Panther Prep Day is Apri 16, 2019

Panther Prep Advising Day is coming back to Southside Virginia.   This event, sponsored by Southside Virginia Community College, will be held Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at various locations.  This is a chance for students to meet their advisors, register for classes, learn about all the programs and services the college has to offer.

Event hours at Christanna Campus in Alberta, John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville,  Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston, Estes Community Center in Chase City, and  Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill are from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The Southside Virginia Education Center in Emporia will host the event from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.

For more information on the event, call 434 736 2022. 


Panther Prep Day Returns April 3, 2018

Panther Prep Advising Day is coming to all locations of Southside Virginia Community College on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.  This is a great time to meet advisors, learn about SVCC programs register for Summer and Fall Classes and just have some fun and food and fellowship.  The event will be held at the Alberta and Keysville Campuses from 10 until 6 p.m.  Other locations include Southern Virginia Higher Ed. Center in South Boston, the Center in Emporia, The Estes Community Center in Chase City, and Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  Also, plan to attend this event at the Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Don't miss this chance to get the scoop on all you need to know about Southside Virginia Community College.  More information about the college can be seen at

Zapatillas Running trail

Dr. King’s Legacy and the True Goal of Education


By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January. This year, the commemoration will fall on January 17. The National Park Service, as part of its work to share the history and heritage of the United States, described King as “the nation’s most prominent leader in the 20th century struggle for Civil Rights.”

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929. His life’s journey emphasized the value he placed on education and equality. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948. He received a divinity degree from Crozier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, and he earned a doctoral degree from Boston University in 1955.

While still a student at Morehouse College in Georgia, King wrote, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” His essay, which was published in the campus newspaper, went on to state, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

As Dr. King pursued his own education, he developed a respect for the nonviolent ethics advocated by Mohandas Gandhi during India’s quest for independence. That respect, combined with his Christian faith, led him to launch the nonviolent protest movement in support of civil rights.

Dr. King entered the national spotlight after the arrest of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, when Parks was returning home from work, she took a seat in a municipal bus’s designated “colored” section. Later, when the “white” section became full, the bus driver ordered her to move so that additional seats could be designated for white passengers. Parks refused to yield her seat. She was arrested for failing to comply with segregation laws. Dr. King organized and directed a boycott of the bus service that lasted 382 days.

During the years that followed, Dr. King served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped focus the nation’s attention on racial injustice and he worked unwaveringly to end exploitation and abuse based on race and socioeconomic status. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, which drew a quarter of a million people to protest policies of segregation and discrimination. His work was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in that year, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize.

During the last year of his life, Dr. King focused attention on inequalities stemming from “intolerable conditions that exist in our society.” These included poverty, housing shortages, unemployment, and injustice. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968 when he visited that city in support of striking sanitation workers.

The holiday commemorating Dr. King was established by federal legislation in 1983. His legacy continues to inspire people today.

Our work at Southside Virginia Community College is aligned with the goals Dr. King set out to achieve. We are one of the most diverse institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This diversity enriches students’ experiences and better prepares them to embrace Dr. King’s challenge to develop intelligence and character. Students from different walks of life face various challenges, and our task is to create opportunities for success irrespective of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Our motto, “Success Starts Here” applies equally to all.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

SVCC Students complete Welding Certification Program

Four students recently completed Southside Virginia Community College's Gas Metal Arc Welding Certification Program that was held at the Southside Virginia Education Center in Emporia.  For more information on the program, visit:

Pictured (Left to Right) are Christopher Scott; Kristian Rose; Jerry Brown, Instructor; Nasir Ervin; and Darnell Macklin

Three Local Men Complete SVCC Power Line Worker Program

Marquis Warren of Emporia completed the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Worker Training Program on November 17, 2021.  He is a graduate of Southampton High School.

William Owen of Emporia completed the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Worker Training Program on November 17, 2021.  He is a graduate of Brunswick Academy.

James Russell Moody of Dolphin completed the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Worker Training Program on November 17, 2021.  He is a graduate of Brunswick Academy.
The 11-week program provides both classroom and hands-on training in safety, climbing techniques, electrical theory, aerial framing, rigging, operating utility service equipment and commercial drivers' license training.  
SVCC offers the Power Line Worker class in Blackstone, Virginia, at the Occupational/Technical Center in Pickett Park.  For information, visit

A New Year Is Coming

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

As 2021 wraps up, many people will pause to look back at the year gone by and begin planning for the one to come. Thanksgiving and Christmas focus on gratitude and hope. New Year’s Eve encourages us to appreciate experiences that have strengthened and shaped us. We say adieu to habits that haven’t served us well, and New Year’s Day lets us leave regrets behind and embrace a bold new start.

Resolutions about health and fitness, personal or professional development, improved financial status, and a greater enjoyment of life offer a chance for a fresh beginning. Some people will achieve their goals and others will abandon them.

Experts suggest that the differences between successes and disappointments are strongly linked to how aspirations are identified and the way in which they are pursued. One frequently offered tactic is to develop “SMART” goals. These letters serve as a reminder that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. In other words, the best way to reach desired results is to have a detailed action plan.

Many resolutions are founded on education, and Southside Virginia Community College stands ready to help you accomplish them. Perhaps you need a course for personal improvement, a short-term program for skill development, or a longer-term path of study leading to the attainment of workplace or academic credentials. Your success is close at hand.

SVCC offers a host of resources designed to produce specific and measurable results that are achievable because we provide assistance through relevant and timely support. With this in mind, the college has established a Navigator Team to work closely with potential and current students to match interests and skills, identify objectives, and define career pathways achievable through academic or workforce development programs. These Navigators also assist students by connecting them to resources that can help in overcoming barriers to completing their educational goals.

Dr. Daryl Minus, Vice President, Enrollment Management and Student Success, remarks, “We are excited about the projected impact of our new Navigators. They will play key roles in strengthening SVCC's student onboarding and retention systems. Navigators have the expertise to help keep students connected from the initial inquiry and pre-enrollment stages all the way through to credential and goal completion.”

Timonee' McCargo, a nursing student at SVCC, took her first steps toward a brighter future when she decided to invest in herself, despite challenging times. She says, "Applying for nursing school during a pandemic and seeing the toll it was taking on nurses in our own community was definitely eye opening.” Nevertheless, she says she has found her calling. “I witnessed first-hand how well our healthcare workers in this community pulled together to provide the best care, and this only added to my desire of becoming a nurse."

Another SVCC student, Katelyn Ottaway, is also glad she took steps to begin her academic journey. “Each time I step foot on campus I feel welcomed and supported. Every day I am learning something new. Whenever I need help, the kind faculty and staff members are always there and go the extra mile.”

As an open-door institution, SVCC has a place for everyone. If education can help you keep your New Year’s resolutions and reach your goals for 2022, I strongly encourage you to contact SVCC. Call 434-736-2046, or visit It’s the smart thing to do.

On behalf of the dedicated faculty and staff at SVCC, I wish you happy holidays, and a joyous and productive new year!

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Teamwork and Gratitude

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

As leaves and temperatures fall, people bundle up in sweaters and jackets. Warm camaraderie overcomes the chill in the air. This seasonal change provides an apt setting for the annual observance of Thanksgiving, and I feel truly grateful for so many of life’s blessings.

I am thankful for the opportunity to work among a supportive team of colleagues at Southside Virginia Community College, and I am thankful for our students, people who come to SVCC from all walks of life. As they pursue academic attainment and job training options, sometimes in the face of tremendous challenges, their dedication provides inspiration.

