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Central Carolina creates a ‘student first’ approach

Central Carolina Community College stresses a “student centered” approach to education, according to President T. Eston Marchant. In their 2015-2019 strategic plan, the top three goals are learning first, student access, and student success.

With the opening of a new Health Sciences and Veterinarian Medical Technician building, the college is creating opportunities for student success. “Community colleges always have to be retooling,” Marchant said. 

While faculty and staff are excited about the new space, they share just as much enthusiasm about the many programs the college has to create a student-centered approach for students from high school to military veterans.

Cats in the new veterinarian building are taken from high-kill shelters and are housed until adopted. Bryan Noreen/EducationNC 

College counselors in high schools

Community colleges around the state are embedding counselors within their local high schools as a way to promote the college and create opportunities for dual enrollment.

“We were actually the first college to actually independently embed counselors into the high schools. With both public funds and privately raised funds, we hired counselors,” said Dr. Marchant.

Dual enrollment at the college has increased from 600 to over 2,000 since 2014, according to Marchant. You can hear him speak more on that in the video below. 

Addressing trauma and building resilience

Just this year, the college began focusing on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The college is one of just a handful of community colleges — and the only community college in North Carolina — involved in a Harvard-led association called the Resilience Consortium. Through the Consortium, the college looks to develop a trauma-informed approach for faculty.

“Research has demonstrated that as the number of these traumatic childhood experiences increases, so does their likelihood to experience physical illness, mental illness, and behavior or learning issues throughout his or her life,” said Dr. Linda Scuiletti, vice president of assessment, planning and research at Central Carolina. 

Every department head at the school has watched documentaries to increase awareness of ACEs and the effects they can have on learning.

“CCCC’s initiative is about hope. The research also shows that the damage done may be mitigated or reversed. There are relatively simple ways to counter the toxic stress and help students build resilience so that they can achieve academic success as a foundation for healthy, happy lives.” said Scuiletti. 

“The key to our approach is to recognize that every struggling student needs the presence of a stable, caring, non-judgmental adult, and that college faculty and staff can provide this,” Scuiletti added. “Those faculty and staff who themselves have experienced high ACEs can be (and of course already are) beacons of hope for our students and role models of the resilience we want to help them build.”

Since joining the Consortium, Central Carolina has polled faculty and staff, held film screenings, and met with interested community partners. They also have plans to send four faculty and staff members to the Harvard-sponsored Resilience Symposium. 

“The ACEs concept is powerfully moving but also emotionally difficult territory for many faculty and staff,” Scuiletti said. “Our initiative will require a profound shift of culture and mindset … from thinking ‘What’s wrong with that kid?’ to ‘What happened to that kid?’ when it comes to our view of many types of challenging students and learning situations.”

Students walk between classes on the Central Carolina Community College campus. Bryan Noreen/EducationNC

Helping veterans graduate

Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) is a national program to assist veterans from the application process all the way through graduation. Central Carolina offers counselors, refresher classes, activities, and monthly stipends through the program.

VUB is in its sixth year at Central Carolina and has 125 participants with roughly 40 new participants each year. For eligibility, applicants must be low-income, first-generation college students. The program is for veterans in Lee, Harnett, Johnston, Chatham, and Wake county. Central Carolina has the first and only VUB program in the state of North Carolina. 

Former director Timothy Peedin shares, “We know what veterans need, we know what their experiences are, and we know where they want to go. We want to get them where they want to be. The program benefits veterans by offering those prerequisite courses for college entrance.”

Students practicing in the Central Carolina Dental Hygiene program in the new Health Sciences building. Bryan Noreen/EducationNC

Continuing student centered growth

Every room in the new Health Sciences building has been designed to increase student participation and experience. Currently, new equipment continues to funnel into the space which will allow for additional students and programs. While Marchant claims his biggest challenge is finding funding for these projects, he also understand the importance. 

“Training for the jobs of the future is not cheap,” Marchant said. “We want to have the latest equipment and the best professors. In the long run, the benefit to the state of North Carolina is immeasurable. You give these people skills that will allow them to go out and live a good life.”