MECC Receives $43,200 Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative Award

Richmond – Mountain Empire Community College has received the prominent Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative Award from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) to increase high school and college completion.

The award was renamed to honor the legacy of Gerald L. Baliles, the 65th governor of Virginia, a native of rural Patrick County and a forward-thinking leader. Baliles worked to ensure that all Virginians had access to education and training.

MECC’s award will support the placement of five part-time career navigators at Union High School, J.I. Burton High School, Eastside High School, Central High School, Gate City High School, Twin Springs High School, Rye Cove High School, Ridgeview High School, Lee High School and Thomas Walker High School.

Career Navigators work with high school students to prepare them for college entry, including career counseling, enrollment and financial aid assistance, and academic advising.

The Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) Award aimed to reduce the number of rural residents without a high school diploma from 1 in 5 to 1 in 10, and to increase the number of rural residents with an associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate from 26% to 52%.

To date, RVHI has provided more than $10 million in direct and matching funding toward achieving these goals. Significant outcomes indicate that the population of the RVHI region aged 25 and over without a high school degree has decreased by 4.2% and those with at least an associate’s degree has increased by 4.0%.

“This award will allow MECC to provide valuable career navigation services at the ten high schools across MECC’s service region, offering numerous support services to students in preparing for college and post-secondary training,” said Dr. Kristen Westover, President of Mountain Empire Community College.

There were 13 awards made by the VFCCE through a competitive application process, including MECC, Southwest Virginia Community College, and Virginia Highlands Community College.

The mission of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education is to build student success and the Commonwealth’s future by supporting its 23 community colleges through:

• Workforce Development – Enabling students to build skills through scholarships and awards

• Coaching – Supporting adult learners, foster youth, and the youth of rural and urban regions

• Fellowships – Providing leadership development and community service opportunities

• Access & Affordability – Assisting with accessibility and basic student needs

• Accelerator Funds – Growing existing programs and developing new programs

• Flexible Funds – Fueling innovation, incubation, and advocacy

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