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GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, December 20th, 2018, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

 

Career Opportunity

Guidance Counselor

Brunswick Academy, a Pre-School through 12th grade independent school, seek an experienced Guidance Counselor certified in Guidance or related area for grades 8-12.  Possession of a Master’s Degree in School Counseling, Guidance Counseling, or School Guidance and Counseling from an accredited college or university; possession of or eligible for a Virginia Department of Education professional teaching certificate with a guidance endorsement and at least 3 years experience in guidance or related field.

Job duties include but not limited to the following:

  • Provides academic, personal/social, and career counseling
  • Coordinates comprehensive school counseling program
  • Communicates with parents and agency representatives
  • Coordinates teacher and parent conferences as needed
  • Interprets test data and student records for parents and teachers
  • Scheduling of classes
  • Daily attendance
  • Engaged and on task
  • Performs other duties as required
  • Must have a thorough knowledge of the curriculum, instruction and counseling/guidance theory and practice
  • Communication skills, both oral and written, must be highly developed to meet the diverse needs of the clientele, professional staff and other community agencies
  • Must be able to organize and carry out student activity programs; or any equivalent combination of experience and training which would provide the required knowledge, skills, and abilities
     

Salary discussed during interview session.  Health insurance and 403(b) retirement program available.

Brunswick Academy is an equal opportunity employer and a drug free work place.  Brunswick Academy does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, national origin, race, religion, or sex in employment or education.  Applicants considered for employment must successfully complete the following background investigations/tests: • State Police Criminal History Investigation • Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation • Tuberculosis Screening/Test.  This position is open until filled.

Please e-mail cover letter and resume to:

Brunswick Academy
Attn:  Kristine Thompson
Guidance Counselor
E-mail:  thompsonk@brunswickacademy.com

A Gift in Winter

 

By Dr. Al Roberts

 

 

 

Twentieth century British poet Edith Sitwell wrote, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

 

 

 

I enjoy many of winter’s simple pleasures, including the beauty of snowflakes and moonlight, traditional feasts and gift-giving, and hot cocoa with warm conversations. Warding off winter’s chill by bundling up in a snug, woolen coat contributes to an overall sense of serenity and comfort.

 

 

 

But winter can also be a time when harsh conditions lead to hardship. Emergencies multiply. Their effects compound.

 

 

 

According to an analysis by the United Way’s ALICE Project, 39% of Virginia’s households were either living below the federal poverty level or identified as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). The ALICE designation describes working families with incomes above the poverty level but still less than required for basic living costs, such as housing, food, child and health care, and transportation.  Within SVCC’s service region, the number of households at or below the ALICE or poverty level ranges from 49% to 60%, much larger percentage than the statewide averages.

Income at ALICE and poverty levels supports only a modest lifestyle. It leaves no room for savings, so families are often left vulnerable to emergencies and unexpected expenses.  A surprisingly high heating bill, a car that won’t start, or a doctor’s visit can threaten to topple plans and cast the future into darkness.

Several factors contribute, including low regional pay scales and increases in the basic cost of living that outpace wage growth. Education is a documented solution. Career and technical certifications and associate-degree programs provide rapid access to well-paying jobs and pathways to family-sustaining careers.

Pursuing educational goals, however, can temporarily stress finances. On the road to better pay and professional security, students encounter such expenses as tuition, books, technology, and transportation that can strain limited budgets. Illustrating this concern, recent studies have found that 13% to 21% of community college students experience food insecurity, yet college students are often ineligible for federal food assistance programs. In light of this need, SVCC has established food pantries at locations across its service area.

Additionally, to help students facing food emergencies and other crises, the Southside Virginia Community College Foundation administers funds that help meet urgent needs so that students can remain on track to reach their education goals. These opportunities are made possible through the generous contributions of people who understand the importance of helping students succeed. If you would like to join them and make a gift that will usher in a brighter future for hard-working students with unexpected challenges, contact the SVCC Foundation office at 434-949-1051.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

 

Alumni in the Spotlight

By Dr. Al Roberts

One of the most gratifying aspects of my position as President of Southside Virginia Community College is receiving feedback from former students and hearing their stories. SVCC’s first class, which graduated in 1973, consisted of 11 students. The numbers have grown significantly since then, exceeding one thousand in each of the past six years. So far, we’ve accrued more than twenty thousand alumni.

Every week SVCC shines the spotlight on one of these alumni by posting a story about his or her accomplishments on our website. We also mention them on message boards at both main campuses and post the information in hallways as an encouragement to current students. I’d like to tell you about some of these amazing people.

Chris, a Chesterfield native, is an alum of SVCC’s Diesel Technician Training Program. He says, “I obtained a job with Carter Machinery within two weeks of my graduating from the program and have been there for seven-plus years. My income has doubled in that time and I am loving my job.”

Melody earned an Associate of Applied Science in Data processing from SVCC. After graduating, she was hired as an Administrative Assistant by the Commonwealth Regional Council, which serves five counties. Melody now serves as the Council’s Executive Director.

Jamall, who hails from Blackstone, graduated from SVCC’s Power Line Worker program. He currently works for Southside Electric Cooperative and recently competed in the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s and Equipment Operation Rodeo.

Tara, who graduated from Halifax County High School, pursued a nursing credential through SVCC’s Practical Nursing program. She reports, “Through my training at SVCC, I obtained a good, steady job that I have been employed at for fifteen years!”

LaWanda, a Lawrenceville native, earned an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services along with a Career Studies Certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling. She currently works as a program manager for parents and teachers and serves as a mentor. “My experience at SVCC was awesome and inspiring,” LaWanda says. “I felt I could go out into the world and do great things.”

