MECC would like to announce our upcoming Home Craft Days Festival, October 15-17, and new and special offerings for this year’s 50th Anniversary festival!

HD 2021 Header LogoMECC would like to announce our upcoming Home Craft Days Festival, October 15-17, and new and special offerings for this year’s 50th Anniversary festival!

The college has worked with the Lenowisco Health District to implement safety precautions for COVID-19. Masks will be required for this event both in indoor and outdoor settings with the exception of eating areas. Our regular dining tent in the food court area has been modified to separate tables spaced throughout the campus for families to eat and socially distance. Masks will be required on shuttles, no exception.

The Home Craft Days annual Friday night reception and Saturday morning Donor Recognition Breakfast has also been modified due to COVID-19 concerns.

The annual donor breakfast has been cancelled due to the inability to host the early morning event in an outdoor setting. However, the Friday night reception will be held, with food vending to be offered outdoors.

MECC will host Dough and Joe of Big Stone Gap and Mr. Kettle Corn of Wirtz in the field adjacent to the Goodloe Center. Free popcorn, donuts, and coffee drinks will be provided from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, Backdraft BBQ of Gate City will also be on site, as a dinner option for paying customers. Please join us Friday night for music from the McLain family, the Blue Ridge Girls, and more, beginning at 6 p.m. All attendees are invited to enjoy free coffee, donuts, and popcorn in our outdoor seating areas. Masks will be required in the Goodloe Center during the concert. The concert schedule is below.

For the first time ever, MECC is partnering with the Trail of the Lonesome Pine Drama to offer two free, special performances of the Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama on Saturday, October 16 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap. A shuttle will be available from the college to the June Tolliver Playhouse on Saturday, all day. We hope patrons will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

HCD campus mapFestival vending will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On campus parking is limited (see parking diagram below) and attendees are encouraged to use the free shuttle service at the following locations:

  • Union High School — front parking lot
  • Curbside Wood Ave — in front of Food City
  • Curbside Municipal Parking Lot — behind Post Office/Federal Building
  • Country Inn
  • Quality Inn

We hope to see you next weekend at this very special 50th anniversary Home Craft Days festival! For more information, please visit

MECC is making a few changes to our Home Craft Days annual Friday night reception and Saturday morning Donor Recognition Breakfast in light of COVID-19 concerns.

MECC is making a few changes to our Home Craft Days annual Friday night reception and Saturday morning Donor Recognition Breakfast in light of COVID-19 concerns. The annual donor breakfast has been cancelled due to COVID 19 spread and the inability to host the early morning event outdoors. However, the Friday night reception will be held with food vending to be offered outdoors. MECC will host Dough and Joe of Big Stone Gap and Mr. Kettle Corn of Wirtz in the field adjacent to the Goodloe Center. Free popcorn, donuts, and coffee drinks will be provided from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, Backdraft BBQ will also be onsite, as a dinner option for paying customers. Please join us Friday night for music from the McLain family, the Blue Ridge Girls, and more beginning at 6 p.m. All attendees are invited to enjoy free coffee, donuts, and popcorn in our outdoor seating areas. Masks will be required in the Goodloe Center during the concert.

MECC Foundation Announces Scholarship Honoring Roger Daugherty

thumbnail_Roger Daugherty photoBig Stone Gap — Roger Daugherty, a longtime MECC Foundation Board member and the originator of the Buccaneer Scholarship Fund, has been named the MECC 2021 Hall of Honor Recipient.

For the second year, MECC’s Annual Hall of Honor Gala was cancelled due to concerns of COVID-19 spread in the region. However, Daugherty is being honored with the establishment of a scholarship in his name, celebrating all that Roger has done to further education for students in southwestern Virginia through Buccaneer Scholarships.

The Roger Daugherty Hall of Honor Buccaneer Scholarship will benefit Union, and former Powell Valley, Appalachia, or East Stone Gap High School graduates that attend MECC. Roger’s portrait will hang in the Hall of Honor located in the Slemp Commons of Phillips-Taylor Hall on MECC’s campus. 

“Roger Daugherty is to be commended for his tireless work to promote scholarships for MECC students,” said MECC Foundation Executive Director Amy Greear “Although he no longer resides in Big Stone Gap, Roger has never forgotten his roots. He is dedicated to creating educational opportunities for students in our region and has created a legacy that will remove barriers to obtaining a college degree for MECC students for years to come.”

 Roger graduated in 1956 from Big Stone Gap High School, where the mascot was a Buccaneer. He helped create and fund Buccaneer Scholarships through the multi-class reunion held each June. Roger spearheaded the effort and assembled a Scholarship Committee, which has administered the program since 2003. Due to the generosity of Buccaneers, enough funds were raised to award three scholarships the first year.

