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‘I feel proud’: Celebrating your stories.

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 — EdNC’s newsletter focused on community colleges and the postsecondary landscape in North Carolina. We appreciate you allowing us into your inbox this week.  If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter. If you missed last week’s edition of Awake58, find it here.

April was community college month, and we asked you for your stories… The Hunt-Lee Commission unveiled their recommendations for education in North Carolina… 

Throughout April, we asked you to share your community college story with us. You all told us what made you proud of your community college experience. Some of you shared the story of your educational journey. Others told us about the parts of the work that inspire you to get out of bed every morning.

Bruce Panneton, vice president of instruction at Edgecombe Community College, is one example of the many stories we received:

“For me, community college is part of ‘my DNA.’ Community colleges have been an important part of my life for over 20 years. I was a very good high school student, but I was also a first-generation college student. I had NO IDEA how college ‘worked.’ I knew I wanted to go to college but had no idea how to do it. My local community college helped me start. As a community college professional, I see the immediate and long-term value that community colleges provide for their service area students and community. Community colleges help students earn the credentials they need to better support themselves and their families.”

Hannah McClellan compiled some of the responses in a piece I would encourage you to read. And please keep sharing your community college stories either by replying directly to this email or through Twitter @Awake58NC.

The Hunt Institute convened the bipartisan Hunt-Lee Commission beginning last fall to explore big questions and opportunities for North Carolina’s education system. Ultimately, the commission members endorsed a series of priorities, including increasing access to child care subsidies, expanding access to NC Pre-K, and helping students access higher education. You will find information on the full list of priorities in Alex Granados’ write-up on the release of the recommendations.

The full Hunt-Lee Commission report is here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Bennett College in Greensboro alongside MC Belk Pilon and the John M. Belk Endowment team. Bennett College President Suzanne Walsh walked us through her thoughts on the future of postsecondary education for smaller institutions like Bennett. For one example of her approach to leadership, I would encourage you to watch Walsh’s interview with the Aspen Institute regarding the need for HBCUs to empower their stories to tell their stories. We can learn from their attempts at reinvention. (We will have a piece up on our visit to Bennett College soon.)

Thank you for reading Awake58 and EdNC. We appreciate your ongoing support.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

‘I feel proud’: Celebrating your stories for Community College Month

Throughout April, we asked all of you to share your community college story as we marked community college month with you. Your stories were inspiring. They made us laugh, think, and consider our approach as we move forward.

Here are a few of your stories:

“I was very unsure about going to community college because I was scared I was going to miss out on the experiences of a four-year university. Going to a community college was the best decision I feel I have ever made. I have met my best friends and figured out my whole life career at the age of 20 in a two-year span. The instructors and staff at community colleges are amazing — they are very personable and always check and make sure you are doing well and if there is anything they can do to help they will.” — Taylor Frye, Cape Fear Community College

“I am a second-generation community college professor of communication. I spent my first 10 years teaching as a full-time instructor at Northern Virginia Community College, the institution my mother retired from. When I lived briefly in Michigan, I taught as an adjunct instructor at Lansing Community College, and since returning to the east coast, I’ve been full time at Wake Tech since 2018. It is my great privilege to help students understand the powerful role communication can play in their lives and to help them increase their confidence as speakers. Community college students face many challenges, and it is my hope that when they leave my class, they understand that they have a voice and that they feel empowered to use it.” — Kate Jones, Wake Technical Community College

“I have worked at Fayetteville Technical Community College since 2018, and one of the best success stories I have experienced is running into a former student at the local Walmart. The former student was in one of my developmental English courses several years earlier, and I asked what she was doing since finishing up at FTCC. She shared that she moved onto Fayetteville State University and earned her bachelor’s degree. That was a ‘wow’ moment, but then she shared that she had been accepted into a master’s program at Fayetteville State University and would be starting that program the next semester. My former student’s story, and thousands like hers, show how the community college serves an integral role in helping students get to where they are meant to be. We are helping students where they are in order to get them to where they want to be.” — Sarah Bruton, Fayetteville Technical Community College

For the rest of the stories that you all shared, click here. Please keep sharing your stories. We are here to listen.