If you’d like to read more about these and other former students featured in the Alumni Spotlight, visit Southside.edu.

Then, as your family and friends gather this year to give thanks for life’s blessings, would you do me a favor? Would you ask if anyone has a story to share about the ways SVCC may have helped them pursue their academic or workforce training goals? And, if you think anyone’s story should be shared with the whole community, please let me know. Send your Alumni Spotlight suggestions to me at al.roberts@southside.edu or call 434-949-1000.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Building for a Promising Future

By Dr. Al Roberts

Established in 1970, Southside Virginia Community College is one of 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System. From its humble beginnings, the college has grown to become the leading provider of quality academic and workforce services within the largest community college jurisdiction in our state. The college’s 4,200-square mile service region spans ten counties and also encompasses the city of Emporia.

Meeting the need for education services across such a broad area requires a wide range of diverse options. Consequently, the college serves students from two main campuses, five education centers, and other off-campus sites, as well as through online learning opportunities. The college’s Christanna campus in Alberta currently has six permanent buildings. The John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville has four permanent buildings, including its Learning Resource Center/Student Services building, a 32,700-sqare foot structure completed in 2014. All combined, the college maintains 220,000 square feet of building facilities, 88% of which is allocated for instructional and student use.

And SVCC continues to grow. The college is among the leaders in Virginia’s FastForward workforce credentialing program. Innovative services to help ensure student success continue to be deployed, and connections with area business and industry partners continue to expand.

The college is also growing physically. In September, construction began on a new, two-level Learning Resource Center on the Christanna Campus. The new facility will expand the college’s infrastructure in order to provide exceptional resources for mission-critical activities. When completed in January 2020, the 45,000-square-foot building will house the Christanna Campus library, and it will provide performance space, a food service area, student study and lounge areas, a workout room, and a welcome area. It will also feature a Career Center, a Veterans’ Center, a Credentialing Center, and an IT Training Laboratory. Student services, including financial aid, admissions and records, and IT support, will also be relocated to the new building.

The new Learning Resource Center will play a vital role in the lives of students for semesters and years to come. SVCC offers 23 degrees at the associate level, a host of shorter-term academic and workforce development programs, opportunities for dually enrolled high school students, adult basic education, and other transitional services for non-traditional students. In addition, a comprehensive team of academic advisors, tutors, student services professionals, and counselors are available to help students develop their academic strengths and tackle challenges.

At SVCC, we believe in the transformative power of education to positively impact individual students and the communities we serve. To learn more about how to build your educational future at SVCC, visit the college’s website at Southside.edu or call 434-949-1000. Our team of academic and workforce advisors can help you discover how to create your own promising future.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Back to School

By Dr. Al Roberts

Fall is in the air, and students are back to work. The hallways at Southside Virginia Community College teem with a mix of new and familiar faces as faculty members guide students who are taking the next steps along their education pathways.

Some familiar faces are absent, however. Last year’s graduates have moved on. Some entered the workforce and some are walking different halls, continuing their academic pursuits at other institutions. Follow-up surveys of graduates indicate that more than half of SVCC students use their time at the community college to prepare for transfer to a four-year, baccalaureate-awarding institution.

One former student, for example, continued his studies through the Art Institute’s Game Design program. He is now working full time as a game developer for a company in Florida. A recent graduate from the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia is currently enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. SVCC graduates, including former dually enrolled students and traditional college students, are attending Virginia Tech, Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Radford, George Mason, VCU, VSU, Norfolk State, Old Dominion, Mary Baldwin, Hampden-Sydney, Ferrum, Lynchburg College, Liberty, Longwood, Clemson, University of North Carolina, Spelman …. The list goes on and on.

Matt Dunn, a transfer counselor, explains some of the benefits of beginning a postsecondary education path at a community college, “When it comes to successfully completing a bachelor’s degree, transfer students have a higher graduation rate.” He also notes, “All of the community colleges in Virginia have agreements with most of the state’s public and private four-year colleges and universities. In addition to these, SVCC maintains agreements with others. With sufficient GPA, in-state acceptance is virtually guaranteed at public and private colleges in the state.” This is because graduates who earn an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree and meet minimum grade point averages, which are set individually by the receiving institution, are guaranteed to be accepted as long as they meet application deadlines. Furthermore, they receive junior-class status, which satisfies all lower level general education requirements.

During their time at SVCC, Dunn says students learn about a variety of topics and discover the niches they find most satisfying. “They use their time here to cultivate and grow their interests. Students investigate college and career pathway options aligned with their strengths and personalities. Some discover aptitudes in areas they never previously explored.”

For students interested in transferring to four-year institutions, SVCC offers one-on-one or group transfer counseling, four-year college campus fairs and visits, and membership in the Transfer Club.  For more information on how to effectively streamline your educational journey and maximize your potential future opportunities, contact Matt Dunn, Transfer Counselor, at 434-736-2020 or matt.dunn@southside.edu.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

 

Teachers Needed for Tomorrow

By Dr. Al Roberts

Nationwide, schools are experiencing a scarcity of qualified job candidates for teaching positions. Declining enrollment in programs that prepare students for licensure as teachers is one cause. According to a report issued by the Learning Policy Institute, enrollments in teacher education programs dropped by 35% between 2009 and 2014. This decline represents a decrease of nearly a quarter of a million potential teachers.The impact on school districts across the nation varies considerably. The Learning Policy Institute report noted, “Students in high-poverty and high-minority settings bear the brunt of teacher shortages. Considerable evidence shows that shortages historically have disproportionately impacted our most disadvantaged students and that those patterns persist today.”

