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Dr. Al Roberts

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.

Finding Funds for Your Higher Education

By Dr. Al Roberts

A study titled “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020” by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce noted, “The U.S. economy is slowly returning to normal—albeit a new normal—characterized by an increase in the natural rate of unemployment, permanent job losses in sectors employing the less-educated, and an ever-increasing demand for better education credentials and upskilling across an array of new fields.” The study also notes trends indicating that by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the national economy will require postsecondary education.

Obtaining a postsecondary education, however, can be costly. To succeed, most students need financial assistance.

Eligibility for federal financial aid is determined by a formula that considers family income, enrollment status (full or part-time), and costs of attendance, which include tuition, fees, books, materials, housing, food, transportation, and personal expenses. For most students, federal aid comprises the largest portion of an overall financial assistance package.

In addition to the federal government, primary sources of education funds include state and local governments, postsecondary institutions, employers, and private entities. The major types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, tuition reimbursement programs, loans, and work-study programs. For students in courses that lead to workforce credentials, financial assistance is available through opportunities such as Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant and the Financial Assistance for Noncredit Training that leads to Industry Credentials (FANTIC) program.

At Southside Virginia Community College, our Financial Aid Department works with students to ensure they receive the maximum benefits for which they are eligible. In fact, 94% of students at SVCC receive some type of grant or scholarship.

The process of applying for financial aid begins with completing a standardized form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Instructions and helpful videos for completing the FAFSA can be found on the College’s Financial Aid Webpage at southside.edu/financial-aid.  SVCC’s Financial Aid Department can also provide one-on-one assistance to anyone who needs help filling out the FAFSA. Just call 855-877-3943 or stop by the Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

People seeking financial assistance so they can pursue short-term industry-approved credentials in high-demand careers, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA), power line worker, commercial truck driving, or precision machining, can get more information by calling 434-949-1026 or 434-736-2004.

Students are also invited to apply for scholarships administered by the SVCC Foundation. These awards are funded by private individuals, civic organizations, and others who establish scholarships as a way to give back to the community. An application portal with access to more than 50 different scholarship programs is available at southside.edu/college-foundation.

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.

College Community Connection - Changing Students’ Lives

The end of the year and the holiday season have become inexorably linked with gift-giving. Some gifts are purchased, some are homemade. Some get wrapped in boxes, some entail donating one’s time to a cause, and some involve making charitable contributions. In evaluating different kinds of charity, the twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon) described eight levels of giving. He ascribed the lowest rank to giving unwillingly. Giving cheerfully was better, as was giving without being asked. He rated giving anonymously higher still, but Maimonides placed the highest honor on giving that enabled the recipient to become self-reliant.  

In more contemporary times, Oprah Winfrey made a similar observation, “It's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life.”

Working in education gives me an opportunity to see these principles in action. On a daily basis, I observe faculty and staff members who give their utmost to touch students’ lives. As a result of their influence, I watch students work hard and undergo a transformative process, becoming self-reliant community members and serving as role models for others.

Here at Southside Virginia Community College, we believe that all citizens should be given an opportunity to acquire an education that develops and extends their skills and knowledge. The college's goal is to provide diverse instructional programs ranging from developmental studies to associate’s degree curricula, and our offerings cover a wide spectrum of academic, technical/vocational, lifelong education, and workforce development classes.

People who choose to pursue these opportunities often require assistance to cover the costs of education, and SVCC works diligently to give students the support they need. In fact, 94% of beginning students receive financial aid. Much of it originates from federal sources, such as Pell grants. Some comes from state sources. State funds are particularly important to students enrolled in noncredit, workforce development programs. During its 2016 session, the Virginia General Assembly passed a legislative initiative that established the New Economy Workforce Grant Program, a program that can cover up to two-thirds of the cost of courses leading to credentialing in high-demand fields.

These types of federal and state financial aid do not cover the entire cost of education, however. To help students with unmet financial need, the Southside Virginia Community College Foundation administers scholarship programs that help fill the gaps so that deserving students can successfully reach their education goals. During the most recently completed academic year, the Foundation presented awards to more than 250 students. These opportunities were made possible primarily through the generous contributions of local people and businesses who wanted to help today’s students succeed and become constructive co-laborers who will join in the task of building a better tomorrow.

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.