SVCC’s faculty, staff, and students are perhaps the most visible face of our college, but they are not the only members of our college’s team. Many volunteers also work behind the scenes, diligently serving on various boards that help us fulfill our mission. I am especially grateful for the dedication and hard work of these too-often unrecognized team members.

The Local College Board is one example. Its members provide guidance to ensure that SVCC delivers instructional programming to meet a diverse range of needs. Another example is the SVCC Foundation Board that guides activities to provide money, personnel, and other resources that help strengthen the college and its programs, including scholarships for students and other contributions to educational and administrative needs. In addition, Advisory Boards in specific program areas help ensure that student experiences are properly aligned with current needs among local employers.

Carla Sanford, RN, BSN, who serves as Clinical Nurse Manager of L.D.R.P. Unit, is a member of one such board. She explains her role. “The advisory board allows me to collaborate with SVCC faculty, staff, and students so we can continue to improve the student’s learning experience.”

John Lee, President and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, EMPOWER Broadband, Inc. and EMPOWER Telecom, Inc. serves on another Advisory Board. He says, “Through their utilization of business leaders on strategic oversight panels such as the Power Line Workers School (PLWS) Advisory Committee, SVCC receives valuable state-of-the-industry input that allows them to adjust or amend their programs to better fit the most recent and constantly changing industry needs for those positions. For example, at the PLWS, they have made curriculum and program adjustments based on the very input they are receiving from those who are actually hiring their graduates. It’s another win-win scenario for the very successful business/education partnership we built while establishing the school, a place that is literally changing the lives of those who enroll and succeed there.”

Robbie Pecht, a member of the Foundation Board, sums up the feelings of many when he says, "SVCC is such a vital part of our community and I am honored to serve on the SVCC Foundation Board.  I see our work to assist the college and SVCC students as an investment."

I am grateful for the dedication of community-minded people such as Mr. Pecht, Mr. Lee, and Ms. Sanford. Their willingness to be involved on behalf of our students and the communities we serve stands as an example, and their excellent leadership skills help us stay on course.

I am surrounded by people who continually give me reasons to be thankful. As you gather with your family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I hope your list of blessings is as long as mine.


Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

SVCC and DRS Imaging Services Celebrate Graduates




SVCC graduates of the DRS Imaging Services employee program are Jamie Caknipe, Jessica Caknipe, Shavonne Hargrove, Jeanette Rawlings, Shelby Russell, Bruce Terry and (not-pictured) Kelly Gordon.

Southside Virginia Community College in partnership with DRS Imaging Services, LLC in Clarksville held a luncheon event celebrating seven DRS Imaging employees who received a career studies certificate from SVCC.

Within a two-year period, the DRS employees attended classes that covered office software applications; business; career exploration; team concepts; and problem solving for the completion of a Career Studies Certificate in Office Basics. 

"As an owner and Board member of DRS, I was excited to spearhead an incredible partnership between CapEQ (led by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson), the Southside Virginia Community College team and the South Central Workforce Development Board. Working together, we have provided more than 2,500 free college credit hours to DRS employees in Clarksville. We believe impactful initiatives like these not only serve to upskill our employees but are also significantly beneficial to companies by reducing employee churn. Thank you to our incredible partners on a job well done," said Nick Jean-Baptiste, Member of the Board of Directors of DRS Imaging Services, LLC.

Through this program DRS Imaging paid for the tuition and books for each of the courses provided to its employees.  When talking with the graduates they explained that taking these courses were a springboard for a future career or a more advanced degree.  Others stated that they were encouraged to finish what they had started years ago.  For some of the graduates they received the encouragement to attend college for the first time.

“This type of program is what I love about workforce and apprenticeship courses,” said Kristie Morris, Apprenticeship Specialist and Instructor at SVCC.  “We at SVCC are able to offer our students (especially those working full time) courses they need to further educate themselves while fitting the courses into their busy schedules, one class at a time.”

“It was a pleasure working with DRS to upskill their workforce,” states Kelly Arnold, former Southside Virginia Community College, Apprentice Coordinator. “In the digital age it’s essential for employers to understand the value of upskilling and investing in their employees. While there is a small cost to training the workforce, the benefits to developing tech savvy workers creates intrinsic value for the employee and the company.”

Arnold added, “The partnership with Southside Virginia Community College allowed the DRS employees to learn new technologies and to earn career studies certificates. These collaborative efforts pay dividends in employee efficiency, well-being and accomplishments.”

DRS was founded in 1964 and is one of the oldest and largest privately owned document scanning service bureaus in the United States with more than 400 employees and 13 locations across the country.

For more information about other employee and apprenticeship programs offered at SVCC, please contact Kristie Morris, Apprenticeship Specialist at SVCC,

Creating Paths for Opportunity

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

The United States has been called a land of opportunity, a place where all people have the chance to increase their income, improve their circumstances, and pursue happiness. History paints a more complex picture. Socioeconomic studies find that the conditions required to pursue opportunities are unevenly distributed.

Factors such as unequal access to quality education, disparities in family wealth, and insufficiently robust social connections contribute to dissimilar outcomes. Furthermore, living in poverty undermines security and thwarts optimism. A few years ago, researchers at the Census Bureau, Harvard University, and Brown University discovered that the neighborhood in which a child grows up has a significant impact on future earnings, incarceration rates, and other adult outcomes.

Persistent, multigenerational poverty has had an especially devastating effect in minority communities. At the same time, people with higher incomes are able to live in neighborhoods with more resources and accrue socioeconomic advantages. These diverging trends, rooted in resource availability, contribute to an ever-widening gap between segments of society. This in turn disrupts our national unity and hampers our prosperity.

For opportunities to lead to widespread benefits, they need to open doors for everyone. The word itself, opportunity incorporates the word unity, underscoring the need to join hands and work together toward common goals.

With these thoughts in mind, the Virginia Community College System set out to consider the steps needed to attain equitable outcomes. The resulting strategy is called “Opportunity 2027.” Adopted earlier this year, the strategic plan provides a six-year blueprint that will guide Virginia’s community colleges into the future. The action-oriented design provides a detailed roadmap ensuring that “Virginia’s Community Colleges will achieve equity in access, learning outcomes, and success for students from every race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group.”

The initiative seeks to remove equity gaps among students of color and ALICE students (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a population that faces chronic financial instability and struggles to meet basic needs. To accomplish this, the plan establishes five target goals. These include communicating the importance of equity in securing Virginia’s future talent pipeline, improving the quality and diversity among community college faculty and staff members, ensuring a culture of care that meets the needs of a diverse student population, matching instruction to what is needed for 21st century careers, and keeping education affordable.

Southside Virginia Community College has already begun taking steps. We are expanding training for in-demand career pathways, pursuing options for granting prior-learning credits, embedding valued stackable credentials into programs, braiding credit and non-credit instruction, and pursuing local options for internships and apprenticeships. In addition, we are working to ensure that we employ faculty, staff, and administrators able to stand as role models and help our students envision themselves in future leadership positions.

My colleague John Downey, president of Blue Ridge Community College, summed it up nicely when he said, “Achieving our mission, and recognizing that every citizen of the commonwealth needs the opportunity to succeed will really help us improve the lives not only of individuals, but the communities where they live.”