These quandaries are very much apparent here in Southside Virginia. Data compiled by the Virginia Department of Education indicates that we have the highest percent of unfilled teaching positions. Paul Nichols, Superintendent of Mecklenburg County Public Schools, says, “We have classrooms of all subject areas that are difficult to find teachers to fill. However, our greatest need is in math and science. Close to 10% of the math and science classrooms in Southern Virginia are in need of a qualified teacher. Career and Technical teachers are also very hard to find.”

One proposed solution is to provide an opportunity for career professionals in other areas to obtain the credentials necessary to teach in Virginia’s classrooms. Virginia’s Career Switcher Alternative Route to Licensure Program is designed to do just that.  To help support this effort, Southside Virginia Community College has developed a list of the general education courses required for teachers. Potential teachers who have graduated from a four-year college but lack some of the required courses, can pick up their missing credits at SVCC.

Another potential solution is to encourage local high school students to consider careers in education.  With this in mind, the Virginia Department of Education developed a program called “Teachers for Tomorrow,” which provides opportunities for high school juniors and seniors to receive career information, pursue dual enrollment credits, and participate in field trips where they can observe classrooms and gain teaching experience before they head off to college.

For students considering the teaching profession, SVCC offers an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in Education. The degree is designed for students who want to begin their academic journeys at a low-cost, close-to-home institution and then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a baccalaureate program. In addition, for people interested in working with young children, SVCC also offers an Early Childhood Programs Career Studies Certificate.If you are interested in learning more about preparing for a teaching career, contact Dr. Dixie Dalton, SVCC’s Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business (dixie.dalton@southside.edu or call 434-949-1053).

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Keeping Your Cool

By Dr. Al Roberts

As temperatures outside rise, indoor thermostats often respond by calling for cooler air. This ability to control the indoor environment helps people be more comfortable. It protects infants, children, medically vulnerable individuals, and the elderly from heat-related illnesses. It enables workers to be more productive.

In our current age, air conditioning is something many folks take for granted. To address this blasé attitude, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry observes Air Conditioning Appreciation Days every year from July 3 to August 15.

But how does one show appreciation to an air conditioner? One way is to learn how it works and how it all began.

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) offers a simplified explanation: A chemical (called the refrigerant) circulates through a closed system that includes three main components where the refrigerant is compressed, condensed, and evaporated. During the process, the refrigerant undergoes changes in pressure and temperature. This enables indoor heat to be absorbed and transferred to the outdoor environment.

The process of cooling the air also accomplishes other tasks. Filters can reduce allergens and other airborne particulates, helping people with allergies or other respiratory problems breathe more comfortably. Also, in addition to removing heat, the process reduces humidity. In fact, air conditioning was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier originally as a means to reduce humidity in a printing plant. Cooling was a by-product.

Another way to appreciate your air conditioner is to keep it well maintained. Industry experts offer these tips: replace air filters on a regular schedule; use fans to help circulate air; cover windows with curtains or blinds; and run appliances that generate heat, such as ovens, washers and dryers, and dishwashers, during the evening.

When things go awry, you can call on qualified HVAC technicians, the superheroes of sweltering summer days. HVAC technicians are trained to restore your cool and help AC equipment to operate at peak efficiency.

The demand for HVAC technicians is high across our state and nation, and qualified job candidates can earn above-average wages. Southside Virginia Community College offers two fast-track career studies programs for students wishing to embark on careers in the HVAC industry, a Basic program and an Advanced program. Both are housed at the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill. The HVAC curriculum offers students the opportunity to learn how to install and repair residential and commercial HVAC systems. A solar component teaches students how a heat pump powered by solar panels can cool a house and reduce homeowners’ cooling bills.

For more information about entry into HVAC or other technical career pathways, call Chad Patton, SVCC’s Dean of Career and Occupational Technology, at 434-949-1038.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

An Alternative to the Traditional Four-Year Plan

By Dr. Al Roberts

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of bachelor degrees conferred in the U.S. has increased by 125% since the early 1970s. A large part of the reason is the encouragement high school students receive from parents and guidance counselors to pursue a college education.

Getting a bachelor’s or advanced academic or professional degree is good advice for many students, but like a lot of other things, one size does not fit all. Going to a four-year college without a clear plan is an increasingly expensive proposition, and students’ choices can dramatically impact the financial rewards associated with degree attainment. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce studied the difference in potential income based on a student’s major. Results were made available in a May 2011 publication, “What’s It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors.” Findings demonstrated that bachelor degree holders who were employed full time earned annual salaries that ranged from $29,000 for students who had majored in Counseling Psychology to $120,000 for Petroleum Engineers.

In writing “High-Paying Jobs Go Begging while High School Grads Line Up for Bachelor’s Degrees,” for the Hechinger Report in April 2018, higher-education editor Jon Marcus reported, “The financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price—and the average debt into which it plunges students—keeps going up.”

At the same time, because so many young people are encouraged to pursue four-year degrees, employers now face shortages of qualified applicants for skilled jobs in professions such as nursing, welding, power line work, industrial maintenance, automotive repair, and advanced manufacturing. Compounding the situation is the fact that in many skilled trades, craft workers are older than their counterparts in other fields. Anticipated retirements are expected to exacerbate worker shortages.

Community colleges stand poised to provide a solution. Marcus’s research revealed that, “A shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades.” He added, “It’s not that finding a job in the trades, or even manufacturing, means needing no education after high school. Most regulators and employers require certificates, certifications, or associate degrees. But those cost less and take less time than earning a bachelor’s degree.”