Teamwork

By Dr. Al Roberts

Southside Virginia is home to some great athletes, and sports participation is one important way young people can prepare for education opportunities and future employment. By participating at their personal best levels and learning to work with others on and off the court, athletes gain valuable experience. As men’s basketball coach Dennis Smith, explains “Playing on a sports team is really about how people work together to meet a goal. Teamwork is the foundation of everything we do.”

The Southside Virginia Community College basketball team joined the Virginia Community College System club league during the 2003–04 season and has earned rising acclaim. The team won three straight VCCS division titles from 2006 to 2008 and captured the VCCS state championship title in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.  For the last two years, SVCC’s basketball team captured the USA National Post-Grad Championship title, a competition for teams beyond the high school level. In guiding the team, Coach Smith is assisted by Coach Vincent Brown.

During its regular season the SVCC club basketball team plays against other two-year colleges in Virginia and North Carolina, prep schools, and some independent college teams. In addition to about 20 regular season games, the team participates in two showcase events where coaches from four-year colleges scout for talent. This provides an important benefit to SVCC students because most of the college’s athletes are in transfer programs and have plans to continue their education after graduation.

Student athletes have to preserve a minimum grade point average of 2.0, but coaches push them to achieve more. According to Coach Smith, “Our goal for student athletes is 3.5. We don’t always meet it, but that’s our goal because four-year college coaches are looking for athletes they know will also be successful in the classroom.”

SVCC holds an open tryout in September. Coach Smith says, “I’ve been coaching the team for fourteen years, and we’ve had students come to open try-outs and make the team every year.” The current team began practicing in September, and regular season games started at the end of October.

The SVCC club sports roster will expand this coming spring to include a women’s fastpitch softball program under the leadership of Coach Debra Hood. Practices will be held on both campuses, and games will be held on the John H. Daniel Campus beginning in March 2017.

For more information on where you fit into the SVCC team—whether your interests are focused on sports, activities, clubs, workforce training, or academics—call an admissions advisor on the Christanna Campus in Alberta (434-949-1000) or the Daniel Campus in Keysville (434-736-2000), or visit SVCC’s website at www.southside.edu.

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.

Cupcakes and Calculus

By Dr. Al Roberts

What do cupcakes and calculus have in common? Students at Southside Virginia Community College are learning about both through the wide variety of camps and classes available this summer.

Calculus is just one of many opportunities for students who are continuing their studies, working toward certifications, associates degrees, or entry into a four-year institution. In addition to Mathematics, the college’s summer schedule features offerings in many other diverse areas from Accounting to Welding (too bad we don’t offer zoology).

Some other summertime opportunities feature enrichment activities intended to foster excitement and curiosity in younger learners. That’s where the cupcakes come in. Through a fun and tasty activity, SVCC’s Kids Camp Cupcake Wars provided sessions for children to learn about cake decorating techniques and designs.

The Cupcake Wars launched a series of Kids Camp activities available from SVCC. Other Kids Camp activities on slate for June and July include “Commotion in the Ocean,” a storytelling and painting activity, “SNAP! I’m an Engineer,” through which young people experiment with resistors, capacitors, LEDs, and other electronic equipment, and “Lego Robotics,” an activity that enables students to use creativity and problem-solving skills as they design, build, and program Lego Mindstorm Robots.

SVCC also partners with Dream It Do It, an initiative formed to introduce students to advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies. One of this summer’s Dream It Do It camps will provide students who are registered for services under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) an opportunity to receive hands-on experiences with 3D modeling and printing. Another will focus on robots and drones. During its five days, students will learn to create and program a robot and how to fly a drone and capture video. In addition to providing first-hand experience with cutting edge technologies, these activities will help students improve their computer skills, participate in brainstorming and decision-making processes, and learn to work in teams.

Summertime is also a great time to think about career advancement. Some SVCC students will take a preparation class prior to receiving a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC), a portable credential designed to provide evidence that an individual is ready for work with respect to fundamental standards. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC mechanics, and gas fitters will be taking continuing education classes for tradesmen. Additionally, for people who need CPR and First Aid training, SVCC offers one-day courses at several locations.

With these and other activities, SVCC is doing its part to help young people and students of all ages maintain active and engaged minds throughout the summer months. If you’re interested in knowing more about SVCC’s numerous seated and online classes, please visit the college’s website, www.southside.edu.

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.

