Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

An extra hill to climb for our community college students

Welcome to another week of Awake58! If you were forwarded this email, be sure to subscribe by clicking here.

Western Piedmont Community College President Michael Helmick is retiring … UNC’s World View has an opportunity for community college faculty … We are rolling out a series this week on the barriers many students face to attain degrees and credentials … We introduce you to an early childhood educator who overcame many barriers to enter the profession …

Welcome back to Awake58! I hope that you had a really nice Thanksgiving break full of food, gatherings with friends and family, and perhaps even a little football. I certainly enjoyed all three. Especially the UNC/NC State game. 

We are excited to introduce An Extra Hill to Climb this week. The series is a partnership between and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. Spotlight is a non-partisan initiative that gathers diverse perspectives to tell compelling stories illustrating the economic hardship confronting millions of Americans and to lift up genuine solutions. and Spotlight partnered to illustrate the challenges facing many community college students through stories from North Carolina and data illustrating the broader challenges in the United States.

The first piece in the series looks at the story of an A-B Tech student who ran into significant financial challenges because of a simple mistake on the FAFSA. When he needed help, he turned to Single Stop.

EdNC reporter Liz Bell then tells the story of Shari Johnson. Johnson attended Durham Tech as she pursued a career in early childhood education. Why did she take on such a grueling path? Liz captures her reasoning beautifully: “This right here is me,” Johnson said with an infant on her lap while her 2-year-old students napped on cots down the hallway. “Early childhood is me. Infants, toddlers, and twos, that’s me … Until I’m just too old to be in the classroom, I don’t see myself being in anything besides early childhood classrooms.”

And as I am writing this email, a powerful piece from my colleague Rupen Fofaria just went live on in partnership with the Spotlight on Poverty. The piece tells the story of several community college students at James Sprunt and their challenges after Hurricane Florence.

In other news from across North Carolina, Western Piedmont Community College will be seeking a new president as Michael Helmick announced his retirement.

Thank you also for sharing your thoughts on how we can improve Awake58. We will be taking a few weeks off at the end of December as we launch a new website and prepare for our fifth anniversary. Expect to see changes to the newsletter based on your feedback beginning in the new year. As we approach the anniversary, we’re also asking you about our impact. Please consider taking five minutes to share your thoughts on our work!

If you like this email, please share the link to subscribe on your social network of choice or forward it to a friend. If you’re seeing this email because someone sent it to you, subscribe here to get it every week. If you missed last week’s newsletter, you can find it by clicking here.

See you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Director of Growth, EdNC

Our impact survey is evaluating our impact as we approach our five-year anniversary in January.

Could you please take our short survey? It should take only five minutes. Leave your name in the final question for a chance to receive one of five $10 Amazon gift cards.

EdNC reads

Why the grueling educational path was worth it for one early childhood teacher.

“I can’t just not work and go to school.” Shari Johnson is like most people who pursue higher education so they can be early childhood educators — working while studying, taking on huge loans. My colleague Liz explores the challenges facing early childhood education students at community colleges, and what awaits them out in the work world, through Shari’s story.

Addressing students’ basic needs to boost postsecondary attainment

Toby Bollinger, a veteran and student at AB Tech, saw his scholarships and financial aid disappear after making a simple mistake on his FAFSA. Suddenly, Bollinger found himself unable to pay his rent. Where did he turn for help? And where do other students turn? This piece explores the role of Single Stop, and other interventions, as students work toward degree and credential attainment.

Students didn’t just build their futures at this early college. They helped build the school.

My colleague Rupen Fofaria visited Montgomery County Early College. The students who started at the school in 2016 are heading toward graduation, but the school leadership worked with them to build a culture. From prom to the beta club to a fall dance, the students asked for it, and the school worked with them to make it happen.

Previewing the Dallas Herring Lecture: Improving the transfer ecosystem in North Carolina

A preview of the Dallas Herring Lecture tonight: The state’s myFutureNC goal aims to get 2 million North Carolinians a “high-quality postsecondary degree or credential” by 2030 to meet the state’s expected workforce demands.  Perhaps more important than developing the workforce, Shugart is expected to say, is recognizing that higher education and the economy have not offered social or economic mobility to people of color and to low-wealth communities.

Student success shouldn’t be territorial Valencia, UCF paving the way in transfer partnership

Our team member Analisa Sorrells returned to her hometown to tell the story of Valencia College’s unique partnership with the University of Central Florida. Their partnership is part of an umbrella effort called Direct Connect that has been heralded nationally as a bright spot in transfer student initiatives. In 2012, it was recognized as the country’s top program for increasing academic opportunities and success for Latinx students at the associate level.

Other reads

Four reasons why students don’t receive the degrees they’ve earned

EdSurge explores this critical issue: “Millions of Americans have earned some college credit but no degree. Some experts think institutions of higher education — not former students — are partly to blame.” Thanks to Bryan Ryan from Wake Tech for forwarding us the piece.

WUNC reports on the politics of student loans coming to North Carolina

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was forced to cancel nearly $11 million in student loans after a national chain of for-profit colleges experienced accreditation problems and eventually closed several campuses.” Tidbit: Two North Carolina campuses were among the campuses closed.

As stigma ebbs, college students seek mental health help

“More college students are turning to their schools for help with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, and many must wait weeks for treatment or find help elsewhere as campus clinics struggle to meet demand, an Associated Press review of more than three dozen public universities found.” A question for you: Have you seen this play out your own campus?

Around North Carolina

WPCC President Michael Helmick is set to retire

Michael Helmick, Western Piedmont Community College’s president, has announced his intention to retire, but he’ll serve until summer of 2020. Helmick told the Morganton News Herald: “I had been thinking about it for a couple years … Our budget is stabilized for the first time since I have been here — the first time in many years. And our enrollment, for the first time in 10 to 12 years, has finally started going up.”

Faculty members: Apply for World View

UNC’s World View is offering a global study program to Costa Rica and Panama in summer 2020 with travel dates from July 19-28. Simple Gifts is providing scholarships if you are a teacher, guidance counselor, media assistant, or assistant principal in a public school or community college instructor, in one of the following counties: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Chowan, Columbus, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilson. Apply here!

Sign-up for more!

Sign up for all of our newsletters for all of the latest news and information.

A lot is happening in early childhood education! Sign-up for Early Bird to receive the latest news — including the latest information on early childhood educator prep.

Every single day, we cover the biggest stories impacting all of our students. Sign-up for the Daily Digest to receive the news each morning!

For a weekly run down on important stories from across North Carolina, subscribe to EdNC’s Weekly Wrapup.

Weigh in on weekly conversations about policy issues in North Carolina by joining Reach NC Voices.

Policy research, trends, and analysis from around the country have an impact on our state. You can subscribe to Friday@5 to find out the latest each week!

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.