The potential rewards are significant. An updated report issued last year from The Center on Education and the Workforce last year, stated “There are 30 million good jobs in the United States today that pay without a BA (bachelor’s degree). These good jobs have median earnings of $55,000 annually.”

For more information about the variety of opportunities afforded by a community college education, please visit southside.edu or call SVCC at 434-949-1000. Counselors can answer your questions about career pathways and programs designed to help you reach your goals.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Answering a Call for Help

By Dr. Al Roberts

It starts with a call for help. When an incident causes serious illness or injury, someone makes a phone call. Each occurrence is different. There are traffic-related injuries, workplace accidents, heart attacks, strokes, falls, and countless other events that place life and limb at risk.

After the call, emergency vehicles respond. Every time I pull over to let an ambulance dash on its way, the occasion reminds me to be thankful for the comprehensive system that exists to ensure that urgent medical care arrives when and wherever it is needed.

In years gone by, the situation was different. The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association explains “The system we have in place today was forged one link at time, dating as far back as the Civil War. With widespread trauma, a systematic and organized method of field care and transport of the injured was born out of necessity. It wasn’t until 1865, however, that the first civilian ambulance was put into service in Cincinnati.”

Our nation’s first independent, volunteer rescue squad was established in Roanoke, Virginia in 1928. Virginia’s first EMT-paramedics were certified in 1976. Today, the existence of emergency personnel waiting to be called into action is so ubiquitous that their presence is easy to take for granted.

To help raise awareness, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the American College of Emergency Physicians work together in support of National EMS Week to recognize the contributions of personnel who bring pre-hospital care to people in need. This year, National EMS Week will be observed on May 20-26. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students of SVCC, I offer these dedicated practitioners a wholehearted “Thank you” in recognition of all they do to safeguard the wellbeing of people across our communities.

Beyond giving thanks, I also feel a sense of pride. Many of the men and women who serve as EMTs and paramedics across the counties that comprise Southside Virginia received their training from programs at SVCC. As Bobby Lester, one of the College’s Emergency Medical Technician instructors explains, “The EMS program is vital to the community because it provides an avenue for our students to provide care to the citizens of our local community. Many of our students become volunteer members at local EMS and fire departments.”

Ricky Lyles, Instructor of Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services, wants prospective students to know, “SVCC offers a comprehensive slate of courses to prepare students for EMS careers.” These include four Career Studies Certificates and an Associate’s degree in Emergency Medical Services.

If you want to be prepared to answer someone’s call for help, you can contact Ricky Lyles (ricky.lyles@southside.edu or 434-736-2097) or Bobby Lester (bobby.lester@southside.edu or 434-949-6603) for more information.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Customized, Job-Driven Training

Businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia, including right here in the Southside region, continue to report a skills mismatch between job seekers and open positions. Skilled workers, especially in information technology and advanced manufacturing, seem to be in short supply. Entrepreneurs often testify to the fact that nurturing a business is a challenging proposition, but when companies cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill critical positions, business success can be even harder to achieve.

At the same time, escalating college costs sometimes put higher education out of reach. Many young people and transitioning workers are looking for ways to prepare for well-paying careers without amassing heavy burdens of debt.

The solution for growing businesses and the answer for the potential future workforce may be the same: apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship is more than just assisting in a workplace, more than just on-the-job training. Registered apprenticeship programs provide a formal plan that combines at-work elements with rigorous classroom preparation and mentoring. They culminate in a certification that the graduate is fully prepared, experienced, and job-ready.

Traditionally, U.S. apprenticeships have focused on skilled trades, but recent innovations and policy changes are bringing the model to other industries. Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce explains that “by building regional partnerships with education, workforce, and social service institutions, businesses and government can create training programs that connect workers with middle class careers.” For diverse companies, she notes that “developing talent through apprenticeships results in a more dedicated, flexible, loyal workforce that is poised to rise into leadership positions and make the companies more competitive.”

Southside Virginia Community College is proud to be able to bring these benefits to the communities of south-central Virginia. Through ApprenticeVA, a collaborative effort among four community college partners, we can help businesses leverage the resources needed to create registered apprenticeship programs and customize them to meet specific training requirements.

Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources at Global Safety Textile acknowledges, “In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge.” His company is one among several with whom SVCC has worked to establish registered apprenticeship programs. Others include Beach Mold and Tool, Toll Brothers, Huber Woodproducts, Presto Products, and Microsoft.

At SVCC, more than 40 apprentices are currently registered and working on the job and in the classroom. They will graduate with industry-recognized credentials in fields such as industrial maintenance and network technician.

Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record and are well situated to meet 21st century needs. If your business would like more information about how it can benefit from a registered apprenticeship program, contact SVCC’s Apprenticeship Coordinator, Kelly Arnold at Kelly.arnold@southside.edu or call 434-579-7260.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Agribusiness Delivers Dinner

By Dr. Al Roberts

If you could choose anything at all, what would you want for dinner? I would take a bone-in ribeye steak, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, and a fresh Caesar salad. Dessert would feature apple pie with vanilla ice cream. But I’m flexible.  I could also be quite content with Chesapeake Bay blue crabs or barbecued spare ribs or shrimp and sausage gumbo.

All of the items on my list of favorite foods are readily available to me because of agribusinesses, the collection of industries involved in providing agricultural products in desired forms for consumer purchase or consumption. Farming is at the heart of agribusiness, but many additional enterprises support our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and harvesters. Agribusinesses include processors, manufacturers, distributors, packaging companies, advertisers, wholesalers, retailers, and many more. They provide seed, fertilizer, feed, fencing, equipment, and a host of services that range from veterinary care to financing, and they offer career opportunities in fields such as communication, construction, research, resource management, forestry, and the management of fisheries and wildlife stocks.

