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Remembering Darrin Hartness

A note from us

Hi, Nation here with this week’s edition of Awake58. If you missed our last newsletter featuring a discussion on strategic goals for NCCCS President Jeff Cox, you may find it by clicking here.

Davidson-Davie Community College President Darrin Hartness passed away last week… The State Board of Community Colleges has a significant meeting coming up this week… And, a guide on applying for National Science Foundation grants…

Last week I received a text from a friend that no one wants to receive.

“Did you hear about Darrin?”

The next text confirmed the news. Davidson-Davie Community College President Darrin Hartness had passed away. Darrin spent his adult life working in education across the state. EdNC first met Darrin while he was serving as the superintendent of Davie County Schools. He was known for his commitment to service, his empathy, and his dedication to supporting all of his students on their educational journeys.

I first met Darrin in 2019 during a visit to Davidson-Davie Community College. He was a relatively new president at the time — and he was clearly proud to show us the ins and outs of the campus. But the most memorable part of our visit also showed his resilience.

Storm clouds were rolling in as we moved through campus. And then a tornado warning blared.

Mebane captured the moment beautifully in her recap of our visit:

“I just had the best year of my life,” says President Darrin Hartness, just before the tornado warnings start to blare. Community colleges are known for getting students through the storms of life — and DCCC’s mascot is the “Storm” — but Hartness and his team were super calm as real storms swirled all too close for comfort. Leadership matters.

More recently, MC Belk Pilon recounted our visit in an article that we worked on to document Darrin’s leadership:

“We first met Darrin on a campus tour of Davidson-Davie Community College. Our visit was interrupted by a series of tornado warnings that required us to take shelter. I’ll never forget how unshakeable Darrin was as he led us through a conversation about the important work of the college while sirens blared through campus. It was just one example of the courageous leadership style that he has brought to Davidson and Davie counties as president of their community college — and as a Superintendent before this current role. … We’ve had the opportunity to see Darrin’s leadership play out as his college is now part of NC Reconnect initiative. Darrin and his team have built a culture that is student-centered and focused on better engaging and supporting Adult Leaners. We are excited to see what the future holds for the college and the community it serves.”

It was quite the beginning to our relationship with Darrin as a college president.

The last time I saw Darrin face-to-face was last October. We convened a group of college leaders to discuss the role of community colleges in the future of healthcare workforce. I mostly remember Darrin sitting quietly and taking notes, until he spoke up regarding Davidson-Davie’s health care apprenticeship models. The people in the room realized his college was pioneering a solution we all needed to hear more about as we pondered the future of the health care workforce in our state.

The last time we spoke was when I called Darrin up as we worked on our March article on his leadership and career. He initially admitted that he was afraid people would read it as a premature obituary, but he also expressed pride in the many recollections his peers and others had shared from across the state. After a few hours, he called me back and shared that he was proud of the work he and his team had accomplished. He went on to say that understood his privilege to have a team that would carry the work forward when he needed to be away for his medical appointments — and that he hoped our article would showcase all of their work.

As we wrapped up the call, he told me that was determined to keep the faith and remain hopeful in spite of all of the challenges. He sounded at peace as he reflected on how blessed he felt.

I hope that we will all remember his determination to keep the faith, his dedication to student success for all students, and his ability to remain hopeful in the face of profound challenges. Those lessons are important for us all.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Chief of Growth,

EdNC reads

A guide to applying for National Science Foundation grants

For colleges, applying for grants can be a daunting task. It’s labor-intensive and can take months to gather information for particular applications. And the grant process for smaller institutions is often more complex due to limited capacity and resources.

Since the 1950s, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested funds to help America’s colleges and universities bolster research that promotes the progress of science and engineering. The independent federal agency provides grants to institutions for basic research and “solutions-oriented research with the potential to produce advancements for the American people.”

Some focus areas for these grants include biology, technology, engineering, and diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to name a few.

In this EdExplainer, we offer tips and guidance for community colleges seeking to apply for NSF grants, as well as other federal grant programs. We cover what NSF grants are, how to find grant opportunities, how to start the grant application process, and ideas for leveraging resources and partnerships.

This is a great resource — and we hope that you will share it with your local development directors, foundation leaders, and other staff.

Click here for more

‘Si, se puede’: N.C. community college celebrates with bilingual graduation

Lenoir Community College’s (LCC) Centro Educativo Latino celebrated 302 of its continuing education students with a bilingual graduation in June, which included about 250 Latino graduates.

More than 1,000 people gathered for the occasion, donning their Sunday best, flower bouquets, and celebratory balloons and posters. The auditorium was filled with cries of “Arriba!” – which literally translates to “up,” but colloquially means something like, “Let’s go!” – as the graduate procession filed inside.