“Opportunity 2027” establishes objectives and adopts metrics to monitor and document progress so colleges can see exactly how well they are doing in closing equity gaps based on race or ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic condition. At SVCC, we are proud to be in the forefront of this important work.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Student Discovers Her Time to Shine

Like many college students, Darleen Ferguson has exciting plans for her future. But unlike many of her classmates, Darleen has already overcome the challenges of navigating a decades-long career path. She has also experienced the rewards that come from raising a family.

“I am 73 years old, and I proudly claim all 73 of those years,” Darleen boasts. “When I was young, I made sacrifices for my children. Now they’re doing good. Now it’s time for me. For the years I have left, I’m planning on enjoying them.”

Darleen took a decisive step into her future when she enrolled in “Computer Applications and Concepts” at Southside Virginia Community College during the Fall 2021 semester. The course provides basic instruction in fundamental computer topics, internet skills, and commonly used software programs.

“You can do so much nowadays with a computer,” Darleen says. She speaks from the perspective of a person who knows how much the world has been transformed. When Darleen first joined the workforce, she lived in the Washington, DC area and was employed by a company that had a large, room-filling IBM machine. “Since then, everything has changed,” she laughs. “People even have computers in their homes.”

Darleen’s own life has been through dramatic changes as well. She had to put an earlier quest for education aside in order to focus on raising her two young daughters. When her father retired from the DC police force and moved to southside Virginia, she followed him. She worked as a Teacher’s Aide with Brunswick County Schools and then as a Nurse Aide for Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill. Eventually, she enrolled in SVCC’s RN program, but her plans were derailed when she developed sarcoidosis, a serious lung disease that required intense care and a lengthy recovery.

“When the sarcoidosis hit me, I became very depressed because I went from doing a lot to not being able to do anything,” Darleen remembers. After one attempt at returning to work resulted in a relapse and rehospitalization, she realized that returning to full-time work would not be possible.

In time, Darleen recovered sufficiently to embrace volunteer work. Today, she serves VCU Health CMH through the CMH Auxiliary, an organization that exists to serve the hospital’s patients, visitors, and staff. Her primary duties include working at the Information Desk and in the Surgical Waiting Room. Darleen also serves as Chairperson of the Scholarship Fund and as the 2nd Vice President of the CMH Auxiliary, roles that require writing reports and organizing fundraising efforts. Her developing computer skills are already helping her do these tasks more efficiently.

Recalling the motivation that inspired her to return to academic pursuits, she says, “I credit my children who push me. My daughters give me hand-me-down electronic devices and encourage me, telling me I can do it.”

She attends classes once a week. “I like to be able to sit in a classroom and raise my hand. The teacher is very nice and helpful, and my fellow students help me.” 

Her instructor, Kelley LaPrade, Associate Professor of Information Technology, notes, “At SVCC, we have students of all ages from high school to senior citizens. Ms. Ferguson has been a joy to have in class and her persistence encourages me and others to be lifelong learners. The other students enjoy her in class. She is learning to use software tools, she has learned Canvas, how to use an e-book, and how to submit online assignments.”

Darleen’s computer course is just the first step of a longer journey. When she’s finished, she plans to pursue a Career Studies Certificate in bookkeeping, a pathway that will require 17 credits.

“Every year, the Auxiliary sponsors the Tree of Love Ceremony that funds the Elizabeth T. Mosley Scholarship Fund to help people who work at the hospital to advance their education.” Darleen’s tasks include keeping track of donor’s names and addresses and other recordkeeping. She looks forward to Bookkeeping Training to help keep a watchful eye on every penny.

Darleen encourages other senior citizens to consider educational pursuits. “You’re never too old,” she says. “It’s something to keep your mind going. Learning gives you something to do to overcome aches and pains. Senior citizens have an advantage because they don’t have competing obligations, like child care and work schedules.”

SVCC offers a wide slate of flexible options for students of all ages. For more information, please visit SVCC’s website ( or call 434-949-1021.

Darleen reminds you, “It’s your time to do what you want to do. Go ahead and try. You never know what you can do until you try.”

Southside Virginia Community College named a “2021 Great College to Work For”

This honor puts Southside Virginia Community College in elite company.

Southside Virginia Community College is one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey by the Great Colleges to Work For® program.
The results, released in a special insert of The Chronicle of Higher Education, are based on a survey of 196 colleges and universities. In all, 70 of the 196 institutions achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition for specific best practices and policies. Results are reported for small, medium, and large institutions, with Southside Virginia Community College included among the medium universities with 3,000 to 9,999 students.
SVCC won honors in 7 categories this year:
Job Satisfaction & Support; Professional Development; Mission & Pride; Supervisor/Department Chair Effectiveness; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Faculty & Staff Well-being; and Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging.

SVCC was also named to the Great Colleges Honor Roll, a status granted to only 42 colleges each year who are highlighted most across the recognition categories.
“This is a very satisfying affirmation of Southside Virginia Community College, but our real goal is not recognition – it’s being a community that values the needs and contributions of every individual. In that sense everyone at Southside Virginia Community College helps to make this a great place to work,” said SVCC’s President Dr. Quentin R. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson added, “SVCC is a great place to work because our dedicated faculty and staff are deeply committed to offering high quality academic and workforce programs. This commitment to academic and workforce excellence serves as a platform for maintaining a highly collegial and collaborative, student-first, campus environment for our students. The Covid-19 pandemic has only served to bring our college community closer, and make us stronger in our resolve to serve students. Together, faculty, staff, and students exude a strong sense of pride in all that we do as a community! Our motto at SVCC is "Panther Pride - Catch it!”

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institution questionnaire that captured employment data and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.
The employee survey underwent a number of changes this year, including the addition of 11 new survey statements, some of which are related to new survey themes around diversity, inclusion and belonging, as well as faculty and staff well-being. New survey demographics related to gender identity and remote work were also included this year.
In accordance with the survey changes, the recognition categories for the program were also updated this year to better reflect current patterns and methodologies in employee engagement in higher education.
The Great Colleges to Work For® program is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country. For more information and to view all current and previously recognized institutions, visit the Great Colleges program website at and ModernThink, a strategic human capital consulting firm, administered the survey and analyzed the results.

SVCC Diesel Technician Program Graduates

(L to R) Pictured are Billy McGraw, SVCC Instructor, Michael Jones of Nathalie, VA (Halifax); Marcellos Maclin of Freeman, VA (Brunswick); Jakeem Lee of Brodnax, VA (Brunswick); Jordan Maxey of Farmville, VA (Prince Edward); Joseph Pretko of Spout Spring, VA (Appomattox); and Russell Hicks, SVCC Instructor.

Southside Virginia Community College presented certificates to five graduates for completing the Diesel Technician Program on August 12, 2021 in Blackstone, Virginia.

The 22-week program provides both classroom and hands-on training and is designed to prepare students for employment as an entry-level diesel technician.

SVCC offers the Diesel Technician class in Blackstone, Virginia, at the Occupational/Technical Center in Pickett Park.  For more information about the program, visit

Truck Driver Appreciation Week

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Take a look at your surroundings. Are you inside your home, office, or classroom? Are you at a coffee shop? Perhaps you are in a waiting room or sitting outside on a porch or near a garden.

Pause for a moment and consider the items within your field of view. Can you see a table or desk, some dishes, pictures on a wall, or even the wall itself? Can you see a building or vehicle? Is there any crushed rock or concrete? How about a fence or flower pot? Can you spot a hoe, shovel, or rake?

No matter where you cast your gaze, a truck probably played an important role in the life cycle of almost every product you see. If the finished item itself was not delivered by a truck, its components or the tools required for its upkeep probably were.

