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Helping Opportunity Youth 'find a pathway to prosperity'

A note from us

Nation here with another edition of Awake58. If you missed the last edition of Awake58 featuring our annual impact survey and the most recent State Board of Community Colleges recap, you may find it on our website.

The NC Next scholarship was recently unveiled… NC Impact hosted the Opportunity Summit last week… James Sprunt Community College and ECU hosted an event aimed at reaching prospective students… We published four perspectives from the Dallas Herring Lecture… Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross is retiring…

Alli and I attended the Carolina Across 100 summit last week focused on Opportunity Youth. N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) President Dr. Jeff Cox was one of the speakers who kicked off the event. We had a chance to catch up with him to discuss why strategies focusing on Opportunity Youth are essential for community colleges moving forward.

“We have to do a better job of engaging that population and helping them find a pathway to prosperity through a community college,” Cox said. “We know that they’re going to need some sort of postsecondary degree or credential to be able to really improve their social and economic mobility. We have to be the bridge for them to a better future.”

Cox went on to share that the system and state must examine why many students do not see community college or four-year universities as a viable opportunity right now… One significant opportunity for the state moving forward is to better explain the FAFSA with the introduction of the simplified form — and how the FAFSA, Pell Grants, and scholarships work together. Cox said he believes the messaging for prospective students must also focus on how flexible and fast short-term credentialing programs can be.

Our write-up is available now.

We published a number of perspectives from the Dallas Herring Lecture last week. All of the speeches were thought provoking. Durham Technical Community College President JB Buxton made this point that is worth remembering as we think about education in North Carolina moving forward:

Our state has one of this country’s great mottos: Esse Quam VideriTo Be Rather Than to Seem.

As an educator, I have always loved this motto because it speaks directly to our history in public education: we created the nation’s first public university at the close of the 18th century; in the 1930s we were the only state to keep the schoolhouse doors open throughout the Great Depression; we created one of the nation’s most comprehensive community college systems in  the 1960s; in the late 1990s we dared to become First in America in public education; and in the  opening decade of the 21st century we built the greatest statewide system of early college high schools in America.

As North Carolinians, educational leadership and innovation is our birthright. Since 1793, we have prized being over seeming in the pursuit of educational excellence.

As a North Carolinian, listening to Dr. Williams I hear an implicit call to assess how well our community colleges live up to our state motto. She has provided a clear-eyed challenge to be not just agents of change, but continuous change institutions – committed to a spirit of transformation; a willingness to set big goals and make course corrections, a dare to be extraordinary.

I would love to hear from you about what it would mean for your local community colleges to serve as continuous change agents as Buxton shared in his remarks.

Thank you for reading Awake58 this week. We appreciate your ongoing readership!

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Chief of Growth —

EdNC reads

Carolina Across 100 celebrates the progress of opportunity youth

Opportunity Youth have been discussed at length in recent years as awareness has grown around the need to reengage 16-24 year olds who have disconnected from both work and school. As one community college president told me earlier in the year, apathy from high school graduates might be community colleges’ greatest competition for enrollment.

Last week we attended a summit focused on Opportunity Youth. Here is an excerpt from our story:

When Donisha Armstrong was a teenager, she dropped out of high school.

“I was totally headed down the wrong path,” she said.

Like many youth from lower income families, Armstrong felt the need to choose between school and work. She needed the money, so she chose work.

Now, with the support of “Our State, Our Work,” an initiative of Carolina Across 100, she is back in school pursuing her GED at Wayne Community College.

The catalyst for Armstrong’s re-enrollment was her infant daughter.Upon finding out she was pregnant, she knew she wanted something more for herself and her growing family.

“I can’t tell her to get something I don’t have,” said Armstrong.

We have more details on the initiative and the Opportunity Youth landscape in this article from Alli and I.

Event at James Sprunt Community College connects students to college resources

“Let’s Connect,” a pilot program from ECU, is a partnership with community colleges meant to inform local students of opportunities at both ECU and their local community college.

Laura has the story:

James Sprunt Community College is located in rural Duplin County, which has a significant Hispanic and Latino population – 23.9% of its residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent U.S. Census. To make the event more accessible for students and their families, the event was bilingual.

“A collaboration like this is something big. It’s huge, especially when they’re doing it in Spanish and English, so that the parents know, because it’s a family affair,” said Flor Juarez Diaz, director of James Sprunt Community College’s Centro Educativo Latino.

This event is one way that some community colleges in North Carolina are working to better serve Latinx populations. Lenoir, James Sprunt, Wayne, and Sampson community colleges each received $250,000 from the Anonymous Trust to provide recruitment, training, and support for Latinx students.

Accessibility remains critical, especially in rural communities like Duplin County, Carraway said, and bringing ECU representatives and college information to students in their own communities is beneficial to take away the potential burden of travel.

Additional details on the event can be found on our website.

New scholarship makes more financial aid available for North Carolinian college-goers

Chantal Brown covers the news around NC Next:

A new Next NC Scholarship announced this week awards full tuition and fees to students attending any of the state’s 58 community colleges. More than half of the costs can be covered for students attending the 16 public universities within the University of North Carolina system.

“Affordability is the number one issue for students and families considering college, and this scholarship will help keep a life-changing education within reach,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “The Next NC Scholarship builds on North Carolina’s long tradition of low college costs and strong financial aid. We’re fortunate to live in a state with such consistent, bipartisan support for higher education.”

The Next NC Scholarship combines the federal Pell Grant with state-funded financial aid into one scholarship award.

Our website has the full list of scholarship requirements.

