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From prison programs to academies, community colleges are changing communities

A note from us

Welcome to Awake58 – your weekly round-up of the latest community college news from across North Carolina and the country. Last week, we highlighted the search process for the next System president, featured a collaboration between Central Carolina and faith leaders, and more. You may read that edition by clicking here.

Pamlico Community College’s prison programs offer second chances… Catawba Valley Community College’s academy model meets student and workforce needs… Forsyth Technical Community College President Dr. Janet Spriggs highlights the work of N.C. Reconnect on campus… EdNC’s Impact58 tour continues this week…

Last week, EdNC team members kicked off our Impact 58 tour with visits to: Blue Ridge, Catawba Valley, Central Carolina, Pamlico, Alamance, and Surry.

We’re doing these visits to highlight colleges’ economic impacts in their local communities, and we’re already learning a lot. During Katie’s visit to Pamlico Community College, she learned about the college’s prison programs and how they offer incarcerated men a second chance. I had the chance to sit down with Catawba Valley Community College leaders to discuss student and workforce needs and how the college is addressing both. CVCC’s academies create opportunities for students to receive short-term quality training and help industry leaders employ skilled individuals.

We’re hitting the road again this week as we make our way across the state to all 58 community colleges. We’ll be visiting: College of the Albemarle, Martin Community College, and Piedmont Community College. 

Nation is visiting Gaston, Cleveland, and Isothermal. I’ll be in Asheville as part of the Hunt Institute’s ElevateNC cohort. Follow us on Twitter to see more from our travels this fall.

A BIG thank you to colleges for opening doors and welcoming EdNC on your campuses these next few months. Stay tuned for more Impact58 content.

We’re pausing Awake58 next week but will be back in your inboxes Sept. 13.

With gratitude –

Emily Thomas

Policy Analyst –

EdNC reads

Pamlico Community College offers incarcerated men second chances through education

Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross’ first visit to the community’s prison changed his perspective, and he immediately became an advocate for the educational rights of incarcerated people. Now, the college offers second chances through its prison programs.

Ross’s leadership has made an impact. PCC’s prison program makes up about one-third of the college’s curriculum.

But Ross said it’s only the beginning.

Ross has plans to expand his college’s program at the prison.

“We have a vision and a prayer that we’d be able to get funding at some point to [build] an education wing, a wing devoted to education,” Ross said.

He explained that there are about 500 people incarcerated at PCI and that PCC has the capacity to serve only about half that number.

“Our dream is for an expansion, so that 250 of the prisoners don’t have to be denied education,” Ross said.

Given what Ross and his team have accomplished so far, there’s no reason to think that dream won’t become a reality.

Ross attributes that success to putting the needs of students first, regardless of their circumstances.

Read more about the program

Catawba Valley Community College and industry leaders create academies to meet student and workforce needs

When a program no longer provided the training that industry leaders needed, Catawba Valley Community College President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw pushed pause, allowing for strategic conversations with local industry leaders.

The result: an academy that was industry-led and provided the quality training that students would need to secure jobs with increased wages in high-demand areas.

Catawba Valley’s Furniture Academy paved the way for more collaborative efforts between industry partners and the institution. There are now five industry-driven academies at CVCC. The academies allow students to be in an environment that is comfortable – which is particularly helpful for students who are intimidated by the thought of returning to school.

The furniture academies alone have graduated over 350 students since beginning in 2014. And the program has a 100% hiring rate.

Read more about the academy model

Perspective | NC Reconnect: Loving and serving each adult learner to success at Forsyth Tech

I go to work every day knowing the work we will do that day at Forsyth Technical Community College is going to be important and impactful for our students and our communities. That is what community colleges do.

Forsyth Technical President Dr. Janet Spriggs shares how N.C. Reconnect – an initiative supported by the John M. Belk Endowment (JMBE) – helps colleges have a laser focus on reengaging adult learners who attended but never completed a credential. It’s an effort to bring students back help them earn a credential so they can move into a family-sustaining career.

Over the past several months, we connected with more than 500 former students who fit that category. With support and resources provided by the JMBE, we worked to re-engage as many of those adult learners as possible and get them back on track to complete their goals. As our fall semester begins, more than 130 former adult students will be re-enrolled and back on track to obtaining better skills and better jobs.

Read more about N.C. Reconnect

Around NC

Last year, EdNC started the work to deepen our understanding of all 100 counties in North Carolina. We’ve visited 86 so far. Policy Analyst Katie Dukes created five travel diaries about her time in several counties. You can read the collection here

Gaston College, Catawba Valley,  N.C. State University, and the Honduran-based Central American Technological University are working together to offer textile degrees to students in Honduras

As of last week, the Dare campus of College of the Albemarle is now in one location.

Enrollment in Central Piedmont’s Culinary Arts Program is up – making it the largest incoming class in a decade.

Centro Unido Latino Americano (CULA) partnered with Isothermal Community College to bring the Office of the Consulate General of Mexico to the college. The consulate was on the campus of Isothermal recently to assist documented Mexican citizens with issues related to their home country. 

Catawba Valley will host a series of events in September on addiction and recovery. September is National Recovery Month.

There’s still time to register for the following events:

Other higher education reads

Cautiously optimistic about enrollments

Anecdotal reports from some community colleges across the country show hopeful signs that perhaps draconian drops in enrollment during the Covid pandemic may be coming to an end.”

This piece from Community College Daily highlights ways community colleges across the country have adapted the way they engage with students in an effort to enroll and retain. 

Some of those solutions include: 24/7 chatbots, offering and advertising free public transportation, students using QR codes to drop into a Zoom room, hiring additional enrollment staff, and more.  

Read the full story here. 

‘Leave your culture and assumptions at the door’

Open Campus reporter Charlotte West highlights the work of two incarcerated writers who offer a guide for working with students in American prisons.  

The guide details five cultural foundations that educators working with prisoners should know about – with advice spread throughout.  

A few “travel tips” as writers Nick Hacheney and Tomas Keen call them: 

  • Leave your culture and assumptions at the door.
  • Take the time to learn this culture. Sit with incarcerated people who live here and are doing the work day in and day out. 
  • Understand that when you come to a visiting room or a prison classroom you are in a tourist trap. You will hear stories and have a better idea than most, but you will not see us in our cages or experience the violence and madness that are part of our daily lives.

Read more here.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.