Category Archives: Student Stories

Thirty new Legacy Scholars show power of potential

A new group of Commonwealth Legacy Scholars was honored today.

Thirty new young community college students, many of whom would otherwise not be pursing higher education.

They heard from Hugh Gouldthorpe, author of I’ve Always Looked up to Giraffes, about how to set their sights high.

Former Commonwealth Legacy Scholar Jacquelene Whelchel, who received one of the first scholarships in 2006, and has now transferred to the University of Mary Washington, who told the new scholarship recipients that community college is where opportunity begins.

More than $350,000, helping more than 100 students, has now been distributed as part of the Commonwealth Legacy Scholarship Program – the first statewide scholarship initiative sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.

As the new leaders begin to realize their own potential, the value of this investment in the future begins to show.


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

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

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.

USA Today: Community Colleges reach “Turning Point”

An article in USA Today takes a look at the growing importance community colleges are taking in America:

Community colleges train 80% of the country’s police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and more than half of its new nurses and health care workers. They are the go-to destinations for displaced workers and immigrants seeking language and cultural skills. Community colleges are where people most often go when they need to brush up on math or English before pursuing a college degree. And they have become increasingly attractive to families who can’t afford to send their kids to a four-year school.

The article goes on to discuss how community colleges are doing more with less:

In 2000-2001, the latest year for which Education Department data are available, the nation spent $140 billion on four-year public universities and just under $30 billion for public two-year colleges. That ratio has remained relatively stable over the years.

Yet for the last decade, enrollments have been increasing faster at two-year schools than four-year schools. Today, community colleges enroll 6.5 million degree-seeking students, or nearly half (47%) of all college undergraduates. And no one documents the expanding demand nationwide for non-credit courses such as English as a Second Language and workforce training. An estimated 5 million students are enrolled in those kinds of programs, says the American Association of Community Colleges, a Washington non-profit that gets data from its 1,200 member schools.

The article even goes on to profile a Virginia Community College student:

Troy Cox, 39
Blue Ridge Community College, Weyers Cave, Va. Transferring to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Cox attended the University of Oklahoma after high school, but dropped out after a year due to drug abuse. “I got clean and sober in 2005, only to discover I had Crohn’s disease. After being hospitalized for a few days, life continued on. Since I had always wanted to go back to college, I did. The professors at Blue Ridge provided the necessary tools and great teaching for me to now be graduating with a 4.0. (I’m studying psychology so that) I can help people like me solve the riddles that make our lives. I also hope to one day teach at this level. These professors all do outstanding jobs and are the epitome of what teaching is all about.”


So, have community colleges reached a turning point in our nation?

Posted by Jeff Kraus

VaHigherEd Podcast: Episode 15 – Community college program provides on-the-job training

podcast_button1.pngVaHigherEd Podcast: Episode 15 – This week’s podcast features Virginia Western Community College student Stephen Jennings, who is finding the community college a great place to receive hands-on training for a third career in radiology.

vhe-podcastimage144x144.jpgListen by clicking on the audio link above or downloading the link to VaHigherEd Podcast: Episode 15.

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VaHigherEd Podcast: Episode 13- Outstanding students find outstanding opportunity

podcast_button1.pngVaHigherEd Podcast: Episode 13– This week’s VaHigherEd podcast features an elite group of community college students, members of the “First Virginia Team,” named by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society as the “top ten” two-year students in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

These “top ten,” along with more than 50 of their high-achieving peers who comprise the All-Virginia Academic Team, were in Richmond April 16 for the annual PTK Honors Luncheon, where they were recognized as the best and the brightest of Virginia’s community college students.

These students are not very different from any Virginia community college student. They are looking for transfer options, looking for affordable, quality higher education close to home. They are taking advantage of sometimes the only opportunity available as they seek a better future. They have found those opportunities – and they have risen to the top of their class.

Stephanie Umphlette attends Rappahannock Community College as a dual enrollment student – while finishing high school at the Governor’s School in Warsaw. She’ll graduate from RCC in May – before she graduates from high school in June.

Cynthia Spencer had been out of school 20 years when she decided to commit to an engineering career – starting at the Loudoun Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

David Dutton, profoundly deaf since birth, has overcome many difficulties to attend complete his education at Lord Fairfax Community College, where he has started an American Sign Language society.

And Samantha Cousin made a conscious decision to save on college with two years at Tidewater Community College before a zoology career takes her to Idaho State University.

Stephanie UmphletteCynthia SpencerDavid DuttonSamantha Cousin

Pictured from left to right: Stephanie Umphlette (RCC); Cynthia Spencer (NVCC); David Dutton (LFCC); Samantha Cousin (TCC)

See all members of the First Virginia Team.


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