Truck Driver Appreciation Week, observed this year September 12 through 18, is a weeklong event sponsored by the American Trucking Associations in honor of the way truck drivers help make our lives better. The U.S. trucking industry employs 3.6 million professional drivers. Annually, they log 400 billion miles and deliver more than 10 billion tons of goods. Food, fuel, medicine, clothing: it all arrives by truck.

The trucking industry strengthens the backbone of our country’s economy, and SVCC is proud to contribute to its success. Our Truck Driver Training School (TDTS) began operating in 1996. So far, we’ve graduated 2,400 students. This unique program is a source of pride at SVCC!

Duncan Quicke, instructor and TDTS coordinator, says, “For the past 25 years I have proudly watched our dedicated students work hard to build better lives for their families. These men and women dedicate themselves to our six-week program, test out with Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, and get recruited by some of the best companies in the world.”

In fact, more than 75 companies have hired, and continue to hire, our students. Those companies include many that serve in the local area and others with fleets deployed nationwide.

Brian Sheridan, a representative for Wisconsin-based Schneider National, recently remarked, “I travel to a lot of driving schools across the country, specifically in Virginia. Southside Virginia Community College holds one of the highest standards for education and for fostering a great experience for employers and students.”

Murvin Ivory, another industry leader, retired from a 14-year career as a Motor Carrier Trooper with the Virginia State Police to begin a new position as a consultant for a trucking company. He says, “When I am faced with dilemmas and challenges in my new job, quite often I will call on the experts at the TDTS at SVCC to help guide me through them. Those guys do a great job of preparing their students for careers in the trucking profession.”

The need for truck drivers continues to grow. Projections Central, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, reported that the Commonwealth of Virginia would experience nearly 6,000 annual openings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

Truck driver training at SVCC is available in Blackstone at Fort Pickett and in South Boston and Emporia. Classes are structured to mimic normal workdays. Students receive hands-on driving practice along with instruction about topics such as maintenance, highway safety, and pre-trip inspections. For more information, contact Duncan Quicke (434)-292-1650 or or visit

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Former SVCC Graduates Restoring Power in Louisiana

Local Linemen with Lee Electrical Construction LLC and former SVCC Power Line Worker graduates Bayden Bishop, Jackson Queen and Blake Gravitt are currently in Louisiana restoring power from the damage left behind by Hurricane Ida.

As one of the most powerful hurricanes in recent memory, Hurricane Ida, hit the gulf coast more than one million people in Louisiana were left without electricity.  The estimates are that many residents will be without power for more than 20 days.

To help with this massive power restoration effort, Lee Electrical Construction LLC based out of Aberdeen, North Carolina is one of many companies that have been called in to help.  

Working on one of the Lee Electrical crews in Louisiana are three graduates of Southside Virginia Community College's Power Line Worker Training Program, Bayden Bishop of Kenbridge (Lunenburg County); Jackson Queen of South Hill (Mecklenburg County); and Blake Gravitt of Clarksville (Mecklenburg County).  Bayden was a graduate of the program's second cohort; Jackson a graduate of cohort 12 and Blake a recent graduate of cohort 16.

"When you are a lineman, you watch the weather forecasts and keep your bags packed," said Jackson.  "Many families here in Louisiana have already been without power for days and may be without power for weeks.  We have to work long hours at times but we know the importance of what we do.”

Jackson added, “We've already had people come up to us here in Baton Rouge and thank us personally, that appreciation makes the time and effort we put in each day worthwhile."

Jason R. Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Lee Electrical Construction, LLC said, “Hurricane Ida caused catastrophic damage to many of our customers in the gulf. When events like this happen, these same customers rely on Lee Electrical Construction and our team to provide a skilled and safe workforce that can respond very quickly. These guys (Bayden, Jackson, and Blake) answered that call. It is because of individuals such as these three that we are able to continually provide reliable restoration services to affected areas.

Jackson has been with Lee for two years and said the guys on his crew are like a family. They look out for each other while following safety protocols when restoring power in areas that storms have ravaged.  Because of the severe damage, it is estimated that the Lee crew will be working in Louisiana for multiple weeks.  

Their crew is planning to leave Baton Rouge and head to New Orleans within the next few days.

Industrial Maintenance Student Achieves Dramatic Success

Shaun Phelps, a student in the Industrial Maintenance program at Southside Virginia Community College, will complete his Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree at the end of the 2021 summer semester. The occasion marks a significant milestone in his life’s journey, professionally and personally.

Shaun explains, “On June 30, 2018 I was in a vehicle accident in my truck. I don’t remember the accident, but I’ve been told that I overcorrected on a curve and hit a tree. It turned out that the first responder was a friend who was also a volunteer with the fire department. He said I had been ejected from the truck and was pinned underneath the cab. I was in a coma for a month. I woke up in the hospital, clueless. I was in the hospital for two and a half months.”

At the time of his accident, Shaun was employed as a lineman with Dominion Power. His recovery and eventual return to work required an unswerving effort as he worked to overcome the effects of a traumatic brain injury and to restore physical abilities.

Shaun explains that returning to work involved following testing protocols. “Dominion was understandably cautious to have me return as a lineman, but I wanted to come back. I went to brain doctors, including one in Richmond who had studied brain injuries in the NFL.” Finally, after being out of work for six months, Shaun received clearance to return to his job.

His path forward included unexpected obstacles. “People felt differently about me. There’s a stigma associated with brain injuries.”

Shaun persisted in meeting high standards and eventually rose to the position of Lead Lineman. “It is my job to help educate new trainees and to fill in when the supervisor is not there,” he explains. The job also requires a sharp eye and commitment to safety. “You’re the one putting your hand on the wire. You do what needs to be done.”

During a routine safety meeting, Shaun learned about a program at SVCC that offered linemen academic credit for their training and experience. Shaun saw the opportunity as a chance to prove his mental mettle. “I wanted to challenge myself,” he reports.

“School has been great for me,” he says. “Coming back from a brain injury helped me focus. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I can tolerate, and how to cope with challenges.”

One of those challenges involved learning how to retain information in areas outside his usual interests, such as mathematics. “I had to learn about my limits and found that it helped to constantly write things down and re-read my notes. I have a scary stack of notepads, and I’ve gone through a lot of pens,” he laughs.

Other classes had more immediate practical applications. “My favorite classes turned out to be computer and communication classes. I learned how to make PowerPoint presentations, and I’ve been able to create some for people to learn at work during times such as rain days. I also simplified some instructional materials to make it easier for new recruits to learn.”

With his lineman training and experience, Shaun needed to take only 12 classes to complete his degree. “I was able to take them all online with a flexible schedule,” he reports. That was important because his work schedule places him on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. “There’s no way I could have scheduled regular classes,” he observes.

Shaun started his college journey in May 2020. He will graduate this summer. “Completing the work took a lot of self-motivation,” he says. “My wife and four kids look to me to help make their lives as best as possible. At my work station, I keep a picture of my truck after the accident and one of me in the hospital with all the tubes. These help me realize that there are more important things in life than to get upset. I also keep a paper my son wrote. He said, "When I grow up, I want to be like my dad. He’s a fighter and a survivor.’”

To others considering embarking on an academic journey, Shaun offers this advice, “Never doubt yourself. They first thought I would need care 24 hours a day, but I walked out of the hospital on my own. The odds were stacked against me, but I’ve managed to make it through. When things get hard, buckle up. Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”

SVCC offers flexible options for students seeking credit for prior learning and work experience. If you would like more information, visit or contact

Thanking Our Professors

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Time and time again, SVCC students and graduates talk about the ways instructors have contributed to their successes. With that in mind, I want to take a moment as we begin a new academic year and to publicly honor the hard work of our dedicated faculty.

