The State Board of Community Colleges announced its 2022 award winners on Thursday, Jan. 27.
Dr. Laura Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College, was named 2022 President of the Year.
Leatherwood started in the role in 2017 with experience in students services and workforce development. According to a press release, “she believes strategic partnerships with area schools, economic development organizations and businesses are essential for building a pipeline of skilled professionals.”
During her tenure as president, Leatherwood has prioritized partnerships with schools and businesses. When vaccines started becoming more readily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with the local school district to distribute the college’s resources.
“I reached out to the two CEOs of the hospital and the health department and said, ‘We are here. We have facilities. If you all get into this vaccine and you need a site for distribution, give me a call,’” she told EdNC in February 2021.
More recently, she emphasized her commitment to workforce goals through BRCC’s participation in the N.C. Reconnect adult learner pilot. She told the State Board in December that of the nearly 500 adult learners who were assigned success coaches in the fall, her college had a persistence rate of 95.18%.
The press release adds that her accomplishments also include recruiting companies to the college’s home county of Henderson, spearheading campus construction, and adding health care offerings.
The State Board also announced several teaching and partnership awards.
Melissa Smith, program coordinator of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at Forsyth Technical Community College, won the Excellence in Teaching Award.
According to the release, she researched and worked with the FTCC Foundation to secure a grant to install a one-of-a-kind MRI simulator to give students a better experience and improve outcomes.
She has also worked with admissions staff to increase the diversity of students within the program and has been recognized for her commitment to innovative teaching methods and balancing empathy and professionalism.
“Smith has been instrumental in the FTCC MRI Program receiving a 100% pass rate for the post-graduate American Registry of Radiology Technologists MRI Registry three times in the last nine years,” the release reads.
The award for Staff of the Year goes to Greg Singleton, director of workforce readiness at Craven Community College. After joining the Human Resource Development department in 2014, he has led several workforce support initiatives for formerly incarcerated individuals.
He launched a Job Readiness Boot Camp in 2017 that now reaches rural areas of the county with the goal of helping formerly incarcerated individuals with soft skills to help them find employment.
Singleton is also the project manager of the Craven-Pamlico Re-Entry Council. During this time, he secured a $250,000 grant for the council and merged it with the community college.
Finally, Catawba Valley Community College and Catawba Valley Furniture Academy are being recognized as Distinguished Partners in Excellence. The partnership, which was launched in 2014, is meant to create a pipeline of furniture workers, one of the largest industries in Hickory.
Under the partnership, students receive training in one of seven career paths that result in a credential.
“Having a need for approximately 3,000 workers in the Catawba Valley region, the CVFA has grown to partner with more than 35 manufacturers and occupies a 38,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility,” the press release reads. “To date, 100% of students who have completed the program have been hired by local furniture companies.”