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Here's how colleges can support LGBTQ+ and veteran students

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 weekly.  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.

We explore how some community colleges support veterans, which make up 5% of the student population nationwide, as well as LGBTQ+ students… The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs visited North Carolina last week

Last week, Emily Thomas and I hit the road to visit Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba counties alongside a team from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. We visited Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute and Western Piedmont Community College on Thursday, held a community dinner that evening, and on Friday, we spent time with the Catawba Valley Community College team visiting multiple spots across their service area.

The importance of collaboration for community colleges was a common theme of the visits. We met with industry partners, local government leaders, and students who spoke of the importance of community colleges in meeting both the present needs of their community — and providing the groundwork for the future of the region.

Emily and I would like to express our gratitude to each of the colleges for hosting us. We both grew up in the Unifour region, and it was great to be home for a moment. Stay tuned for more from our visit.

We have published two pieces in the last week that look at the resources and supports community colleges across the state are offering to serve both LGBTQ+ students and veterans. Marbeth Holmes, the dean of student success at Nash Community College, offered up a statement in the LGBTQ+ guide that could serve as an important message for college leaders considering how to serve any student: “Students are not going to academically succeed in an environment where they don’t feel accepted, elevated, and supported. That’s our primary goal: For students to be successful. And for Nash to be an accepting, validating, supportive institution of higher learning.”

Hannah McClellan’s veteran-focused piece zeroed in on the importance of institutions serving the veteran population well: “Nearly 5% of students at public community colleges are veterans, according to a 2019 report from the American Association of Community Colleges. Military veterans are more likely to complete postsecondary programs than their non-veteran peers, a 2018 report by Veterans Education Success found, but tend to take longer to do so.”

You can find the LGBTQ+ piece here. You will find the veteran-focused piece here.

As we discuss supports for students, we are also curious about work underway from both our communities and our community colleges around transportation in rural communities. We know transportation issues (ranging from cars breaking down for our students to a lack of public transportation) often serve as barriers for students. If you know of any innovative efforts underway in our regional communities, please let us know by replying directly to this email.

Thank you for reading Awake58 this week! We will be pausing the newsletter for a summer break in July. Our team will be reporting live from the July State Board of Community Colleges meeting, and you can access their reporting via Twitter at @Awake58NC and through our website at I hope that you all have a great summer.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

Helping veterans succeed at N.C. community colleges

North Carolina has a rich military history. We have numerous military installations and a large population of both active and retired members of the military. As community colleges and four-year colleges alike work to better serve adult learners, we published a piece last week looking at what a few community colleges are doing to serve veterans specifically.

As Hannah’s piece noted, 5% of community college students nationally are veterans. The data also show they tend to complete at a higher level than non-veterans. Hannah spoke with several college leaders about the differences in serving this population:

“Your veteran and military affiliated students typically retain better and they graduate at higher rates. So they’re really strong students,” said Servi-Roberts, the director of Veterans Upward Bound and Military Affiliated Initiatives. “Sometimes when the other students in the class are not so focused, or don’t take it as seriously or don’t respect authority, that can be distracting or frustrating.

“And then just transitioning from military life, where everything is very scheduled and now you’re making decisions about how your time is allotted – adjusting to that can be challenging,” she added. “Just being in a class where you don’t feel like anybody really shares the same life experiences that you do is challenging as well.”

Managing transitions, training staff, and communicating frequently about additional resources provided for veterans were among the bright spots Hannah’s reporting identified. Give the full piece a read by clicking here.

‘You belong here’: N.C. community colleges strengthen LGBTQ+ resources

In recent years, higher education institutions across the country have begun to embrace the need to provide additional supports and resources for LGBTQ+ students. My colleague Hannah’s piece sets the tone for why this matters, while also showcasing what some community colleges have implemented:

Many LGBTQ+ people, but youth in particular, struggle with mental health due to discrimination or a lack of support. But LGBTQ+ youth ages 13-24 report significantly lower rates of attempting suicide when their school or community is accepting of LGBTQ+ people, ​​according to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.

Community colleges across North Carolina are increasingly working to provide specific support for LGBTQ+ students and faculty. Many campuses are providing training, aid to LGBTQ+ students, and promoting LGBTQ+ affinity clubs and spaces on campus.

At Nash Community College, the school’s Culture of Blue Love student program is a large part of caring for all students, said Marbeth Holmes, the college’s dean of student success. Started in 2014, the program offers aid to students, as well as a variety of wellness and academic assistance programs. The college’s student wellness center provides specific resources for LGBTQ+ students, Holmes said. The college’s entire success network team completes Safe Zone training. Such training introduces participants to topics like sexual orientation and gender identity. People who complete the program receive a placard or pin which visibly identifies them as allies.