Listen to Louise, who began her postsecondary education at SVCC before transferring to Longwood University. She recalls, “I had wonderful instructors who were dedicated and very nurturing in helping me decide on a career. My classes were small and, therefore, the instructors were able to provide individualized assistance when needed.”

SVCC professors also demonstrated their willingness to do whatever was necessary to maintain quality instruction when pandemic-related changes shifted many classes to online environments. Meeting needs for flexible learning situations still requires adjustments depending on requirements within individual disciplines. Our faculty members have proven themselves fit for the challenge.

Nussy experienced this first-hand. “Chemistry was a class I dreaded taking, especially taking it online. I not only maintained high marks, but I actually loved it and found it very interesting. I am so grateful I had such a helpful and patient teacher. I would recommend Dr. Smetana to anyone who has to take chemistry. Before this class, I always had a hard time with math, but Dr. Smetana found a way to make it fun, interactive, and easy to follow.”

SVCC has 138 full-time and 145 adjunct faculty members. Martha Reed, Assistant Professor of Biology, speaks for them all when she says, “Teaching at a community college as compared to a larger university gives me the opportunity to get to know my students on a more personal level.”

This type of personal connection was especially important to Chelsea, a student in SVCC’s cosmetology program. Chelsea reported, “The instructor is not only incredibly knowledgeable, but goes the extra mile to make sure I have the hands-on experience to feel confident in what I do.”

These important connections don’t end with graduation. Andrew, who currently serves as lead welder with Buckingham Branch Railroad, remembers the strong foundation he received from his welding instructor, "Mr. Braun taught me the fundamentals that I still use today as a welder.  He was instrumental in helping me decide that I had a future career in welding, and eight years later I'm still perfecting my craft."

William, who serves as a sergeant with the Virginia State Police Training Division in North Chesterfield, says, “SVCC was instrumental in helping me start a career in law enforcement. I am still in contact with several of my former professors, and I would not be where I am today without their tutelage.”

Denice, who works for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, likewise reports, “I was fortunate to have been taught and mentored by intelligent and passionate instructors. They were the fundamental driving force behind all that I have accomplished as a registered nurse today.”

Teachers are the life’s blood of our country’s educational system. Without hardworking and dedicated teachers, we have no future. In Southside Virginia, public and private schools at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through senior postsecondary institutions, traditionally begin a new academic year in August. Here at SVCC, our doors for the Fall 2021 semester will open on August 23. It seems a most fitting time to offer a big “Thank you!” to all teachers everywhere.
Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Southside Virginia Community College to use Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative Award from Virginia Foundation for Community College Education to Close Educational Attainment Gaps

Richmond — Southside Virginia Community College 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 11 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.

"Many of our students pursue transfer program opportunities or workforce programs that lead directly to high paying jobs.  Through the expertise of our career coach professionals, the RVHI program will help potential students better understand the connection between their educational choices and their career opportunities," said Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President.

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.

The SVCC Foundation is a proud partner in the RVHI grant.  SVCC’s approved grant request was in the amount of $100,000; of that total amount, $50,000 is coming from the VFCCE and the other $50,000 must be raised through the SVCC Foundation.

SVCC Announces 2021 Fall Semester Plans

Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) will continue with a full schedule of classes for the fall semester beginning August 23, 2021.  Social distancing restrictions and mask requirements are being lifted for vaccinated individuals, which is in line with the guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While SVCC is not requiring students, faculty, or staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, the institution is strongly encouraging it. 

To give students more options, the college is again taking a “HyFlex” approach to course delivery.  This means class options (depending on the needs of each discipline) may include a mix of in-person instruction, expanded online offerings, and a “Zoom to Home” option.

According to Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, SVCC President, "As we are excited about having some restrictions lifted, we understand that the pandemic is not over; and that is why we are encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.  The college has been open for limited in-person classes since last August, and now we are eager to welcome more students back on-campus."

The Café on both the Christanna campus in Alberta and the John H. Daniel campus in Keysville will also open back up for the fall semester.  As social distancing requirements are being lifted for vaccinated individuals, SVCC’s student resource centers will now allow more students to utilize the facilities on each campus.

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, SVCC has complied with guidelines from the CDC for physical distancing, hygiene, and safety.  SVCC’s faculty, staff, & administration has worked diligently to keep its locations safely open for the needs of students; and that will continue.

Now is the time to picture yourself a panther at SVCC and start your educational journey; panther pride, catch it!

Registration for the 2021 fall semester is going on now; for more information, please visit or call (434) 949-1000.

The Re-Employing Virginians (REV) Initiative Can Help Rev-Up Our Workforce

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Employment data for Virginia present a complicated picture. In 2019 before COVID-19 shutdowns impacted the economy, Virginia reported an unemployment rate of only 2.7%. During 2020, the rate skyrocketed to 14.4% before sliding back down. Recent statistics peg it at 4.5%.

Yet, job seekers say they still can’t find jobs, and employers say they can’t find workers to fill open positions. One piece of this puzzle appears to be a mismatch between the skills sought and those held by unemployed and underemployed workers.

To help address this, Virginia’s governor created the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiative as part of the statewide response under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the U.S. Congress last year. REV Training Vouchers provide funds for job training in high-demand areas such as early childhood education, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, skilled trades, and public safety. The REV program began last October and will expire at the end of this year.

Tammy Wiley and Cameron Vassar are two of the REV Coaches SVCC currently employed to guide students who have become unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic. Their duties include enrolling students, helping them succeed during course work, and assisting in job-seeking activities through connections with local employers, career counseling, and help with practical tasks such as creating resumes and writing cover letters. Plans for a career fair are also underway.

Marsha Hawkins, a current student who worked with Wiley as her REV Coach, remembers hearing that her job would end. “I was shocked and lost as to what my future would hold. At age 61 I had to make a decision. I knew that I needed benefits, such as medical and life insurance; therefore, I had to do something quickly. My decision was to go back to school to learn a new trade. My course of study is Medical Office Assistant, which is a two-year program with an AAS degree. Tammy worked with me on getting financial assistance. Tammy also assisted me in getting my schedule together. I was a little overwhelmed trying to do it myself. So far, my classes have not been easy because my brain cells were asleep. However, I am doing well and Tammy checks on me often to make sure I’m OK and to see if I need any assistance in anything. I’m a true believer that if one door closes, God has another one opened and waiting for us to walk in.”

Several factors guide eligibility. Workers who received unemployment benefits after August 1, 2020, even if they also received prior benefits, are eligible. Also, workers who transitioned from full-time to part-time jobs as a result of the pandemic are eligible if they are currently earning less than $15 per hour. Training vouchers up to $1,500 assist workforce and part-time students, and vouchers up to $3,000 are available for full-time students. Furthermore, as Wiley explains, “If we cannot obtain all required funding through the REV program, we do our best to exhaust other available resources.”

Vassar adds, “I’d love for everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to expand career options. We’re trying to help as many people as we can.”

For more information about REV eligibility, training voucher amounts, and qualifying programs, please visit SVCC’s website ( or call 434-949-1021.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Community College Tuition: A Good Deal and a Great Investment

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

For the fourth year in a row, tuition at Southside Virginia Community College will remain unchanged. The State Board for Community Colleges made the decision by unanimous vote earlier this year. As a result, tuition at Virginia’s community colleges represent an unparalleled value in education.