From those humble beginnings, the Buccaneer Scholarship endowment at MECC has grown to more than $800,000 and more than $600,000 in additional estate pledges. With the new scholarship in Roger’s honor, the total number of Buccaneer Scholarships will be sixteen. Approximately 120 students have been awarded a Buccaneer Scholarship since it inception.

The Foundation deeply appreciates Roger’s vision and passion for the Buccaneer Scholarship program, his heart for students and providing for their education, his exemplary work ethic, and his ability to arouse enthusiasm among his peers. Roger is as passionate about the Buccaneer Scholarship program today as he was in 2003.

To donate to the Roger Daugherty Hall of Honor Buccaneer Scholarship, please visit or send a check to MECC Foundation, 3441 Mountain Empire Road, Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219. For information on making an electronic bank debit, please contact the Foundation office at 276-523-7466.

MECC Kicks Off 50th Anniversary Celebration

Big Stone Gap – Mountain Empire Community College will kick off its 50th anniversary celebration on Friday, October 1 with a picnic commemorating the initial groundbreaking of the Big Stone Gap campus.

 The picnic, to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Phillips Taylor Hall’s Goodloe Center, will feature a special video highlighting the college’s 50 years, along with guest speakers, games, and activities for all. Food will be catered by Pratt’s BBQ. The event is free and masks are required in indoor and outdoor spaces.

 “We are excited to honor the contributions and sacrifices of those who came before us and paved the way for MECC’s current and future success, and I am grateful and honored to be in a position, along with our incredible MECC Family, to recognize their contributions and lead MECC in the continuation of our transformative mission for years to come,” said MECC President Kristen Westover.

MECC’s 50th anniversary activities will continue October 2021 – December 2022. Additional scheduled events include a community concert featuring Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Darrell Scott and If Birds Could Fly in May 2022 and a 50th Anniversary Gala in October 2022. The MECC Foundation, which exists to support the mission of the college, has set a goal to raise $2M to support scholarships, infrastructure improvements, and other needs to commemorate this special anniversary.

 For almost half a century, Mountain Empire Community College has served as the primary career training center for residents of Wise, Lee, Scott, and Dickenson County and the City of Norton. Thousands of students have furthered their education and skillsets to provide a better life for their family and community by earning credentials at MECC. 

 From humble beginnings, the College first opened in 1972 with 507 students taking classes in one building at its Big Stone Gap campus. MECC was developed from a statewide initiative to increase educational attainment rates for the Commonwealth.

 In 1966, the Virginia Assembly enacted historic legislation establishing a statewide system of comprehensive community colleges. This legislation brought most post high school education below the bachelor’s level into one system and broadened the base of higher education in the state. As comprehensive institutions, community colleges endeavor to serve all segments of society and are charged with providing open access to higher education for all students.

 In Southwest Virginia, a committee comprised of local business, civic, industrial, and political leaders was appointed by the local governing bodies of Lee, Scott, Wise, and Dickenson Counties and the City of Norton for the purpose of establishing a comprehensive community college.

 In April of 1970, the college Board had its first meeting at which Judge William C. Fugate was elected chair. Funds for construction were allocated by the State Board for Community Colleges and construction began in 1971.

 Today, more than 1,300 students are enrolled full-time, and more than 3,000 students are enrolled part-time at MECC. The Big Stone Gap campus has expanded to include five buildings accommodating more than 100 academic programs of study in traditional classroom formats, as well as online and hybrid offerings. In 2019, MECC opened the Center for Workforce and Innovation of Appalachia (CWIA) in Appalachia to house its power lineman, commercial driving license, smart farming, advanced manufacturing, and dental assisting programs. Future plans include the development of culinary programming at the CWIA.

 In addition to MECC’s career training focus, the College has served as a primary resource for the preservation of the region’s rich cultural and musical heritage. For fifty years, the College has hosted the annual Home Craft Days festival every third weekend in October, highlighting Appalachian traditions.

 MECC also hosts its annual Mountain Music School, which provides students age 10 and up with the ability to learn traditional mountain music during a one-week camp the last week in July. The MECC Foundation annually hosts the John Fox Jr. Literary festival highlighting Appalachian writers with a featured poetry and short story contests for the community.

 The CWIA library will feature Appalachian archives to include collections of Melungeon records and the Wise County Historical Society. The Wampler Library on the College’s main campus houses the Slemp Gallery, featuring a rotating exhibit of regional and national art installations. 

 MECC is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The College’s Enrollment Services Division, Student Services, Business Office, Library and all other services can be reached by calling (276) 523-2400.

