Boatright-Wells Receives VCCS Community Service Award

Sue Ella Boatright-Wells and VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois

Big Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce that Dean of Workforce Services Sue Ella Boatright-Wells has been honored with the Virginia Community College System Chancellor’s Award in Community Service.

Boatright-Wells was nominated by MECC for the award in recognition of her 30+ years of leading the Home Craft Days Festival, as well as her role in establishing MECC’s Mountain Music School and the Junior Appalachia Musicians (JAM program).

The Home Craft Days Festival, held annually the third weekend in October, has served as an integral part of MECC’s longstanding commitment to promoting and preserving the rich musical and cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia. Established in 1972, the festival features more than 200 musicians and artisans from throughout Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky and draws at least 10,000 visitors to the MECC campus.

Through her interactions with musicians throughout the region, Boatright-Wells established the MECC’s Mountain Music School in 2004.  Mountain Music School is a unique educational program that offers opportunities for students age ten and older to experience traditional Appalachian old-time music in a fun, enriching, and supportive environment. The school was created to address a growing concern that traditional mountain music was not being passed down to the youth of Southwest Virginia. Today, the school has grown to include more than 150 students of all ages, many of whom travel from throughout the country to participate. 

To further expand traditional music education in Southwest Virginia, Boatright-Wells worked with school divisions throughout the region to establish the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program.  The after-school program has allowed hundreds of students to learn the music, traditions, and heritage of our mountain culture.

“Sue Ella has served as the heart and soul of the Home Craft Days festival for more than 30 years,” said MECC’s Vice President of Academic and Student Services Vickie Ratliff. “Her community service efforts in her 31+ years at Mountain Empire Community College have touched hundreds of thousands of lives, keeping the culture and traditions of this region alive and growing.”

“I was thrilled to be honored for a cause that is near and dear to my heart,” added Boatright-Wells. “I believe promoting our cultural heritage is an important mission of our college and it is something that our community and youth benefit from.”

For more information on Sue Ella Boatright-Wells, or the VCCS Chancellor’s Award in Community Service, contact the MECC Office of Community Relations at 276.523.7480.