The tuition rate of $154 per credit hour represents approximately one-third of the comparable cost to attend one of Virginia’s public four-year universities, but the tuition savings is only part of the picture. A host of financial aid options are also available. In fact, according to recent data, 90% of first-time students at SVCC received financial aid. The average annual amount awarded each recipient totaled $5,224.

Sources of financial assistance include Federal Pell Grants, which are available to qualifying students based on financial need. Several statewide initiatives for community college students also help lessen education costs. For example, grants made under the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) program provide assistance to qualifying students who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Get Ahead (G3) program provides funding for Virginians who are seeking training for in-demand careers in fields with high-value wages. The FastForward Credential Program provides funding to cover two-thirds of the cost of attending short-term training programs that prepare students to embark on career pathways in a wide variety of technical fields.

In addition, approximately 250 students each semester receive aid through the SVCC Foundation. These local scholarships support students at a wide range of levels, from moderate help in paying for textbooks and supplies, to major assistance that covers full tuition. Awards are based on diverse criteria, such as program of study, county of residence, year in school, and academic performance. Funding for these scholarships comes from the generosity of alumni, employees, organizations, companies, and others in the region who understand the value of education and training for as many people in our service area as possible.

Long time SVCC board member Lisa Tharpe, and her husband Tim Tharpe of J.R. Tharpe Trucking have an established track record of aiding students in SVCC's Truck Driver Training program. Mrs. Tharpe explains, “The Truck Driver Training Program is a valuable resource to our company. Support of this program and its students is a great investment in our future workforce.”

Ray Thomas of Brunswick Insurance Agency is another benefactor. He says, “My family has a long history of providing scholarship support to Brunswick County students so they can attend SVCC.  My dad, Gene Thomas, was instrumental in setting up the SVCC Foundation, and we understand the value of community college education.”

One thing students at SVCC do not receive is debt. National statistics regarding federal student loan obligations suggest that many college students leave the classroom with staggering amounts of debt. The credit rating agency Experian reported that the aggregate amount of outstanding student debt at the end of 2020 was nearly $1.6 trillion, with an average individual student balance of $38,792. Instead of contributing to this burden, SVCC chooses to help students find sources of funding that do not have to be repaid. As a result, the federal student loan amount encumbered at SVCC by our graduates is $0. That’s right, zero!

I invite you to maximize the benefit of your education dollars. Visit for links to more information about SVCC’s programs of study, enrollment options, and financial aid availability.  Again, SVCC tuition is a Good Deal and a Great Investment!

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

CITE Certifies State Champion

Southside Virginia Community College’s Center for Information Technology Excellence (CITE) recognized Blaise Carter of Palmer Springs for an outstanding performance on the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Excel Exam. Blaise not only earned a Microsoft Office Specialist Certification in Excel; he was recognized by Microsoft for receiving one of the highest scores in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia in 2020. Presenting the “State Champion'' certificate of accomplishment to Blaise is Microsoft representative Jeremy Satterfield, TechSpark Community Engagement Manager. Blaise is a graduate of Park View High School and SVCC. His future plans are to pursue a career in the information technology field. If you are interested in CITE or furthering your Microsoft Office knowledge and skills, contact Crystal Pendergrass, CITE Program Coordinator, at

SVCC Nurse Aide Graduates

Congratulations to the recent graduates of the Southside Virginia Community College Nurse Aide program held at the Southside Virginia Education Center in Emporia.  For more information about the program, please contact Erica Randoloph, Site Coordinator and Student Ambassador Advisor, at (434) 634-9358.

Shannon Crawley

Shanece Archie 

Alicia Pegram

Nyesha Pierce

Audrey Johnson

SVCC Partners with SHINE to Develop Innovative Training Program

A collaborative effort between Southside Virginia Community College and the Solar Hands-on Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE) is working to develop a new short-term training program with the potential to put thousands of unemployed and underemployed people to work in local communities and across the Commonwealth. The program will teach basic skills necessary for entry into the emerging field of utility-scale photovoltaic installation.

“Utility-scale solar projects represent one of the most significant opportunities for Southside Virginia to expand its business base,” says David Peterson, Executive Director of SHINE. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act, which passed last year, gives the state a mandate to meet certain objectives for renewable energy.”

The Act, which passed in 2020 with bipartisan support among Virginia’s citizens, requires the creation of a renewable energy portfolio that will move the Commonwealth toward a clean-energy goal. Solar energy is an important part of this mix, and investments in utility-scale generating capacity are vital to its success. SHINE estimates that utility-scale solar construction through 2028 will bring upwards of 22,550 megawatts of generating capacity to Virginia and create more than 31,000 jobs across the state. Within the counties served by SVCC, 4,000 jobs are expected within the next few years.

Despite these promising projections, Peterson acknowledges some challenges. “The issue is clouded by the politics of renewable energy, but the economic value and job creation value have tremendous direct economic benefit to the community. Solar installation training opens the door for people who want to start careers in energy fields or move forward in other construction-type career paths.”

SVCC’s Vice President of Academic and Workforce Programs, Dr. Keith Harkins, notes, “The partnership between SHINE and SVCC has set the example of how communities can ensure local residents have the skills needed to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the solar industry. Utility-scale solar projects are on the rise in Virginia, and this partnership has created a foundation upon which other communities can build. We are beyond excited about how this partnership will help our students gain entry into this exciting industry.”

The partnership brings the College and future employers together to shape the program. Peterson explains this dynamic, “The industry professionals who will be doing the hiring are also developing the curriculum. They know what they need in future workers. The college knows how to deliver the training.”

Small test cohorts have enabled groups of students and industry partners to provide input and refine the curriculum in a way that will generate a highly targeted, short-duration program. The emphasis will be on the rapid development of entry-level skills needed for immediate employment. Peterson emphasizes the importance of such a focused effort. He says, “People with families and other responsibilities just don’t have the luxury of spending a long time in training. They need to move quickly into an income generating position.”

Program graduates will receive industry-recognized credentials, such as OSHA 10 and SHINE certifications, which affirm their readiness to enter the solar installation field. In addition, SHINE will facilitate job interviews with contractors who are ready to move forward with construction.

Workers seeking to move up the career ladder will have further opportunities. The certifications are designed to be stackable, so people who choose to continue their education, can pursue additional steps leading to such specialties as operations and maintenance. The earned credentials and work experiences are also transferrable. This will enable people who want to pursue opportunities in other renewable energy or building industries to diversify their skill sets. Some people may even choose to pursue exciting opportunities with utility-scale solar contractors who have a presence across the Commonwealth, across the U.S., and even around the world.

Founded in 2018 with a focus on keeping solar jobs and their corresponding economic benefits in-state, SHINE is a public-private partnership representing members of the Maryland-DC-Delaware-Virginia Solar Industries Association, solar developers, construction companies, energy consulting and recruiting firms, and other industry and education experts. Its purpose is to build innovative solar career pathways in Virginia through the development of a qualified, diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar workforce. For more information about this initiative, visit

SVCC is part of the Virginia Community College System. Its service area spans ten counties in rural southside Virginia. The College provides diverse instructional programs ranging from developmental studies to associate degree curricula in academic areas, technical/vocational fields, lifelong education, and workforce development. For more information about education and training opportunities, visit

Effie M. Smith Memorial Scholarship Established at SVCC

Effie M. Smith

Through the generosity of family and friends of Effie M. Smith, Nurse Aide students from Greensville County will be eligible to apply and receive a scholarship.  