Her piece takes a look at trainings and supports offered by the system office, targeted training on a campus-by-campus basis, student-affinity groups, and more.

Adam Wade, director of admissions at Central Carolina Community College, explained his perspective on the importance of this work:

“In a time where everyone is concerned about our enrollment and wanting to ensure that we are educating students to enter career pipelines in our communities, shouldn’t we be considering how we support every single student that walks through our door?” he said. “As we think about the why, and the reasoning behind a Safe Zone Program, or LGBTQ supports, it’s wanting to create that sense of belonging: you belong here, we support you, and we want you to be successful.”

For Hannah’s article, click here. We would love to know more about your local college’s work supporting LGBTQ+ students. Please feel free to reply directly to this email with your lessons.

White House initiative on HBCUs visits the NC10

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities visited several members of the NC10 last week, including Bennett College and North Carolina Central University.

The NC10 represents the 10 HBCU institutions in North Carolina. Here’s a look at the process to build the NC10 coalition:

While the NC10 share a common heritage, the public and private institutions are small and large, rural and urban, religious and secular, independently established and land grant.

A little more than a year ago, CREED, under (James) Ford’s leadership — along with the Hunt InstitutemyFutureNC, and EducationNC — engaged the HBCUs individually and collectively to listen to them and assess challenges and opportunities going forward.

This report, “Fertile Ground: The Stories of North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” documents the history of each of the 10 through present day.

From April to August 2021, on-site campus visits were held at all 10 HBCUs. Ten points of interest emerged: institutional assets, windows of opportunity, faculty and staff, governing structure, infrastructure, student population and experiences, evaluation and metrics, COVID-19, funding, and structural racism. Following the visits, these recommendations were issued by CREED.

For Mebane Rash’s full write-up of the visit, click here.

This tour came on the heels of a report from WUNC regarding North Carolina’s HBCUs offering free summer classes to assist their students. For more details, click here.

Around NC

Some news on college and school safety: “In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, state officials have ordered members of various North Carolina law enforcement divisions to perform safety checks at public schools and community colleges around the state.”

Ferrel Guillory wrote a Perspective on early colleges for EdNC last week: “Research from SERVE at UNC-Greensboro had shown positive payoff from early colleges — higher ACT scores, higher class attendance, lower suspension and drop-out rates, and higher enrollment in four-year universities. The most recent evaluations come from a set of papers by Douglas Lee Lauen, a UNC-Chapel Hill professor of public policy and sociology, along with colleagues at UNC and RAND Corporation, who drew data from all early colleges in North Carolina.”

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College’s Second Chance Pell program was spotlighted by local media recently. The program allows justice-involved individuals to have an opportunity to leave incarceration with a two-year degree.

Carteret Community College announced a new partnership with UNC-Wilmington focusing on a social work degree.

Central Carolina Community College received a nearly half-million dollar investment in their trucking program.

Cleveland Community College will add basketball and volleyball to their athletics offerings soon. They will also offer eSports soon.

Craven Community College will add new cybersecurity programs for the fall.

Guilford Technical Community College received a significant budget allocation from their local county commissioners in the just-approved county budget.

Lenoir Community College’s short-term workforce development programs were featured by the local media as the region works on their job market. The college’s online Emergency Management program was also just rated #1 in the country.

Pitt Community College hosted a re-entry simulation recently to showcase the challenges for justice-involved individuals.

Richmond Community College will partner with Hendrick Automotive to launch the Hendrick Center for Automotive Training.

Wilkes Community College’s focus on social mobility was featured in a profile from Higher Ed Works recently.

Other higher education reads

Here’s a closer look at which stopped-out students are re-enrolling in college

As North Carolina’s colleges have begun to reemphasize adult learners, students who stopped out at some point in their educational journey are a priority. Higher Ed Dive has an article out now looking at the characteristics of students who have re-enrolled. They pulled data along racial and ethnic lines, gender, and age to show who is re-enrolling in an effort to showcase opportunities for other institutions.

Opportunities in a workforce crisis

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh recently testified about the potential around apprenticeships and workforce. One key passage: “The workforce upheaval brought on by the Covid pandemic and subsequent challenges is an opportunity to upskill or teach workers skills needed for a new career path, Walsh said at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on Tuesday. The Biden administration sees registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships as a key component of its workforce development strategy, he said, noting the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget request seeks $303 million for apprenticeships.”

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.