Wytheville Community College (WCC) received the Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) Award from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) to help close the educational attainment gap between the Rural Horseshoe region and the state at large. Named for the 65th governor of Virginia, the award honors Baliles’ legacy of promoting educational accessibility. The primary goals of the RVHI program are to reduce the number of rural residents without a high school diploma and to increase the number of rural residents with an associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate.
“Rural Virginia needs a targeted investment to take care of its next generation so the entire Commonwealth can prosper,” said Stewart Roberson, VFCCE’s board chair.
Each of the eleven colleges that received this funding proposed unique strategies that align with the goals of the RVHI. RVHI programs will serve a diverse range of high school students and adults from underserved and underrepresented populations.
WCC will use the award to start the Twin County Early College High School (TCECHS) at the WCC Crossroads location in Galax. The program is a pilot program that allows eligible seniors at Galax High School, Carroll County High School, and Grayson County High School to enroll in college courses during their spring semester. These students will be able to remain active in high school extra-curricular activities such as sports, band, or choir, while giving them an opportunity to adjust to the rigor of high education in a familiar setting.
The Early College program will provide an opportunity for students to attain college credit that will transfer to their chosen college or university after high school graduation. The credits will be added to any credits already attained through dual enrollment classes and can apply to an associate degree or certificate. Students may also choose to take advantage of the Twin County Community Foundation Community College Tuition Assistance program to complete their degree at WCC after graduating from high school.
Dr. Susan Tilley, Superintendent of Galax City Schools, initially approached WCC with the idea for the pilot Early College program. Tilley previously worked with similar programs in the Tidewater area that were very successful.
“The TCECHS program will not only allow WCC to provide additional opportunities for students within the Twin County region to save on the cost of a college education, but it will also set them up for overall success in college, whether it is at WCC or a 4-year college or university of their choice,” said Dr. Dean Sprinkle, WCC President.
If the pilot project is successful, WCC plans to explore ways to expand the Early College program to the entire service region.
By investing in rural education, the VFCCE is working with Virginia’s Community Colleges to promote opportunities to pursue higher education and a more equitable Commonwealth.