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Let your conscience be your guide: A visit to Southeastern Community College

“Let your conscience be your guide”

Jiminy Cricket may have first said it to Pinocchio when he was trying to wade the waters of life and become a real boy in the classic Disney movie, but it is also a major theme at Southeastern Community College’s nursing program.

Amber Ward, a former nursing student, says she even dons a small cricket pin on the scrubs she wears at her new job. This little reminder is a way she stays connected to her training and her influential instructor, Kim Fine, director of nursing at Southeastern.

Ward explains, when it comes to nursing it’s not just about doing the work, it’s about being an advocate for your patient. “If you don’t have the heart and desire to do it, you will not be successful in this field.”

Current and past students with nursing instructors at Southeastern Community College. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

‘There is a lot of knowledge in these little rooms’

Chartered in 1964, Southeastern Community College is comprised of 246 acres in Columbus County. Named Southeastern originally because it was the primary community college serving the region, it continues to provide quality education to the community at large. Whether it be high school students looking to get a head start on their higher education or those already in the workforce looking for more certifications, Southeastern has a place for them.

Ward was a teacher for four years and found it wasn’t a perfect fit. A self described people person, she was looking for something different. She started the night and weekend nursing program at Southeastern and is now employed as an emergency department RN. She said at Southeastern, you are never just a number. Her instructors were her mentors and were instrumental in helping “spread her wings” and find her passion.

“They want the best for you,” Ward said.

’30 minutes after I left I had a job’

In May of 2017, Southeastern started meeting with 10 regional employers and began with a simple question, “What do you need in an employee?” The conversation opened up a dialogue and armed Southeastern with the skills and competencies each employer was seeking. These series of meetings turned into pathways, both for degree-seeking students, the electrical and mechatronics engineering technology programs, as well continuing education students. Both of these pathways fall under the Career and College Promise programs. 

Garrett Brown is in the mechatronics engineering technology program and in his last semester of school at Southeastern. The community college is focusing on internships so students can get hands-on, paid experience. Hear about Garrett’s experience receiving a Duke Energy internship. 

When discussing challenges at Southeastern Community College, President Anthony Clarke said, “People don’t realize the opportunities available.”  Along with multiple pathway options, there is an NCWorks Career Center located on campus to help students move swiftly down the education to workforce pipeline. This one-stop shop helps students connect to employers and industries to job seekers. It is a win-win for everyone. 

Southeastern prides itself on its willingness to work with local industry to get community members in well-paying jobs. The college will coordinate with local businesses for curriculum and develop short-term training programs, some of them eight to 12 hours, to prepare potential workers for entry-level positions. These programs are all developed around the needs of each individual employer, covering anything from basic and technical skills for manufacturing jobs to soft skills like phone etiquette, team work, and communication. Some companies now depend on Southeastern for a pre-hire class. If an applicant comes in looking for a job, the company sends them to the community college for a short class before they can move on in the interview process. 

Partnerships are how Southeastern develops and helps the community thrive. Those partnerships are not limited to the manufacturing sector but also include healthcare. Pharmacist Brian Jenkins at Columbus Regional works with the pharmacy technician program at Southeastern and explains, “We have partnered with Southeastern since the inception of the program … We need this program, and I don’t see it going away.”

Southeastern Community College’s strength lies in its eagerness to work with the region it serves. Exploring new avenues to educate and employ students while helping the community boost economic development, Southeastern is doing everything it can to foster success.  

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is a multimedia storyteller for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, and STEM education.