Hannah’s article captures the beauty of community college graduations and celebrations. Read the full article here.

We have two more articles coming out in the weeks ahead outlining recent graduations. I had the privilege of speaking at James Sprunt Community College’s graduation this May and I can tell you that the joy flowing from graduates and their families is infectious.

In Wilkes County, child care is ‘a community problem.’ Leaders are working on community solutions

The child care study, which was released by the Wilkes Economic Development Corporation (EDC), found that the county needs 836 more child care seats for children younger than five years old, almost double its current capacity of 909 seats.

The study estimated that based on the number of parents who are not currently working and the percentage of those who desire to be, offering adequate child care access in the county would add 1,000 individuals to the labor force. Wilkes EDC is communicating that figure to local businesses. The county’s labor force participation has declined from 61% in 2007 to 52% in 2021.

“It’s definitely an employer problem,” said LeeAnn Nixon, president of Wilkes EDC.

That’s why one of the study’s main recommendations is to engage the business community, both as a source of funding and as a source of training and support for new and existing providers.

“We wanted to understand the business model of the child care provider,” Nixon said. “The more we can understand that, the more we find ways to help them with resources and training.”

This was spotlighted in Early Bird. You can subscribe to our early childhood-focused newsletter by clicking here.

Around NC

The State Board of Community Colleges will meet this Thursday and Friday. You can find the agenda here. Emily will be there reporting. Look for her recap next week.

From EdDaily: HEADS UP WESTERN NC | To make out-of-school-time experiences more accessible and meet the needs of the youth and families in communities across the region, Dogwood Health Trust is launching the WNC After 3pm initiative. Alongside a landscape analysis of out-of-school time, Dogwood is requesting proposals from nonprofit organizations, government agencies, education institutions and others who serve the Qualla Boundary and our 18-county service region in Western North Carolina and are looking to expand out-of-school-time programming. Online applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 24, 2023. If you have any questions, you can review the WNC After 3 p.m. one-pager.

ICYMI, we published several articles over the course of our newsletter break, including:

Both are important reads that I hope you will spend time with today. We will be doing more reporting on the changing FAFSA in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

Business NC recently spotlighted the Extra Miles Tour from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Many colleges across the state have hosted the Blue Cross NC team. Note this remark from Blue Cross CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde: “Community colleges play an essential role in training nurses, medical assistants, EMS workers and other health care occupations. The good news is we have one of the largest community college systems in the country. We ought to strengthen it.”

Brunswick Community College announced the appointment of Dr. Kevin Lee to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Commission on Student Success, in a recent release.

Cape Fear Community College will host interactive program information sessions soon for prospective students. In other news, former Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter will be performing at CFCC’s Wilson Center this October, according to a release from the college.

Carteret Community College is formally kicking off their 60th year with a number of celebrations. Our thanks to Carteret President Tracy Mancini for letting us know!

Durham Technical Community College announced a partnership with Duke University to combat the nursing shortage. Details can be found by clicking here. Among the tenets of the relationship: “Duke nurses will serve as faculty at Durham Technical, participating in clinical instruction. The health system will also provide funding and share simulation and nurse aide training resources with the college.”

Isothermal Community College was one of five groups chosen by the Institute for Emerging Issues as part of their cohort focused on boosting educational attainment. Check out their profile from IEI here.

Surry Community College has produced a number of spotlights on their programming recently, including:

Wilkes Community College is formally kicking off their search process for the next college president — including surveying the community, faculty and staff, and key stakeholders.

Other higher education reads

Five community colleges tweak their offerings to match the local job market

We will admit to being biased because EdNC’s own Analisa Sorrells contributed to the book cited in this article, but I wanted to spotlight this excerpt from Hechinger Report regarding five community colleges that working to match their offerings to local job markets.

Community colleges should think of their role as setting up, not only lifelong learners, but lifelong successful employees, who “can easily see and seamlessly move through both their education and work experience.”

At Lorain County Community College, leaders have established partners with 30 companies in the advanced manufacturing industry alone in order to better serve students and help employers ensure they will have a steady pipeline of trained workers, Ballinger said.

In the micro-electromechanical systems programs, students can participate in “earn-and-learn” programs, allowing them to work part-time in a local business and go to school, make money, get job experience, and earn credits toward their degree or certificate.

Some employers that the college partners with will pay for their workers to study micro-electromechanical systems at Lorain, Ballinger said. Others participate in the college’s “earn-and-learn” program, which allows students to be exposed to different employers, understand the work they will be doing, and still come to school two days a week.

Many students have to work, so it allows them to get paid for the work they are learning to do, get work experience in the field, and be exposed to different regional employers.

“That became their employment as well as their education, so that they could blend it together,” Ballinger said. “Connection to the employer, it shouldn’t be thought of as after the fact.”

Read more here.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.