This wide spectrum of occupations is necessary because agribusiness is responsible for feeding (food), clothing (fiber), and sheltering (wood products) people around the globe. Agricultural products are our nation’s top export category. In Virginia, agribusiness is our largest private industry. In fact, there are 44,000 farms in Virginia with an average size of 181 acres (totaling 8.1 million acres), and the Commonwealth ranks in the nation’s top 15 producers of fresh market tomatoes, apples, grapes, peanuts, cotton, turkeys, and chickens for meat.

Products and services provided by agribusinesses are so ubiquitous people often take them for granted. To help raise awareness, the Agriculture Council of America annually promotes National Ag Week, which will be observed this year March 18–24 with the focus “Agriculture: Food for Life.” Events tied to the observation will help tell the story of agriculture in America, recognize the role agriculture plays in our daily lives, and celebrate the abundance of safe products available in the American marketplace.

During National Ag Week, SVCC’s Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business and program chair for the College’s agribusiness offerings, Dr. Dixie Dalton, and her colleagues will be visiting area elementary schools to interact with students and talk about the origins of their food. Dr. Dalton will also present a session titled “Agribusiness Is Everybody’s Business: How Is It Yours?” at an Open House for High School Seniors at SVCC’s Daniel Campus on March 23. She will discuss the wide range of agribusiness careers and education options available to students at SVCC and through transfer to senior institutions. For more information about SVCC’s agribusiness degree and certificate offerings, contact Dr. Dalton dixie.dalton@southside.edu or call 434-949-1053.

Educating Leaders for Tomorrow

By Dr. Al Roberts

Every February, people across the United States observe a holiday commonly known as Presidents’ Day. The official federal designation is George Washington’s Birthday. Virginia and a few other states preserve the original focus on Washington, but many states honor an expanded slate that includes additional presidents.

Washington was an advocate for education. In his first annual address to Congress on January 8, 1790, the president exhorted lawmakers with these words: “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”

Since Washington’s time, many of his successors have reiterated similar sentiments regarding the role education plays in maintaining the freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents. They have observed that educational institutions are a fundamental ingredient for a properly functioning democracy.

Thomas Jefferson envisioned “a system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest.” Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and served as our nation’s third president. He also worked to establish the University of Virginia.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, talked about the importance of education from his very first political speech. When running for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, he told the people about his vision for a country where “every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions.”

In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

And, more recently, our 44th president, Barack Obama noted that “gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you feel the impact."

At Southside Virginia Community College, we honor the legacy of our nation’s historic leaders by educating and training leaders for the future. Academic and workforce classes prepare students with the knowledge necessary to develop their roles and responsibilities as participants in our ever-changing society. Classroom and extracurricular activities provide opportunities to expand leadership skills. Through counselors and clubs, we provide mentors who help students develop their intellectual, personal, and social skills while gaining a greater self-awareness of their own values and directions.

Tomorrow’s leaders are in classrooms today. If you would like to be among them, visit southside.edu or call 434-949-1000 for more information.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

New Beginnings

By Dr. Al Roberts

Many people usher in the New Year with a fist full of resolutions and renewed determination to start afresh toward achieving personal goals. Surveys done by various news outlets report that some of the most common resolutions deal with exercising, losing weight, managing money, changing habits, strengthening personal relationships, volunteering, reading more, and engaging in spiritual practices. Some folks prioritize learning new skills, seeking a better job, and even embarking on a new career.

Southside Virginia Community College offers a myriad of resources to support people with resolutions focused on education and workforce training. These people include high school students making decisions about their futures, unemployed and underemployed workers looking for improved opportunities, veterans returning to civilian life, mid-career professionals seeking fresh challenges, and retirees who want to try something new.

If you find yourself plotting a path or adjusting your course, SVCC’s counselors can help you discover which career areas are most compatible with your interests, attitudes, and values. They can also teach you how to look for a job, prepare a resume, navigate an interview, and negotiate a salary.

The quickest way to launch a new career may be through one of Virginia’s new FastForward credentialing programs. SVCC and more than 20 other workforce training centers around the state offer 145 different programs in areas such as logistics and transportation, healthcare, welding and manufacturing, skilled trades, and information technology. Statistics show that people with workforce credentials are twice as likely to be hired as applicants who lack a credential. Furthermore, credentialed workers typically earn more than their noncredentialed counterparts.

Other career pathways start with a more traditional, academic base. For example, Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) degrees prepare students for entry into a wide variety of occupations in fields such as agriculture, business, public safety, and health. Just one example is the Administration of Justice program, which prepares graduates for roles in law enforcement agencies or correctional facilities.

Still other career pathways involve educational journeys that culminate with baccalaureate or advanced degrees. After spending their first two years of study at SVCC, graduates with Associate of Arts and Sciences (AA&S) degrees generally transfer to a four-year institution with junior class standing. One popular program is the Education Major. It provides core classes that serve as a solid foundation for students who plan to pursue careers in teaching.

So, if your dreams for 2018 include developing and expanding your skills and knowledge, I invite you to contact SVCC at 434-949-1000. A career counselor can advise you about academic, vocational, and technical programs and explain the array of support services available to help you stay focused on your goals. Let this be the year your successes begin.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Thanks to a Truck Driver

By Dr. Al Roberts

Santa may rely on a sleigh and reindeer, but other folks who want holiday packages delivered to distant destinations typically rely on trucks. In fact, the entire U.S. economy depends on the trucking industry. Every year, our nation’s truck drivers carry more than 10 billion tons of freight, a total that represents 70% of all shipped domestic tonnage.

