robert E. Plecker Workforce Center, in today’s issue.

The suspects are top community leaders, including the mayor of Harrisonburg; a Staunton councilman; and local company presidents, all of whom have relationships with Blue Ridge Community College.

It’s clear they are already having fun with it. Rocktown Weekly quotes Harrisonburg Mayor Rodney Eagle as saying:

I’m innocent. I didn’t do it……but I’ve always wanted to be hit man.

Dr. Perkins is enjoying the fun as much as anyone “This year we wanted to do  something different,” he says, giggling a bit when he thinks of his own upcoming demise. He has a role of his own: he plays his long-lost twin brother, Tim, who returns from an African safari to assist in the investigation.

Participants in the dinner interrogate the suspects, investigate the crime scene and work in small groups to solve the crime.

The “whodunit” idea for a fundraiser reminds me of simpler times — when it was Mrs. Scarlet who committed the crime in the library with a candlestick. 

Sorry Dr. Perkins, but what fun.


Success in school marked way out of foster care for Andrew Bridge

Making sure the youth in foster care get a good education is crucial to their future, Andrew Bridge told Richmond Times Dispatch reporter Karen Kapsidelis.

The newspaper quotes Bridge as saying,

And sadly, we don’t do that right now.

Hope's BoyThe best-selling author will be sharing details about his life growing out of foster care at the Great Expectations Education Forum Saturday at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  The event, which features Bridge along with First Lady Anne Holton, begins at 10:30 a.m.

In an advance to the event published in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch, Bridge said he received a sense of worth from doing well in school. Bridge said in the newspaper report:

The Great Expectations initiative of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education is all about helping foster youth make a successful transition into life after foster care by providing services including academic and workforce services at Virginia’s Community Colleges.

First Lady Anne Holton will be moderating a discussion among foster care youth at the event. She has had a keen interest in foster care and families through her For Keeps initiative.

The event is open to the public, although registration is requested at

Education Forum Focuses on Foster Youth

The Great Expectations initiative gets a big boost Sept. 13 from visits from two huge advocates for foster care youth —  Virginia’s First Lady Anne Holton and best-selling author Andrew Bridge (Hope’s Boy).

They’ll be participating in an Education Forum with area foster youth, representatives from Social Services agencies, and Great Expectations advocates from Virginia’s Community Colleges on Saturday morning in an event that’s free and open to the general public (register here). The event will be held from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

Foster youth will get a chance to talk to the First Lady and the best selling author during the forum.  Andrew Bridge spent 11 years in Los Angeles County foster care, and his book chronicles his experiences. He’ll also be signing copies of this book.

Virginia has 8,000 children in foster care, and among the worst records in providing permanent family support for those who age out of the foster care system.

The Education Forum provides some “focus” for the difficult issues surrounding foster youth, and Virginia’s Community Colleges are working to help them get the education and support they need to succeed.

Enrollment, interest increases in community college in tough economy

There’s a wire story appearing in news outlets across the continent this week noting that community colleges are at record enrollments — due to a tough economy. Written by Richmond’s Zinie Chen Sampson, the story features a Mathews family who has decided that Rappahannock Community College is a better alternative for the first two years of college.

Whitney Daniels and her mom are appearing on the websites of print and tv media from here to Anchorage, Los Angeles and Amarillo, in a week when political news otherwise dominates the newswaves.

And other local media folks are picking up on it, too, as students start back to school in record numbers at Virginia’s Community Colleges.

In the Roanoke region, WSET in Lynchburg notes Virginia Western’s enrollment is at record levels, with student seeking an affordable education.

WVIR in Charlottesville quotes students as saying it just makes more sense to start out at the community college.  There are “just a lot of opportunities…to come here, save money and do a two year degree program and then transfer to the school I want to go to,” says one student. “It’s just a whole lot easier to come here,” says another.

Of course the underlying theme is that the economy is weak, pushing demand for community college classes higher — just at a time when Virginia, along with many other states, faces shrinking budgets and may have to cut back on services.

Community colleges provide opportunities that deserve ocean-to-ocean news coverage. It’s too bad it takes budget cuts and weak economies to bring that to the limelight.

— Posted by Susan Hayden

Student success comes in many flavors

Student success can mean many things to community college students.

It can mean finally earning a degree after years of juggling classes, work and parenting.

It can mean finding the local community college is the best opportunity for transfer to a four-year institution — right in the students’ backyard.

It can mean learning that college is a real possibility — after a high school career that headed a different direction and didn’t include all of the prerequisites for college success.

Virginia’s Community Colleges, along with several other founding member states in the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count initiative, is working to expand traditional definitions of student success to be more reflective of the community college mission.

In a Student Success snapshot, we’re looking at success that includes transferring to another college and staying enrolled — in addition to earning a degree or certificate.

The door is open. There’s always another chance to get started.

New Scholarship Honors Former Governor

Former Governor Gerald BalilesThe Virginia Foundation for Community College Education has named the first-ever recipients of a new, statewide scholarship:  The Gerald L. Baliles Commonwealth Legacy Scholarship.

Established in 2007 through private donations, the scholarships honor former Governor Baliles’ career in public service and his contributions to higher education in Virginia.

Terry Oakes, of Collinsville, and Vicky Thomas, of Bassett, are the two recipients of the scholarships this year. The two non-traditional students have both wanted to pursue a new career in nursing, but have lacked the resources to do so.

The two students, who will each receive $2,500, have something else in common: they both attend Patrick Henry Community College.

Read the news release for more information on these scholarship winners.

Community Colleges respond to gas prices

Across the Commonwealth, Virginia’s Community Colleges are looking at new options for making classes flexible and accessible to students, even in the face of increasing gas prices.

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College is launching “Fuel Smart Fridays,” allowing students the ability to bunch all of their classes together on Friday to save commuting costs.  And local media are taking notice — a number of local TV stations as well as the Richmond Times Dispatch have covered the Reynolds plan.

Further south, the Martinsville Bulletin applauded earlier this week Patrick Henry Community College’s plans to offer more “block” schedules on its Sunday editorial page:

Hat’s off to: Patrick Henry Community College for making changes in its fall class schedules so students can make less trips to campus, and save gas, if they choose. Since PHCC has no students living on campus, it recognizes that commuting costs likely are an issue for many — if not all — of its nearly 1,300 students.

Local TV stations are also covering their efforts – see the video clip from Roanoke’s WSLS.

Earlier this month, Virginia Highlands was among the first community colleges nationwide to receive coverage for the same concept – see the Bristol Herald Courier — moving from three-times-a-week classes to twice-a-week, reserving Friday for classes that just meet once each week.

Community colleges have always been flexible in meeting the needs of their communities.  They can act fast to respond to local needs, including new programs to meet workforce needs.  It’s nice that they are getting noticed for it.

— Posted by Susan Hayden