This scholarship was established to recognize the dedication to the nursing profession of Mrs. Smith who was a Nursing Assistant for many years.  Nurse Aides play a vital role in the healthcare profession, especially in the long-term care sector.  The compassion nurse aides show to their patients is second to none.  

Nurse Aide students at SVCC will now have a great opportunity for a scholarship because of that same thoughtfulness of the family and friends of Mrs. Smith.

Stupendous Success

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Southside Virginia Community College will honor its 2021 graduates in a virtual celebration to be released May 15, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. Students, their families, and others in the community, can access the pre recorded video through the college’s website ( or FaceBook page (

Tiara Mustafo, a 2017 SVCC alumna, will sing the National Anthem. Tiara says SVCC gave her time to find herself and make important friendships. Today, she is a full-time musician. “Music has always been what makes my spirit happy,” she says. A word that describes Tiara is inspiring.

The graduates to be recognized embody many additional characteristics that have contributed to their successes. In preparing for this year’s celebration, we asked faculty and staff to tell us what words best portray the Class of 2021. Here are just a few.

Brave. A recent survey of students revealed that 45% belonged to the first college-going generation in their families. These educational pioneers have taken steps beyond their parents’ experiences to navigate new opportunities. Each of these individuals has demonstrated personal courage in reaching their goals. We salute them.

Diligent and hard-working. Earning a post-secondary degree or other credential, even during the smoothest of times, requires careful attention and the persistent application of effort. Our 2021 graduates have maintained their focus during a turbulent year rocked by social justice concerns and a pandemic. In addition, two out of three completed their studies while holding down a full-time or part-time job. We admire their determined dedication.

Adaptable. This year’s graduates have taken a mix of courses made available through traditional and innovative formats, including online lectures, meeting-style Zoom classes, video broadcasts, and hybrids that combined assorted modalities. SVCC recognizes the importance of giving students opportunities to develop their roles and responsibilities as participants in a changing society. The ever-changing reality of societal transformation has never been more apparent than during the past year. We take our collective hats off to our adaptable students.

Ambitious. The Class of 2021 includes 751 individual academic students who will earn a combined total of 855 awards, including associate degrees and other certificates. Their post-graduation ambitions vary. Some will put their education immediately to use in the workforce; others will continue their academic journeys through transfers to senior institutions.

Positive and driven. 175 students who have completed workforce training programs throughout the year are celebrated with program specific ceremonies. Combined, they have earned 352 industry-recognized credentials. These individuals worked hard to learn new skills and demonstrate the level of mastery required to enter and excel in their chosen professions.

Resourcefulresilient, and strong. All our graduates can tell personal stories about overcoming challenges. One student noted, “I work a full-time job and have small children.” Another explained, “At first, I did not know if I was going to like SVCC being that I was supposed to go to a four-year university and my plans fell through, but now I love it! I would not want to have it any other way.”

There are many other words that can be used to describe the remarkable people who will be honored at SVCC’s commencement ceremony. One I like is Stupendous. As they move into the future, these extraordinary graduates will make a wonderfully stupendous impact as they weave their personal success stories into the fabric of our communities.





SVCC & G3 – What does it mean for you?

Get Skilled. Get a Job. Give Back Initiative to Make College Possible for Qualifying Students

On March 29, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam signed the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program bill that will provide $36 million each year, over the next two years, to make program-targeted, tuition-free community college possible for qualifying students.

“Thanks to our legislative leaders," said VCCS Chancellor Glenn Dubois. “We are going to remove the cost to a certificate or degree for jobs that are high in demand. We wouldn’t be here without Governor Northam’s campaign and promise.” 

The G3 initiative aims to target key industries, from health care and information technology to skilled trades, public safety and early childhood education. Data shows that on average, participants in these high-demand degree programs can increase their wages by 60 percent upon program completion.

“Southside Virginia Community College could not be more excited about this G3 initiative and what it can mean for so many in the southside region,” said Dr. Quentin R. Johnson, president of SVCC. “This funding can open the door for career growth and the opportunity for students to receive the training needed for high paying, high-demand jobs.” 

Who is eligible for G3 funding?  Any Virginia resident is eligible if they meet the following criteria:  1) Qualifies for in-state tuition; 2) Has a total household income of less than or equal to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (roughly an income of $100,000 for a family of four); 3) Is enrolled for a minimum of six credit hours; 4) Is enrolled in a designated G3 program; 5) Has applied for federal and/or state financial aid programs.

For a complete list of SVCC programs that qualify for G3 funding please visit:  If you have any questions, don't delay, call today at 434.949.1035.  
We are waiting for your call and eager to help you get started on the path to a high-demand career!

Graduates Serving on the Frontlines

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Have you recently had a medical appointment? Conducted business online? Needed your electricity restored after storm damage? If so, you may have benefited from the expertise of an SVCC graduate. Our graduates fill frontline positions all across Southside Virginia.

For example, earlier this year, our nursing students helped administer COVID vaccines to 1,500 people. Every year, hundreds of students graduate from our nursing and other allied health programs. The Associate Degree of Applied Science with a major in Nursing (ADN) program prepares men and women to become Registered Nurses. After licensure, RNs fill staffing needs at locations such as physicians’ offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, and public health agencies. Graduates of our other healthcare programs, including Practical Nursing, Nurse Aide, Phlebotomy, and Medication Aide, fill specific roles within interdisciplinary teams that serve patients and their families in many settings.

If you or a loved one has experienced an emergency, it may have been an SVCC graduate who rushed to provide assistance. Our programs train emergency medical service technicians at a range of levels from volunteer to professional and from basic to advanced and paramedic. In addition, graduates from our Administration of Justice programs help protect their communities by serving as local and state law enforcement officers and in other public safety roles, such as correctional and security officers.

For many of us, the pandemic increased the need to interact with the world digitally, using home computers and smartphones to access the internet. Graduates from SVCC’s cutting-edge Information Technology (IT) programs stepped up and helped us connect. Although IT workers may not be as visible as the phlebotomist who draws your blood, they have worked tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of colleges, universities, and school systems to develop and maintain the infrastructure that has enabled students and teachers to work together remotely. IT workers also provided the tools needed to keep local businesses up and running. Some IT professionals have supported workers who moved from office locations to their own living rooms, some have deployed systems that kept supply chains open, and others have provided creative solutions to keep entrepreneurs in touch with their customers.

In addition to challenges presented by the coronavirus, last February’s massive ice storm created numerous problems throughout our region. Tree limbs came crashing down. Utility poles snapped. Thousands of homes and businesses lost electrical power. Graduates from SVCC’s Power Line Worker program were among those who came to the rescue and helped restore power.

Although disasters and calamities draw attention to the need for workers in high-profile areas such as these, other tasks of restoring and maintaining normality rest on many shoulders. SVCC works diligently to prepare people for a vast range of careers that support the local economy and enhance our enjoyment of every day. We train the truck drivers who deliver goods; we train the mechanics who repair the trucks. Our HVAC graduates ensure the safety and comfort of people at home and at work. Our cosmetology graduates make sure you look your best.

SVCC is proud of its role in helping people prepare for diverse careers and to take on responsibilities in today’s everchanging society. Please visit the College’s website ( for more information about how SVCC, its students, and alumni contribute to the wellbeing of communities across Southside Virginia.


Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Today vs. Tomorrow

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

A popular adage advises, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Mangled comic versions go something like this: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be put off until the day after tomorrow.”

