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College Community Connection

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

Assessing the Value of Education

By Dr. Al Roberts

Every year as the summer turns its focus toward the coming of autumn, back-to-school stories tend to proliferate in national and local media. One recurring theme seems to be the rising cost of college tuition and questions about its value and payback.

To be sure, college costs have risen, and they continue to rise. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, released a report last year that documented the ways in which recession-related budgetary concerns led to cuts in the support of higher education. In 46 states, including Virginia, government spending per student continues to remain less than what it was prior to the beginning of the recession in 2008. In fact, based on inflation-adjusted dollars, funding for higher education in Virginia is now 22.5 percent less per student. Such reductions in support are one of the factors that contribute to rising tuition. In this fiscal climate, evaluating the return on investments in higher education seems fitting.

Some benefits fall outside the realm of dollars. College graduates tend to be healthier, more engaged in their communities, and better able to understand diverse points of view. In most assessments, however, the question of value revolves around expenditures and paybacks.

In Virginia, community colleges offer a lower-cost, value-based choice. According to information from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), tuition and mandatory fees for full-time, in-state undergraduates in Commonwealth’s four-year colleges averages $12,137. With fees of $9,989 for room and board, that yields a grand total of $22,126 per academic year. By comparison, here at Southside Virginia Community College in-state tuition and fees add up to $4,582.50 for 15 credit hours per semester for the entire 2017-18 academic year. Furthermore, 94 percent of beginning undergraduate students receive significant financial aid packages.

But what’s the payback?

College Measures, an initiative of the American Institutes for Research, studied that question. They found that students who graduate from a community college with an Associate’s degree in an occupational or technical field earn an average of $35,718 in the first year after graduation and $41,879 eight years after graduation. At VA.EdPays.org on-line you can download the entire report or interactively explore the data to learn more details about wage variations by field of study and region.  Additionally, students who earn an Associate’s degree in a transfer program can save approximately $35,000 on the cost of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. They also have an opportunity to establish their academic competitiveness and get a clearer picture of their overall career goals.

For more information about your higher education choices and opportunities, contact SVCC at 434-949-1000. Our team of academic and workforce advisors can help you get the most value from your education dollars.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

What Comes after Graduation?

By Dr. Al Roberts

On May 13, 2017, in front of more than 2,500 people, Southside Virginia Community College awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates to 1,303 students. For the students who crossed the stage to receive their credentials, the occasion may have seemed like a conclusion. It may have felt like reaching the end of a journey that involved hard-work and dedication. In reality,  the event marked a beginning.

Graduation ceremonies are called commencements. The word commencement means to initiate, to start an activity, or to kick off an experience. A commencement is the exact opposite of a conclusion.

Rev. Lawrence Wilkerson’s invocation focused on this concept of taking a step into the future. He prayed that each student would  discover his or her own amazing destiny, and he asked for divine inspiration “to stir up the determination, steadfastness, and zeal needed to achieve that destiny.”

Commencement speaker Stephen E. Parker, a 2005 SVCC graduate and currently Legislative Director of the Education and Workforce Committee at the National Governors Association, also challenged students to embrace their futures. “Today, the class of 2017 sits on the same launch pad that was there for me and my family,” he said. “So, my question to all of you is this: what kind of world are you lifting off into?” Parker encouraged graduates to seek inclusive and positive ways to interact with society. He exhorted graduates, “I challenge you to set unbelievably, distractingly ambitious goals.”

By tradition, candidates for graduation wear regalia consisting of gowns and caps adorned with tassels.

At SVCC, graduates with honors wear gold tassels and others wear black tassels. During the ceremony, one of my duties involved leading students in the customary practice of turning their tassels. Students enter the ceremony with their tassels hanging on the right side. Turning the tassel involves moving it to left side, a symbolic action that signifies a change in status from being a candidate for graduation to being a graduate. Moving the tassel is like turning a page to open the next chapter in a student’s life story.

For some graduates, that next chapter will involve more education. Surveys reveal that nearly half of all SVCC graduates plan to transfer to four-year colleges or universities. Others graduates may begin careers, start families or businesses, or enter into military service.

Whatever tomorrow’s journey brings, I agree with Mr. Syd Smyth, SVCC’s Local Board Vice-Chair, who encouraged the audience and the community to follow the example set by the graduates when he said, “I challenge you to enter our doors and explore the many opportunities that may await you. Give it a try. You can never, never be too old to learn or to enrich yourself.”

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Nurses Needed

By Dr. Al Roberts

Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who founded the modern nursing profession, was born on May 12, 1820. While tending to the needs of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she earned a reputation as a merciful and devoted caregiver. After the war, Nightingale returned to England and established a training school for nurses. It opened in 1860.

In 1965, the International Council of Nurses designated Nightingale’s birthday as International Nurses Day. The observance commemorates the contributions nurses make to society. In the United States, the week culminating with her birthday (May 6 through May 12) is recognized by the American Nursing Association as National Nurses Week, and the Wednesday of that week is designated as National Student Nurses Day.

Southside Virginia Community College joins in honoring the hard-working women and men who devote their professional lives to caring for the sick and tending to the injured. Few others have such a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of people in their communities.