Hauling all these goods is a task that requires more than 3.5 million commercially licensed drivers, and the trucking industry currently faces a shortage of qualified job candidates. In October, the American Transportation Research Institute released a study identifying the driver shortage as the industry’s most critical issue. The report noted, “An optimistic trucking industry outlook, based on improving economic growth in the United States, has many in the industry concerned that the demand for truck drivers will further outpace the supply of qualified drivers. To this end, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates a shortfall of 48,000 drivers, with projections that the shortage could increase to 175,000 by 2025.”

Southside Virginia Community College is helping address this need through the continuing expansion of its Truck Driver Training School, which has already educated more than 2,500 students. SVCC’s Truck Driver Training School was established in 1996 at Ft. Pickett in Blackstone. We added a location in South Boston in 1999 and another in Emporia in 2007. More recently, SVCC has entered into a partnership with Danville Community College and Patrick Henry Community College to offer the successful program across a broader region. SVCC’s truck driver program has a graduation rate of 85%, and 75% of program graduates have found employment in the industry. They hold jobs with more than 70 companies in capacities that include long distance (coast to coast), regional, dedicated, and local routes.

SVCC’s leadership in truck driver training is also recognized beyond the borders of our region. Earlier this year, Duncan Quicke, the program’s coordinator, traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the invitation of Schneider National to participate on their Truck Driver Training Advisory Board, a forum for exchanging ideas and best practices in areas such as safety, training, regulatory compliance, and technology. Schneider is one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, and representatives from only 11 schools around the nation were selected to be included.

Students in SVCC’s Truck Driver Training School participate in a six-week program during which they receive 240 hours of instruction and hands-on practice. The class day mimics a normal workday, and activities include pre-trip inspections, keeping logbooks updated, highway driving, and maneuvering procedures such as twisting, turning, and backing up.

For information about driver qualifications, student prerequisites, and upcoming class schedules, call the Truck Driver Training School at 434-292-1650.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

How to Start College with an Advantage

By Dr. Al Roberts

Dual enrollment programs operate as collaborative partnerships between high schools and colleges. They offer students who meet prerequisite requirements an opportunity to jumpstart collegiate and professional careers by earning college credits while still in high school.

Dual enrollment differs from other accelerated learning options in significant ways. For example, in Advanced Placement (AP) programs, students receive high school credit for passing approved courses, but the conferring of college credit is conditional. It depends on a student’s choice to take a qualifying exam (20–30% do not) and then on the score ultimately received. In dual enrollment programs, students take actual college courses from appropriately credentialed teachers. Credits earned through dual enrollment appear on the student’s permanent college transcript.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University recently examined dual enrollment programs. Their study, published in September 2017, reported that students who work on college courses concurrently with high school completion were more likely than their peers to graduate from high school, attend college, and earn a college credential. The study also found that students with as little as one term’s participation also accrued benefits. Among students from Virginia, educational attainment for dually enrolled students surpassed national averages.

The ability of dual enrollment to reduce the total cost of degree or credential attainment is perhaps the best-known advantage of dual enrollment, but programs also confer other benefits. For students who are the first in their families to attend college and for those from groups that are traditionally underserved by institutions of higher education, dual enrollment courses offer a preliminary look at what college work will require. Participating helps these young adults develop the confidence they need to persist and achieve their goals. For students focused on technical and professional credentials, dual enrollment options help them acquire the knowledge and develop the skills necessary to be competitive in the workforce.

At Southside Virginia Community College, our dual enrollment program seeks to expand a tradition of higher education across our region. Approximately 70% of SVCC’s dual enrollment students pursue either an Associate of Arts and Sciences (AA&S) degree, which will transfer to most of Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities, or a Career Studies Certificate (CSC) in a technical or professional area. These areas include welding, automotive diagnosis and tune-up, high-performance technology, advanced manufacturing, computer-related fields, and nurse aide. About 30% of our dual enrollment students take classes to accumulate a few college credits or to skip introductory-level classes. During the most recently completed academic year, graduating dually enrolled seniors earned 252 Associates Degrees, 35 General Education Certificates, and 230 Career Studies Certificates.

For more information about dual enrollment opportunities at SVCC, contact Katherine Clatterbuck, Dual Enrollment Coordinator (434-736-2080 or katherine.clatterbuck@southside.edu).

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Embracing the Challenge

By Dr. Al Roberts

American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard claimed, “Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that compares to testing yourself the way you do every time you step into the ring.”

Leonard certainly knew about testing and pushing himself to do his best. Among his many achievements, he won three National Golden Gloves titles, claimed two Amateur Athletic Union championships, and received an Olympic gold medal. His professional career spanned twenty years, and he won world titles in five different weight classes.

As Leonard’s words suggest, gifted athletes need rigorous challenges to achieve their full potential. Without testing limits and pushing beyond them, athletes may never have the opportunity to discover what they can accomplish.

This same principle holds true for talented students. Recognizing that some students thrive on strenuous challenges and have academic needs that differ from their age-level peers, Virginia instituted the Governor’s School program in 1973. Today, that program includes 19 academic-year schools throughout the Commonwealth.

Southside Virginia Community College is proud to host one of those schools, the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia, at its Christanna Campus in Alberta and John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville. GSSV’s student body includes nearly two hundred academically skilled juniors and seniors from eleven high schools in ten counties. These hard-working young adults thrive in a learning environment that is more independent than a traditional high school setting, and they tackle an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes conducting a two-year research project. During the course of their research, students work with scientists in the field, travel to facilities with specialized laboratory equipment, and develop mentoring relationships with working professionals. Along the way, they master college-level material in subject areas such as mathematics, science, and English. Finally, they hone their public speaking skills to present their findings at a senior symposium.