Hunt-Lee Commission unveils recommendations

The Hunt-Lee Commission began their work exploring critical education issues and opportunities from across the state last August. Last week, they unveiled their report.

The commission was a bipartisan group made up of legislators, administrators, key education leaders, and educators from across the state. Commission members included several familiar names for Awake58 readers, including Sen. Deanna Ballard, MC Belk Pilon, UNC System President Peter Hans, Blue Ridge Community College President Laura Leatherwood, and N.C. Community College System President Thomas Stith.

You can find Alex’s write-up of the report here.

Below are the commission’s 16 recommendations:

Build on what we have 

  • Strengthen our data information and sharing
  • Model potential enhancements to our school finance system
  • Increase the availability of child care subsidies
  • Reduce barriers to access for NC Pre-K
  • Incentivize excellent teachers to work in high-needs schools
  • Expand the Advanced Teaching Roles pilot
  • Grow the school leader pipeline
  • Improve schools’ and districts’ ability to respond to student needs

Invite and test new ideas 

  • Identify opportunities to make early child education a financially viable career
  • Incentivize providers to open more spaces for infant and toddler care
  • Bridge student transitions from middle to high school

Implement proven solutions 

  • Expand home visiting programs
  • Renew and sustain the state’s financial support for students pursuing two-year degrees
  • Expand eligibility for in-state tuition
  • Increase non-academic supports for postsecondary students
  • Increase support for FAFSA completion

The full report can be found here. One specific portion of the report you might find interesting includes the following recommendation on the Longleaf Commitment:

Beginning in 2021, the Longleaf Commitment has offered eligible students the opportunity to receive up to $2,800 a year to attend one of our state’s “Great 58” community colleges. In practice, the program makes community college free for low-income students.

In multiple studies, this program and others like it nationally have been shown to increase first-time enrollment and postsecondary attainment and reduce the number of students borrowing.

Federal relief funding has supported the Longleaf Commitment. Without reliable recurring funding, however, the program is at risk of being cut. Meanwhile, studies show that these programs are less effective when they have an expiration date because future students are not able to count on that funding in their college planning.The state should identify a regular, recurring funding stream to support students pursuing their two-year degree. That funding could continue the Longleaf Commitment or consider other structures for all or some residents.

We would welcome your thoughts on the Hunt-Lee Commission recommendations. Feel free to reply directly to this email.

N.C. community college finds new ways to serve English learners

Over the last decade, North Carolina’s Latinx population has grown by 40% — bringing the total Latinx share of the population for the state to 11%. Alessandra Quattrocchi has a write-up documenting some of the efforts to serve English learners across the community college system.

Alessandra’s piece focuses on Johnston Community College‘s Aaron Brickman, who serves as the department chair of natural sciences, engineering, and math. Brickman asked students to identify online tools and resources that supported their learning journey as the college transitioned to remote learning during COVID-19 – and discovered quite a few of his students needed Spanish-language focused supports.

This led him to a new strategic approach:

Brickman made it his mission to ensure that all of his students could actively engage with course material and obtain a degree or credential, regardless of their level of English proficiency. He realized that to do so, it would be vital for his students to have key concepts explained to them in their native language. With this understanding, Brickman created the Ciencias Tecnología Ingeniería y Matemáticas (CTIM) program, which translates to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in English.

CTIM is a sponsorship program that allots funding to hire bilingual JCC students in the STEM department to act as translators for Spanish-speaking students in need, Brickman explained. These student translators have excelled in their introductory math and science courses and are confident enough in their language skills to film short explanatory videos of key classroom concepts in Spanish. Translators are paired with instructors who request translation for students in their class, and the videos act as a virtual resource that can serve students for years to come.

