When the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative was getting off the ground in 2014, Dr. John Rainone, president of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC), was one of the first of the college presidents wanting to get on board.
Established in 1962, DSLCC is a small school whose faculty to student ratio is a noteworthy 15:1; the average class size is 9; and the school serves one of the largest community college regions in the state, a whopping 1800 square miles. As part of the Horseshoe Initiative, DSLCC participates in the two primary strategies meant to raise educational attainment levels in rural areas of Virginia: career coaches located in local high schools and $1000 incentives for adults without a high school diploma to earn their GED and go on to earn additional training at the community college.
In the year since DSLCC has been participating, 1,221 students have created college and career plans with the help of their coaches Marsha Keyser and Donnie Kern. And in that time, scholarship applications to DSLCC have increased by 44%, with 65 awards made to 54 local students. But it’s the individual’s stories that highlight the real impact. Nicole started her senior year in high school with a newborn. She thought her hopes of becoming a special education teacher were over, but she ran into Keyser instead. With Keyser’s help, Nicole is currently enrolled at DSLCC and on the path to transfer to a four-year college to pursue her dream.
Dave had been a student at DSLCC but had some family issues and lost his financial aid. Not being able to afford to pay on his own, he gave up. When he heard about the $1000 incentives and realized that money could significantly help pay for the electrical and instrumentation associate degree program, something clicked and Dave returned to school. Joe Hagy, who runs the incentives program at the college, said the $1000 was the key to Dave’s success.
President Rainone is enthusiastic about this initiative.
“Our participation in the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative has afforded students who thought college was out of reach, an opportunity to earn a certificate, associate degree, and/or industry-recognized credential, providing them with completed steps on a career pathway. This investment in their futures will help to build the level of educational attainment in rural Virginia and provide job skills needed for current and future employment.”
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