GSSV students spend part of the school day on the SVCC campus. They also participate as dually enrolled students in college-level courses offered at their home high schools. These courses help round out the curriculum in a way that enables students to earn both a high school diploma and Associates degree when they graduate.

The GSSV application process, which is highly competitive, begins during the fall of a student’s 10thgrade year. In determining admission, participating school divisions follow a matrix that considers teacher recommendations and each applicant’s test results, grade point average, and writing ability. Prospective students also participate in a shadowing event where they follow a GSSV student for a day, ride to SVCC on the bus, and visit classes.

Students who want to push themselves to see what they can accomplish can get more information about the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia by contacting GSSV Director Laurie Michaelson at 434-736-2086.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Assessing the Value of Education

By Dr. Al Roberts

Every year as the summer turns its focus toward the coming of autumn, back-to-school stories tend to proliferate in national and local media. One recurring theme seems to be the rising cost of college tuition and questions about its value and payback.

To be sure, college costs have risen, and they continue to rise. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, released a report last year that documented the ways in which recession-related budgetary concerns led to cuts in the support of higher education. In 46 states, including Virginia, government spending per student continues to remain less than what it was prior to the beginning of the recession in 2008. In fact, based on inflation-adjusted dollars, funding for higher education in Virginia is now 22.5 percent less per student. Such reductions in support are one of the factors that contribute to rising tuition. In this fiscal climate, evaluating the return on investments in higher education seems fitting.

Some benefits fall outside the realm of dollars. College graduates tend to be healthier, more engaged in their communities, and better able to understand diverse points of view. In most assessments, however, the question of value revolves around expenditures and paybacks.

In Virginia, community colleges offer a lower-cost, value-based choice. According to information from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), tuition and mandatory fees for full-time, in-state undergraduates in Commonwealth’s four-year colleges averages $12,137. With fees of $9,989 for room and board, that yields a grand total of $22,126 per academic year. By comparison, here at Southside Virginia Community College in-state tuition and fees add up to $4,582.50 for 15 credit hours per semester for the entire 2017-18 academic year. Furthermore, 94 percent of beginning undergraduate students receive significant financial aid packages.

But what’s the payback?

College Measures, an initiative of the American Institutes for Research, studied that question. They found that students who graduate from a community college with an Associate’s degree in an occupational or technical field earn an average of $35,718 in the first year after graduation and $41,879 eight years after graduation. At VA.EdPays.org on-line you can download the entire report or interactively explore the data to learn more details about wage variations by field of study and region.  Additionally, students who earn an Associate’s degree in a transfer program can save approximately $35,000 on the cost of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. They also have an opportunity to establish their academic competitiveness and get a clearer picture of their overall career goals.

For more information about your higher education choices and opportunities, contact SVCC at 434-949-1000. Our team of academic and workforce advisors can help you get the most value from your education dollars.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

What Comes after Graduation?

By Dr. Al Roberts

On May 13, 2017, in front of more than 2,500 people, Southside Virginia Community College awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates to 1,303 students. For the students who crossed the stage to receive their credentials, the occasion may have seemed like a conclusion. It may have felt like reaching the end of a journey that involved hard-work and dedication. In reality,  the event marked a beginning.

Graduation ceremonies are called commencements. The word commencement means to initiate, to start an activity, or to kick off an experience. A commencement is the exact opposite of a conclusion.

Rev. Lawrence Wilkerson’s invocation focused on this concept of taking a step into the future. He prayed that each student would  discover his or her own amazing destiny, and he asked for divine inspiration “to stir up the determination, steadfastness, and zeal needed to achieve that destiny.”

Commencement speaker Stephen E. Parker, a 2005 SVCC graduate and currently Legislative Director of the Education and Workforce Committee at the National Governors Association, also challenged students to embrace their futures. “Today, the class of 2017 sits on the same launch pad that was there for me and my family,” he said. “So, my question to all of you is this: what kind of world are you lifting off into?” Parker encouraged graduates to seek inclusive and positive ways to interact with society. He exhorted graduates, “I challenge you to set unbelievably, distractingly ambitious goals.”

By tradition, candidates for graduation wear regalia consisting of gowns and caps adorned with tassels.

At SVCC, graduates with honors wear gold tassels and others wear black tassels. During the ceremony, one of my duties involved leading students in the customary practice of turning their tassels. Students enter the ceremony with their tassels hanging on the right side. Turning the tassel involves moving it to left side, a symbolic action that signifies a change in status from being a candidate for graduation to being a graduate. Moving the tassel is like turning a page to open the next chapter in a student’s life story.

For some graduates, that next chapter will involve more education. Surveys reveal that nearly half of all SVCC graduates plan to transfer to four-year colleges or universities. Others graduates may begin careers, start families or businesses, or enter into military service.

Whatever tomorrow’s journey brings, I agree with Mr. Syd Smyth, SVCC’s Local Board Vice-Chair, who encouraged the audience and the community to follow the example set by the graduates when he said, “I challenge you to enter our doors and explore the many opportunities that may await you. Give it a try. You can never, never be too old to learn or to enrich yourself.”

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Nurses Needed

By Dr. Al Roberts

Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who founded the modern nursing profession, was born on May 12, 1820. While tending to the needs of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she earned a reputation as a merciful and devoted caregiver. After the war, Nightingale returned to England and established a training school for nurses. It opened in 1860.

In 1965, the International Council of Nurses designated Nightingale’s birthday as International Nurses Day. The observance commemorates the contributions nurses make to society. In the United States, the week culminating with her birthday (May 6 through May 12) is recognized by the American Nursing Association as National Nurses Week, and the Wednesday of that week is designated as National Student Nurses Day.

