Patrick Henry Community College is one of seven Virginia community colleges to pilot the Rural Horseshoe Initiative. A program of Virginia’s Community College, its aim is to increase educational attainment for the service regions of 14 community colleges in rural Virginia, and in turn, help better prepare students to enter the workforce.
In order to increase educational attainment, the Rural Horseshoe Initiative will focus on increasing the number of people in rural Virginia who graduate from high school or earn a GED or other credential, convincing more people to enroll in and graduate from college, and preparing the workforce in rural Virginia to take advantage of competitive, 21st century economic development opportunities.
For an area where unemployment and poverty is high, and educational attainment is not necessarily a priority, this initiative is a great cause for the PHCC Foundation to champion.
How It Will Work
The Rural Horseshoe Initiative will work to provide full-time career coaches for every high school in these 14 rural Virginia colleges. It will also expand financial incentives for people who didn’t finish high school to encourage them to complete a GED program.
In turn, the Rural Horseshoe Initiative will establish a pipeline of students from local secondary schools to the community colleges, local employers will have an easier time finding qualified people to meet their needs, and it will enhance the overall standard of living.
Many professionals in education, government and business have endorsed the initiative, including Judge Martin Clark, a circuit court judge for Patrick and Henry counties. He recently wrote an opinion piece published in the Suffolk News-Herald.
He said, “As a judge, I can attest that there is a direct correlation between the lack of a high-school diploma and crime … I’d estimate that 75 percent of the people I see headed to prison are high-school dropouts. Common sense suggests that the lack of a high-school diploma leads to decreased job opportunities, frustration, idle time, poverty and a loss of self-esteem – the root causes of crime.”
PHCC and Educational Attainment
PHCC already employs a number of programs working toward goals of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative, but not without a price tag. And for these programs to expand and help us reach our goal of increasing educational attainment, we need the support of the community.
To reach students before they’re college-age, MHC After 3 and Upward Bound provide afterschool opportunities for middle school students and support high school students entering college, respectively.
Great Expectations serves foster care and former foster care youth ages 17-24 by providing assistance that helps them transition into college or prepare for employment. Middle College is a free program that assists young adults between ages 18-26 who have a desire to pursue college coursework but need to obtain their GED first.
PHCC supports its students during their education with college success coaches and career specialists to ensure academic advancement and assist students in finding gainful employment after graduation.
PHCC’s Continuing Education and Workforce Development division offers courses for individuals to train quickly for industry jobs. It also provides on-demand workforce training upon request for local businesses.
The HOPE (High-Demand Occupational Programs for Employment) Program and the new 50 Plus program are at work putting people back into the workforce. HOPE works with area agencies to provide support, counseling, training and job placement for career seekers to improve the workforce through training and credentialing.
The 50 Plus program is designed to assist adults 50 years and over in completing degrees or certificates in high-demand occupations that give back to the community. PHCC is one of 36 colleges to offer the program, which is sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges.
How You Can Help
To lead fundraising for the initiative, Michael A. Smith Valley and Proteins Inc., headquartered in Winchester, recently announced a $1 million donation that is being matched by Michael A. Smith’s brother Gerald F. Smith Jr. The combined $2 million gift is among the largest ever made to a foundation supporting Virginia’s Community Colleges, according to a news release from the Virginia Community College System.
If you want to help PHCC take part in the Rural Horsehoe Initiative, you can donate online, contact Letitia Pulliam at 276-656-0250 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail a check made out to the PHCC Foundation to the address below:
645 Patriot Rd.
Martinsville, VA 24112