Although many nurses say the rewarding feeling of serving others is one of their profession’s biggest benefits, credentialed nurses can also earn competitive wages in a career with a recession-proof track record, flexible scheduling opportunities, and a variety of fields from which to choose. Yet, despite these workplace advantages, there is a critical shortage of nurses across the nation—even here in Southside Virginia. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and other healthcare providers often struggle to find qualified people to fill vacant positions.

Education programs available from SVCC prepare students to embark on careers in nursing and related health fields. The College’s state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Labs provide hands-on learning experiences in a safe, realistic environment. Students also participate in clinical practice at health care agencies located throughout our service region. Local medical facilities are eager to hire College graduates, providing students immediate work opportunities close to home.

SVCC offers instruction that leads to licensure as a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, and the College’s Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing (ADN) program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Additionally, in conjunction with Old Dominion University's Distance Learning program, the nursing education path can be extended at SVCC campuses in Alberta and Keysville to include BS or MS degrees.  Furthermore, the College’s Office of Workforce and Continuing Education prepares students for certification as a Nurse Aide (CNA), Medication Aide, Massage Therapist, or Phlebotomist.

Florence Nightingale said, “I never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” If you would like to begin a rewarding career in the health professions, call 888-220-SVCC (7822) for more information.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Career Exploration

By Dr. Al Roberts

How many children have been asked the question, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Some want to fight fires, some want to help people overcome diseases and disabilities, and some want to teach. Some have aspirations to play professional sports or to travel in outer space. Although a few may follow one career path without deviation, many change their minds frequently.

Visiting places of employment provides a unique educational experience that encourages young people to think about their vocational goals and the preparation that may be required to pursue opportunities.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work is a nationwide program that encourages parents and other mentors to help children make connections between school learning and workplace activities. This annual observance falls on the fourth Thursday of April, which will be April 27 this year.

The Virginia Education Wizard (available online at vawizard.org) is another resource that can open the door to a wide range of career exploration possibilities. Tools available on the website enable young people and others to assess their skills, interests, and values and see how they align with a variety of potential paths. The site also offers information about the education and training requirements of different careers. One interesting area enables visitors to answer questions about envisioned lifestyles to discover the annual salaries required to sustain different ways of living.

Summer camp programs also provide school-aged children opportunities to supplement classroom learning with hands-on activities. Local schools, along with youth development, faith-based, and mentoring organizations, offer programs across a broad spectrum of options that include science, nature, academics, and fitness. Here at Southside Virginia Community College, we offer summer camps to provide young people participatory experiences that enable them to explore cutting edge topics and technologies, such as 3D printing and robotics.

For today's young people, it's never too early to explore ideas about potential future careers, but it's also never too late. The question, "What do you want to do?" doesn't disappear at childhood's end. 

Career planning is an activity for everyone. According to a 2015 survey conducted the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who were born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. While some changes may have represented steps along a single pathway, many involved switching careers entirely. Veterans returning to civilian life, unemployed and underemployed workers, and people with evolving interests and needs were all among those who made significant changes in career trajectories.

If you have questions about exploring career options, for yourself or for a child, contact SVCC at 434-949-1000. Our team of academic and workforce advisors can help you discover an exciting path to the future.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Let’s Celebrate Reading

By Dr. Al Roberts

When people think of March festivities, they may envision green-themed parties for St. Patrick’s Day or look forward to basketball madness. I like to remember that March is also National Reading Awareness Month.

Read Across America, sponsored by the National Education Association, kicked off the month with events in all 50 states and numerous locations abroad. The observance began in 1998 to honor the legacy of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) whose birthday falls on March 2. The annual remembrance encourages people to enjoy the fun of reading.

Also in March, the National Head Start Association sponsors National Read-Aloud Month to challenge parents and caregivers to read books aloud to children at home. National Head Start notes that "When children listen to books read aloud, they learn about people, places, and how things work. They learn about emotions and feelings and how to use words to share their ideas."

One of my favorite books for reading to children is The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. It was originally published in 1922 and has become a classic. It tells about a stuffed toy rabbit and how it became real through being loved. Many equally wonderful tales await children's ears. If you need help finding one, stop by your local public library and ask for assistance.

Several other organizations also focus on the benefits of reading aloud to children. For example, a group called Read Aloud 15 Minutes, emphasizes that reading to a child for just fifteen minutes a day can have life-long benefits. Fifteen minutes may not seem like much, but, if practiced consistently during a child's first five years, it adds up to more than 450 hours. Those extra hours of literacy skills building can bestow a measurable benefit in future learning success.

And the benefits of reading don't end with childhood. In fact, they're just beginning. The crucial role that strong reading skills play in academic achievement among older students is also well-documented. In fact, some researchers have estimated that college students can expect to read between 600–750 pages a semester per course.

To help foster life-long growth in literacy achievement, Southside Virginia Community College is embarking on a new Quality Enhancement Plan: iRead, iLead, iSucceed. The QEP embraces a commitment to literacy that focuses on analytical reading comprehension and is designed to promote student achievement and academic success. Through faculty development and training in the promotion of analytical literacy skills, we hope to create students with stronger literacy skills. One of the anticipated outcomes of this new initiative is that students will demonstrate an increased level of engagement in literacy activities through supported reading and writing opportunities both at the academic level and personal level.

Reading. It's something we celebrate all year long.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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