Southside Virginia Community College joins in honoring the hard-working women and men who devote their professional lives to caring for the sick and tending to the injured. Few others have such a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of people in their communities.

Although many nurses say the rewarding feeling of serving others is one of their profession’s biggest benefits, credentialed nurses can also earn competitive wages in a career with a recession-proof track record, flexible scheduling opportunities, and a variety of fields from which to choose. Yet, despite these workplace advantages, there is a critical shortage of nurses across the nation—even here in Southside Virginia. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and other healthcare providers often struggle to find qualified people to fill vacant positions.

Education programs available from SVCC prepare students to embark on careers in nursing and related health fields. The College’s state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Labs provide hands-on learning experiences in a safe, realistic environment. Students also participate in clinical practice at health care agencies located throughout our service region. Local medical facilities are eager to hire College graduates, providing students immediate work opportunities close to home.

SVCC offers instruction that leads to licensure as a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, and the College’s Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing (ADN) program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Additionally, in conjunction with Old Dominion University's Distance Learning program, the nursing education path can be extended at SVCC campuses in Alberta and Keysville to include BS or MS degrees.  Furthermore, the College’s Office of Workforce and Continuing Education prepares students for certification as a Nurse Aide (CNA), Medication Aide, Massage Therapist, or Phlebotomist.

Florence Nightingale said, “I never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” If you would like to begin a rewarding career in the health professions, call 888-220-SVCC (7822) for more information.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Career Exploration

By Dr. Al Roberts

How many children have been asked the question, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Some want to fight fires, some want to help people overcome diseases and disabilities, and some want to teach. Some have aspirations to play professional sports or to travel in outer space. Although a few may follow one career path without deviation, many change their minds frequently.

Visiting places of employment provides a unique educational experience that encourages young people to think about their vocational goals and the preparation that may be required to pursue opportunities.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work is a nationwide program that encourages parents and other mentors to help children make connections between school learning and workplace activities. This annual observance falls on the fourth Thursday of April, which will be April 27 this year.

The Virginia Education Wizard (available online at vawizard.org) is another resource that can open the door to a wide range of career exploration possibilities. Tools available on the website enable young people and others to assess their skills, interests, and values and see how they align with a variety of potential paths. The site also offers information about the education and training requirements of different careers. One interesting area enables visitors to answer questions about envisioned lifestyles to discover the annual salaries required to sustain different ways of living.

Summer camp programs also provide school-aged children opportunities to supplement classroom learning with hands-on activities. Local schools, along with youth development, faith-based, and mentoring organizations, offer programs across a broad spectrum of options that include science, nature, academics, and fitness. Here at Southside Virginia Community College, we offer summer camps to provide young people participatory experiences that enable them to explore cutting edge topics and technologies, such as 3D printing and robotics.

For today's young people, it's never too early to explore ideas about potential future careers, but it's also never too late. The question, "What do you want to do?" doesn't disappear at childhood's end. 

Career planning is an activity for everyone. According to a 2015 survey conducted the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who were born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. While some changes may have represented steps along a single pathway, many involved switching careers entirely. Veterans returning to civilian life, unemployed and underemployed workers, and people with evolving interests and needs were all among those who made significant changes in career trajectories.

If you have questions about exploring career options, for yourself or for a child, contact SVCC at 434-949-1000. Our team of academic and workforce advisors can help you discover an exciting path to the future.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Let’s Celebrate Reading

By Dr. Al Roberts

When people think of March festivities, they may envision green-themed parties for St. Patrick’s Day or look forward to basketball madness. I like to remember that March is also National Reading Awareness Month.

Read Across America, sponsored by the National Education Association, kicked off the month with events in all 50 states and numerous locations abroad. The observance began in 1998 to honor the legacy of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) whose birthday falls on March 2. The annual remembrance encourages people to enjoy the fun of reading.

Also in March, the National Head Start Association sponsors National Read-Aloud Month to challenge parents and caregivers to read books aloud to children at home. National Head Start notes that "When children listen to books read aloud, they learn about people, places, and how things work. They learn about emotions and feelings and how to use words to share their ideas."

One of my favorite books for reading to children is The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. It was originally published in 1922 and has become a classic. It tells about a stuffed toy rabbit and how it became real through being loved. Many equally wonderful tales await children's ears. If you need help finding one, stop by your local public library and ask for assistance.

Several other organizations also focus on the benefits of reading aloud to children. For example, a group called Read Aloud 15 Minutes, emphasizes that reading to a child for just fifteen minutes a day can have life-long benefits. Fifteen minutes may not seem like much, but, if practiced consistently during a child's first five years, it adds up to more than 450 hours. Those extra hours of literacy skills building can bestow a measurable benefit in future learning success.

And the benefits of reading don't end with childhood. In fact, they're just beginning. The crucial role that strong reading skills play in academic achievement among older students is also well-documented. In fact, some researchers have estimated that college students can expect to read between 600–750 pages a semester per course.

To help foster life-long growth in literacy achievement, Southside Virginia Community College is embarking on a new Quality Enhancement Plan: iRead, iLead, iSucceed. The QEP embraces a commitment to literacy that focuses on analytical reading comprehension and is designed to promote student achievement and academic success. Through faculty development and training in the promotion of analytical literacy skills, we hope to create students with stronger literacy skills. One of the anticipated outcomes of this new initiative is that students will demonstrate an increased level of engagement in literacy activities through supported reading and writing opportunities both at the academic level and personal level.

Reading. It's something we celebrate all year long.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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