Brickman praised the dynamic nature of CTIM, stating that it not only benefits the non-native English speakers in the classroom, but it has also transformed the college experience for the student translators.

CTIM has allowed student translators to find a sense of purpose at JCC that goes beyond their coursework.

For more on CTIM and other programs at JCC, click here to read Alessandra’s full piece.

Around NC

WFAE also spotlighted the Hunt-Lee Commission’s report. One note from WFAE: “Extend in-state tuition to the approximately 3,000 non-citizens who graduate from North Carolina high schools each year.”

The economic impact reports have been discussed frequently as they have been rolled out this spring. NC Policy Watch pulled out an array of data points to provide additional context to the report.

Haywood Community College spotlighted their work on virtual reality in a perspective we published last week. It is worth your time. We love to hear your stories about colleges who are adopting new technology to serve their students.

Davidson-Davie Community College was spotlighted by Higher Ed Works as they continue to profile community colleges across the state.

As we reported previously, longtime community college fixture Ken Boham is returning to the 58 to serve as Johnston Community College’s interim president.

McDowell Technical Community College showcased their economic impact data to college trustees and local legislators during a recent meeting.

Randolph County was the site of the latest economic development announcement as a packaging manufacturer will bring 220 jobs to the area. Randolph Community College will play a role in customized training.

Robeson Community College rolled out their economic impact numbers and recently introduced a new apprenticeship campaign.

The Rowan Education Collaborative released its first official update to the community on its progress serving the county.

Southwestern Community College is one of 150 community colleges chosen to compete for the $1,000,000 Aspen prize. From their release: “The Aspen Prize is probably one of the highest honors of achievement for community college excellence in the nation,” President Don Tomas said. “We’re all very proud that the Aspen Institute selected Southwestern as one of the institutions eligible to compete for the 2023 award. Our faculty and staff always put students first, and we are focused on student success, so it’s very gratifying when organizations like the Aspen Institute recognize the good work SCC is doing in the communities we serve.”

Surry County Schools and Surry Community College are working together to launch a live learning lab focused on agriculture. At the groundbreaking, FFA member Morgan Hodges noted, “We won’t be contained to the classroom as much, and we can do more hands-on work than we do in-class small scale. This barn will afford students the real-world aspect of a farm that is going to be crucial to lifelong career success.”

Western Piedmont Community College held a groundbreaking for their new Skilled Trade Solutions Center.

Other higher education reads

College presidents leverage social media

When I first started traveling to visit our 58 community colleges for EdNC in 2017, Randolph Community College president Bob Shackleford was one of the first presidents I met. At the end of our first day together, Shackleford mentioned that we should take a selfie — and not long after that, I realized he was very active on Instagram. It didn’t take me long to realize a great many other college presidents, faculty, staff, and administrators also used social media to share the story of their colleges. is out with an article evaluating how college presidents across the country are utilizing social media. One key lesson they highlighted:

Although many presidents bring their personalities to social media, they also have to know their potential audience and the community. Leigh Goodson, president of Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, is more traditional in how she uses social media, with LinkedIn being her preferred platform. Her posts are mainly of students, businesses and other local partners in the Tulsa community.

“My goal with social media is to get the buy-in of the business community,” she said. “I want the business community to want to invest in us.”

And they are. The George Kaiser Family Foundation is supporting the college’s partnership in the Tulsa Innovation Labs, and the posts, reposts, shares and likes grab the attention of other local funders who are eager to contribute…

The article goes on to highlight how businesses and funders have noted her social posts in their outreach to the college:

“With Bank of America, it was a shock,” she said. “They just came to me and said ‘We want to give you this money because you are trying to close the achievement gap. And we want you to help us fill 500 positions. We’re going to give you $1.2 million to do it.”

If you are active on social media, reply to this email and share your Twitter and Instagram handles. We would love to follow you.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.