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Robeson Community College: ‘A college of the community’

“From the day your certificate changes from EMT to paramedic, you have to be ready for a situation like this,” says recent graduate Jordan Deese at Robeson Community College.  He is in his old class, Cardiology II, with his old teacher, Toby Carter, talking to a new group of students about what happened to him last weekend in his job as a paramedic.

He comes to his old classroom with xeroxed copies of a monitor from a patient who went into cardiac arrest in his care. Using the knowledge from this class and this teacher, Deese delivered the patient safely to the hospital. It was a unique case that kept changing and required a precise diagnosis and quick decision making.

“Every time that there is a change, reassessing your patient is key because it can look the same on a monitor and then be something different, and that changes your treatment completely,” said Deese.   

How did Carter come to learn of his student’s experience this past weekend? Deese texted him. They have a great relationship that carried on past graduation. This is more than just a recent student sharing real world success to a new class; it shows the bond of teachers and students at Robeson Community College.   

John Deese and Toby Carter at Robeson Community College. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

Students at Robeson’s Early College echoed this sentiment, saying, “Faculty really care about the students.” The robotics team spoke about how they liked the student-to-teacher ratio and size of the school. One member believes the size helped her gain more confidence.  

It isn’t just the students who like the small student-teacher ratio either. John Allen, science teacher and robotics sponsor, said, “Another perk from a teacher’s perspective is just the small class sizes and just literally the ability to form the relationships with the students. It’s just such a tight knit group…They refer to it a lot as a family, and it truly is.” 

Touring Robeson Community College, it was apparent how important not just student-teacher relationships are, but also school- community relationships. William Locklear, assistant vice president for the Applied Technology Programs, collaborates with other community colleges on grants for similar programs and works in conjunction with outside industry on the initiative Robeson Technical Works.

The initiative began when industry in the area saw a shortage of technicians and found it was fighting over limited qualified candidates. Comprised of groups from the private sector, public sector, high schools, industry, non-profits and more, the group works together to clear the workforce pipeline. They offer scholarships, they created a dual credit course with local schools and the community college, and they conduct general meetings of the minds to collaborate on ideas for economic development. 

It is easy to see how these relationships are paying off. Throughout the day, student ambassadors joined the tour to talk of personal experiences and what Robeson has done for them. Students involved in the student government association, Early College High School, culinary arts, honors program, and more gushed about developing leadership skills and coming out of their shells. 

The commitment to students permeates the grounds at Robeson Community College. The college cultivates relationships not just within its walls but with other regional institutions. The college is interested in doing whatever is best for its students. 

Dr. Kimberly Gold, president of Robeson Community College, said it best: “We are truly a college of the community.” 

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.