Serving Those Who Have Served

By Dr. Al Roberts

Every year, more than 200,000 men and women leave the military and re-enter civilian life. These returning heroes often possess advanced skills and good work habits acquired from valuable service-related training and experiences. Despite these advantages, however, many veterans encounter obstacles as they transition to civilian life.

Dean Schwartz, the Veterans Affairs School Certifying Official at Southside Virginia Community College, who is himself a wounded veteran, explains that part of the problem stems from the military’s culture. He cites interpersonal communication as just one example. “Military communication is blunt, very blunt, and not following an order can hurt or kill someone.” As a result, Schwartz says veterans sometimes find it difficult to adjust to civilian perceptions about what it means to be polite.

Additionally, veterans who pursue education opportunities are typically nontraditional students, returning to the classroom after a break in schooling. They are likely to be older than many of their classmates and more likely to have families and dependents. For some veterans, injuries have left lasting disabilities. For some, settling down after frequent moves is a significant lifestyle change.

Identifying a new career path can also be a challenge. Schwartz says his military training—dealing with landmines, explosives, and machine guns—had little applicability to what he wanted to pursue in civilian life. For him, a successful career meant one devoted to serving others. Swartz has been able to achieve this goal at SVCC where he meets with veterans, helps them learn about available GI benefits, and guides them as they explore options.

SVCC also reaches out to veterans in other ways. Each of the college’s main campuses hosts a Student Veterans of America chapter. Monica McMillian, past president of the Christanna chapter, served with the Army Reserves for nearly ten years. She says SVCC provided a veteran-friendly, comfortable environment with one-on-one assistance that helped her remain motivated.

Sometimes SVCC’s engagement with service members begins while they are still on active duty. In collaboration with the Fort Lee Soldier for Life Program, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), and other partners, the college developed an innovative advanced manufacturing training program. Its graduates prepare for a seamless transition to civilian employment through the attainment of National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications.

Financial assistance to qualifying veterans is also available. The SVCC Foundation administers the William M. "Bunky" Warren Memorial Veteran's Scholarship and the Jack M. Rainey Memorial Veteran's Scholarship, both established by American Legion Post #79. Veterans who would like more information about these scholarships, and people or organizations interested in funding additional scholarship opportunities, can call 434-949-1051. Former military personnel and transitioning service members who are re-entering civilian life can learn more about the services SVCC offers veterans by contacting Dean Schwartz at 434-736-2100.

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.

Partnerships and Education

By Dr. Al Roberts

In the early seventeenth century, poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” (Meditation XVII, 1624).

The observation about the ways in which we are all interconnected is especially evident in education. Education requires diligent work by a student and a teacher. The teacher prepares lessons, presents material, and provides a feedback mechanism to evaluate progress. The student attends to lessons, completes assignments, and employs an active mind to push beyond barriers and overcome obstacles. In the most effective learning environments, students become teachers and teachers become learners. Everyone benefits.

But education is more than just the relationship between a single teacher and one student. At Southside Virginia Community College, virtually all our programs involve collaborative efforts. SVCC’s service region, the largest in the Commonwealth, spans ten counties plus the city of Emporia. In order to deliver education opportunities throughout this vast territory, we work in concert with many other entities that provide classroom space and other services. Off-campus centers include the Estes Community Center in Chase City, the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill, the Occupational Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone, the Southside Virginia Education Center in Greensville County, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston.

In addition, local high school students and their families benefit from our dual enrollment program, which involves partnerships with K-12 schools and regional superintendents. Area hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers offer resources and job opportunities for students in SVCC’s nursing and allied health programs. And, since its inception, the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission has provided much-needed financial support for innovative programming focused on finding creative solutions to problems that result from poverty and unemployment.

Another superb example of teamwork between education and employers is the recently launched Power Line Worker Program at Pickett Park. Virginia’s 13 consumer-owned electric cooperatives, together with their peers in Maryland and Delaware, projected a critical shortage of experienced electric utility line workers. To help address this skills gap, SVCC acted in collaboration with other public and private sector entities to develop a program that would prepare students for entry into the profession. The Power Line Worker Program relies on curriculum developed by the National Association for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), whose credentials are internationally recognized.

A complete list of SVCC’s partners would go on and on, but these few serve to illustrate some of the ways in which education partnerships build bridges to connect and enhance our communities. Businesses benefit from the availability of a qualified workforce, and local citizens earn industry-recognized credentials that open the doors of opportunity to sustainable, self- or family-supporting careers.

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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