Procrastination seems to touch many of us, at least occasionally. We embrace distractions, avoid doing what ought to be done, and trust future luck to meet needs, oftentimes at the adrenaline-filled last minute.

There is even a holiday recognizing this tendency, National Procrastination Week. In keeping with its theme of putting off tasks, the week can be observed during the first two weeks of March, or at another more convenient time.

I have personal experience with procrastination. I tend to procrastinate when it’s time to shop for Christmas gifts. I convince myself that I might catch the best deals by shopping on Christmas Eve. You can guess how it goes. Items are often sold out, prices are rarely good deals, and lines are long.

I also tend to procrastinate when it’s time to cut the grass. I figure the task can wait. The grass will still be there when I get around to it. Unfortunately, when I succumb to this type of thinking the grass keeps growing. It grows so tall I need to take two or three passes just to get rid of all the clumps.

People procrastinate for many reasons. They put off doing tasks they think they will dislike or that will require more effort than they want to expend at a particular moment. They overestimate the likelihood of feeling more motivated in the future. And, some people avoid attempting anything that may yield imperfect results because they fear failure.

James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits, offers several tips for overcoming procrastination. One is to make tasks more achievable by breaking them down into small steps, and then taking the first tiny step. He writes, “Once you start doing something, it’s easier to continue doing it.”

At Southside Virginia Community College, many of our students make a similar discovery when they take the first step in pursuit of postsecondary education goals by registering for classes. A current student who is on track to graduate this December explains her own journey: “Even though I attended college right after high school, I never obtained a degree.” She goes on to say, “That started to bother me after a while, but by that time it seemed too difficult to do.”

It wasn’t until her children were grown and her youngest child was attending college that she resolved to stop procrastinating. “I decided it was time. SVCC sounded like the best approach, so I applied, registered, filled out the FAFSA, and requested transcripts.”

At first, she first feared the road ahead. She says she “thought I might not be able to get it all done, but here I am. Everyone at SVCC has been so kind, patient, helpful, and encouraging, and I am so grateful.”

If your education goals include obtaining a college degree, industry-recognized credentials, or other certifications, it’s time to take your first step. Registration for summer classes begins on March 15, and FastForward Credential Programs are available with upcoming start dates. Scholarships are available, and many of the FastForward Credential Programs are “Tuition Free”! So, don’t procrastinate. Visit for more information.


Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Black History and America’s Future

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Black History Month, sometimes called African American History Month, occurs every year in February. Officially recognized by then-President Gerald Ford in 1976, the commemoration grew from groundwork established by Carter G. Woodson and others during the opening decades of the twentieth century. The observation provides a moment to reflect on the contributions African Americans have made throughout the centuries of U.S. history and to honor their achievements. Throughout February’s days, Black History Month affords an opportunity to open conversations and learn more about the intertwined histories of the diverse groups of people who comprise the American population.

February was chosen for this observation because of its link to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. President, and Frederick Douglass, a former slave who achieved renown as an author, speaker, and activist for the abolition of slavery. The month opens with National Freedom Day, marking the anniversary of the day in 1865 when Lincoln signed the Congressional resolution that became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery.

As Black History Month concludes, our nation will move forward with a renewed understanding of the need for inclusive and thoughtful dialog about the things we value. Virginia’s community colleges have a lot to contribute to this vital conversation. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), recently acknowledged, “When it comes to the issue of race, Virginia has baggage.” Referring to the 1607 Jamestown settlement, he explained, “Much of the modern America we know sprang from that tiny outpost on the banks of the James River. And race plays a leading role in so many of the chapters of that story, including bloody clashes between native tribes and English settlers; the origins of American slavery; the Revolutionary and Civil wars whose battle scars yet mark Virginia soil; and the shadows of Reconstruction and Jim Crow that linger yet.”

With this in mind, the VCCS has initiated the development of a new strategic plan with a revitalized emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion, not just for African Americans but for all people irrespective of race, ethnicity, income level, gender, or other inherent challenges. As president at Southside Virginia Community College, I am strongly committed to work aligned with the statewide initiative that is being done by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. One of our goals is to have a college community that is reflective of the communities and students we serve.

In honor of Black History Month and in preparation for moving forward into our shared future, I encourage you to get to know someone who is different from you. Talk to someone with a different ethnic group, race, gender, or culture.   Open a dialog with someone who is older or younger. Have a conversation with someone whose life experiences differ from yours. Ask questions, share, and listen. Learn from people who tell stories about their own and their community’s struggles. There is much to be done to reconcile inequities. We need to be not just accepting but appreciative of our differences and of our likenesses.

I am an eternal optimist. I am also a realist. I am an African American male in America, and I have faith in my country, in my college, and in the will of people to change. I believe the future looks bright for all of us. 


Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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

Recognizing the Importance of Mentors



By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

January is National Mentoring Month, an observation led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation.

A mentor is defined as a person who serves as a coach, advisor, or trusted counselor to someone with less experience. In college life, a mentor is much more. A mentor recognizes potential, kindles possibilities, and connects students with opportunities. At its most fundamental level, a mentoring relationship provides a personal connection so that mentees know someone cares. They are not alone.

At SVCC, mentoring is an important part of what we do. Formal mentoring programs stand alongside a host of other efforts that provide vital support for student achievement, including tutoring, career counseling, academic advising, and hands-on assistance in areas such as financial aid, disability accommodations, and transfer planning.

Our longest standing mentoring program, Make It Happen, began operating in 1998. This comprehensive effort supports the success of African-American males. In addition to receiving academic help, participants are given the opportunity to attend leadership development events and are encouraged to seek leadership positions in a variety of campus clubs, organizations, and committees. These activities, which promote adjustment to the college environment and encourage the development of a positive self-image, enable participants to consistently meet or exceed anticipated outcomes as measured by grade point average, retention, and persistence toward goals.

The Women in Search of Excellence (WISE) Mentoring Program seeks to address the challenges facing women in higher education by fostering healthy relationships and providing support, guidance, and encouragement. Participants overcome barriers enabling them to achieve personal, professional, and academic growth. With support from their mentors, WISE students set goals, make informed decisions, identify needed resources, discover pathways, cultivate strong relationships with women in business and academia, and develop leadership and self-improvement skills.

Go For It, a pilot program being launched at SVCC’s Center for Information Technology Excellence (CITE) in South Hill, is aligned with the Microsoft Women in Data Centers Pathway Program. Go For It will pair local students with their counterparts in Dublin, Ireland, and Microsoft staff will provide personal mentoring.

These programs and others help students reach education targets and attain personal success. They are especially valuable for students who are returning to an education pathway after time spent in the workforce. For example, people who find themselves unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-related job changes and wish to train for new career options can find the help they need at SVCC. The Re-Employing Virginians (REV) Grants program, originally instituted at the end of last year, has been extended through 2021. By combining this financial assistance with effective mentoring and student support, our College enables student achievement.

REV grants cover community college tuition for Virginians who meet program requirements and wish to train in REV-eligible programs. These span a wide range of options in areas with high job demand and include associate degree pathways, certificate and career studies programs, and short-term FastForward credentialing opportunities. Fields include nursing and other healthcare-related fields, criminal justice, information technology, and hands-on technical programs such as welding, machining, and automotive repair.

If you’re considering a return to higher education, contact SVCC. Visit or call 434-736-2046. Ask us about financial assistance, mentoring, and other student support services that can help you reach your goals.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson 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


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