Dallas Herring Lecture concludes

We published the Belk Center’s AJ Jaeger’s perspective on the Dallas Herring Lecture — and the full text of all three speeches — last week.

You will find an excerpt from each speech below. I encourage you to read them in full. They are thought provoking.

Perspective | Community college leaders dared to ‘be extraordinary’ at 2023 Dallas Herring Lecture, by AJ Jaeger

Change is nothing if not disruptive. In higher education, especially, change tends to disturb our foundations, sharpen our weaknesses and accentuate systemic inequities. Whether it’s economic volatility or an unprecedented pandemic, change can leave our institutions, our leadership teams, and most importantly, our students, vulnerable.

What we often fail to realize, though, is that change gives us a choice. Will we sit back and hope for the best? Will we surrender in defeat and accept the inevitable? Will we focus on damage control and maintaining the status quo? Or will we seize the opportunity handed to us to drive long-lasting transformation?

Charting the path to extraordinary: The power of community college leadership, by Falecia Williams

In the face of challenges confronting community colleges, I see this moment as an opportunity for innovation. Rather than merely seeking stability or clinging to the past, we have a unique chance to guide our institutions toward increased viability and vitality. As we navigate the evolving landscape of leadership in community colleges, we stand on the brink of remarkable transformation, requiring our unwavering attention and a response characterized by boldness, balance, and poise.

Perspective | The importance of a rural community college response, by Shelley White

Our rural community colleges are leaders within the community; we are economic engines and workforce development powerhouses. We are also the hubs of our communities. Our campus not only serves as “Haywood’s College,” — educating first responders, nurses, early childhood teachers, foresters, construction workers and many others — we also provide a place for community resources and gathering. We operate a 5-star Early Learning Center, hold frequent art exhibits from our professional crafts programs, offer a popular 18-hole disc golf course, and an expanded 3.5-mile hiking trail throughout our beautiful campus arboretum. Every one of our rural colleges serve as anchor institutions for their communities, providing after school clubs, event venues, sports teams, recreation, and the list goes on.

Small rural colleges must be well-equipped to remain ready to respond. How we are equipped today will determine our ability to respond tomorrow. Did I know during the years of the pandemic, as we navigated the challenges of simply operating and managed through declining enrollment and funding, that we would be faced with the largest single plant closure in our region’s history? Of course not. But I knew we needed to remain true to our mission and ready to respond. We worked throughout those years of pandemic uncertainty to safeguard operations, programs, and facilities and carve out resources for new technologies, innovative programs and engagement activities.  Despite the challenges faced through the pandemic, HCC was ready to respond.

Perspective | An urban college’s role in living out community colleges’ DNA, by JB Buxton

The four questions I suggest we continually ask ourselves — Is our community truly reflected in our college? Do we inspect what we expect? Where do we need to make more of an impact? And, where are our peers indispensable to our success? — are meant to inspire introspection, not proclaim prescriptions. They are intended to answer Dr Williams’s call to lead with courage and transformational power, and to be equal to the determination of our students and the needs of our communities.

It is our challenge to ensure the romance of the community college is in fact the reality. Because in the end — after all the speechifying — what speaks last and loudest is not what we say we are, but what the success of our students and communities reveals us to be. And defines if we are living into the institutional inheritance bequeathed to us as our communities’ colleges. Esse quam videri.

And ICYMI, here is EdNC’s write-up on the lecture.

Around NC

The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges’ Personnel committee will meet on Dec. 8, beginning at 11:00 a.m. You can view the agenda here. The meeting will be livestreamed on the NCCCS YouTube channel.

This is a reminder that the North Carolina Community College Journal of Teaching Innovation (NCCCJTI) is still accepting manuscripts for its journal, due Dec. 8. To learn more about the journal, the editorial staff, submission requirements, or to access articles individually, visit the NCCCJTI website.

From our colleagues at the Institute of Emerging Issues:

The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State University invites you to Weathering Financial Storms, the 2024 Emerging Issues Forum, on February 13 in Raleigh at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center.

The 2024 Emerging Issues Forum will examine financial resilience: the ability to financially withstand and recover from economic challenges. It will offer best practices and actions that can be taken by households, policymakers, financial institutions, employers, and others. The forum will also showcase real-world efforts to strengthen the financial resilience of all North Carolina households and the communities in which they live.

Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross announced his retirement in order to focus on assisting his wife as she battles liver cancer. We appreciate Dr. Ross reaching out to us with his news.

Robeson Community College recently announced a 100% pass rate for its nurse aide program.

South Piedmont Community College and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University recently announced a new agreement that will guarantee qualified South Piedmont graduates with admission to N.C. A&T’s bachelor of science in criminal justice program.

N.C. Central University recently expanded a partnership with Durham Technical Community College — Eagle Connect — guaranteeing admission to N.C. Central for eligible transfer students.

Other higher education reads

Digital efforts yield enrollment boost: A success story

As your college considers their own enrollment and marketing strategy, Community College Daily highlights an example from North Iowa Area Community College’s strategy:

Now, the pièce de résistance: Targeted. Digital. Ads. These used the same website and rack card graphics, providing consistency in messaging and driving home the key program information and calls to action.

The marketing team focused on potential students ages 18 to 34 who live in NIACC’s nine-county area. The team placed social media advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and Twitch. The results were unexpected: Those between ages 25 and 34 had the highest number of interactions or clicks, with ages 18 to 24 coming in second.

The team also tried an additional digital component for the agriculture program, which is popular at the Iowa school. It geo-fenced agriculture digital ads within one mile of each county fair for the duration of each fair throughout the summer fair season.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.