Phi Theta Kappa event reveals more than just academic achievements by students at Virginia’s Community Colleges - VCCS

Phi Theta Kappa event reveals more than just academic achievements by students at Virginia’s Community Colleges

Home|Blog|Phi Theta Kappa event reveals more than just academic achievements by students at Virginia’s Community Colleges

“Well, I’ve had a traumatic past. In January, I was actually homeless. I was sleeping in a Ford Ranger.” Someone not familiar with community college students might be surprised to hear such comments at an academic honors luncheon.  But there’s growing realization that many of our students – even the successful ones — struggle to overcome challenges that would derail most people’s academic dreams.

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Fallon Nicole Fox, the student who slept in that Ford pickup truck, also overcame addiction and learning disabilities to earn a 3.8 GPA at Mountain Empire Community College, and a spot among the Top Ten 2022 Phi Theta Kappa scholars in Virginia.

“I just want to be a light in the world,” added Fox. “I’ve thought of going into social work, maybe being a recovery counselor.  I’m finally learning at age 38 to embrace and take credit for the good things I can do.”

Phi Theta Kappa is the international honor society for students in two-year colleges, and dozens of PTK members converged on Richmond for an honors luncheon April 20.  By all appearances, the PTK scholars reflect the diversity of students who attend our colleges. Many were adult learners who had to juggle their academic pursuits with family and job obligations.

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“I have three kids,” said Anastasia Whitley, a Virginia Peninsula Community College (formerly known as Thomas Nelson CC) student who also overcame addiction and homelessness to win top academic honors. “I couldn’t have done it without my advisors and others at the college who helped me with disability accommodations and find courses I could take at another community college so I could graduate on time.”

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A pair of PTK scholars from Northern Virginia Community College echoed the importance of the support they received.  “I’ve had some amazing professors,” said Meelod Waheed, who aims for a career in computer sciences. “They’ve been mentors to me and I don’t think I could have gotten this far without them.”

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“I felt like NOVA was a place that nurtured my goals and helped me find my passions,” added Anastasia Duenas, a 4.0 student with an impressive STEM background who is preparing to transfer to a university setting.

“These are remarkable students and, frankly, pretty amazing people,” said John Rainone, President of Mountain Gateway Community College (formerly known as Dabney S. Lancaster CC) and program coordinator of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Virginia Academic Team.  “They embody the determination of so many of our students statewide, who work so hard to make new careers and new lives for their families.”

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“I dropped out of school over a decade ago and I probably would never have gone back to school if not for the pandemic and for the accessibility of community college, and it’s been pretty life changing,” said 32-year-old Piedmont Virginia Community College PTK honoree Daisy Dudley. “I felt so overwhelmed the first time around and Piedmont was so much more accessible than I would have ever thought possible, especially with the wonderful people who supported me there.”

Phi Theta Kappa celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. The society boasts more than 3.5 million members in the U.S. and 10 foreign nations.  The Phi Theta Kappa Foundation awards $1.5 million in scholarships to members each year, and four-year college partners now offer $250 million in transfer scholarships exclusively for PTK members.  Learn more at

Dozens of photos of the April 20 PTK honors luncheon are available to view and download on the VCCS flickr site.


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