 For more information on MECC’s 50th anniversary, visit For more information on MECC’s career pathways, please visit To enroll, please visit For information on giving to the college’s efforts to train Southwest Virginia’s workforce, please visit the MECC Foundation at

MECC Announces Administrative Appointments

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce the appointment of several administrative positions following the retirements of key personnel.

 “We are extremely pleased and excited about the addition of our new administrators. This is a group of highly dedicated and qualified educators who are excited to share the educational opportunities we have available and to assist students in successfully meeting their educational goals,” said MECC President Kristen Westover.

William Brownsberger Dr. Bill Brownsberger has been appointed as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Workforce Solutions at MECC following the retirement of Dr. Vickie Ratliff. Brownsberger has more than twenty years of experience in higher education. He most recently served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. He earned his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2001 and has taught in Italy, Texas, and rural Missouri. Brownsberger and his wife Francesca have been married for almost 25 years and have seven children, one of whom is a dual-enrollment student at Mountain Empire this year. He and his family are excited to be a part of the Mountain Empire and Appalachian communities.



Matthew RoseMatthew Rose has been appointed Dean of Industrial Technologies following the retirement of Thomas Clements. Rose formerly served as Director of Testing for the Virginia Department of Corrections. He has been an educator, tester-evaluator, and is a National Center for Construction Education and Research Master Trainer. Rose holds a BA in Mathematics from UVA Wise, MA Theology and Ministry – Welch College and an MS Education/Educational Leadership from Old Dominion University. Rose his wife Mirandy have four children and reside in Coeburn.



Derek WhismanDr. Derek Whisman has been appointed as the Dean of the Arts and Sciences division following the retirement of Dr. Harriett Arrington. Dr. Whisman is a long-time member of the MECC family, serving as a teaching faculty member since 2011 and being promoted to the rank of Professor in 2019.  Beyond his teaching career, Dr. Whisman has served the college in numerous capacities during his tenure.  His work as a Grant Writer for the MECC Foundation has led to multiple grant awards for the College.  He was instrumental in obtaining NC-SARA certification for distance learning programs and helped to coordinate the College’s Cooperative Learning initiative in online learning.  He holds a doctorate in Higher Education Administration, a master’s in English Literature and a BA in Government.  Dr. Whisman is also a Certified Grant Writer with the American Grant Writers’ Association, has the designation as an Online Teaching Master with Quality Matters, is a Title IX Administrator registered with the National Association for College and University Attorneys, and is certified as a Developmental Education Specialist by the Kellogg Institute. He is a lifetime resident of Southwest Virginia and enjoys spending time with his wife, Jessica, and his two young children.



Wes MullinsWes Mullins has been appointed to the newly created position of Assistant Dean, Business and Information Technology. Mullins is a 1985 graduate of MECC with a certificate in Respiratory Therapy. He holds an Associates of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy from Roane State Community College, a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from King University, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from King University. Mullins has served as an Assistant Professor at MECC for the more than 11 years and has served as the Program Director for the Respiratory Therapy Program. He is the co-chair for MECC’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). In addition to teaching, Mullins has spent the last 25 years in the acute healthcare setting serving as a bedside clinician, with 20 years in healthcare administration. Mullins is a resident of Wise and enjoys the outdoors, traveling, working in his yard and garden, and being active in his church.

 For more information on MECC, or to view open positions at MECC, please visit and

MECC Foundation is postponing August 28 Scott County Endowed Scholarship event until spring 2022

After careful consideration, the MECC Foundation is postponing our August 28 Scott County Endowed Scholarship event until spring 2022. With a spike in COVID cases in our area, the CDC designating our service region as having a high or substantially high transmission risk, and respecting our regional health care system, the MECC Foundation feels it is best to make the decision now to protect our community. This was not an easy decision, but we believe it is best at this time. We are working with our venue and entertainment to find an appropriate date for spring. In the meantime, we will contact our sponsors and ticket holders with options for refunds or continuation of their sponsorship to the spring event. 

MECC to Issue Indoor Mask Mandate for Campus

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College will issue an indoor mask mandate for all students, staff, and visitors on campus beginning Thursday, August 5, following CDC guidance and a mandate by the Virginia Community College System.   

 “MECC is committed to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff in making safety-related decisions based on the best guidance of healthcare professionals. With portions of our service region reporting high COVID transmission rates, and with the rise of the virus’s easily transmitted Delta variant, the community college system and MECC have implemented provisions to do what is necessary to protect the populations we serve,” said MECC President Kristen Westover.   

 To that end, recent CDC guidance calls for: (1) layered prevention strategies at America’s colleges and universities to combat COVID-19, and (2) for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. As of Wednesday, August 4, the entire MECC service region is currently within the CDC’s substantial or high transmission area. 

 The indoor mask mandate is for public indoor spaces at all Virginia community colleges. A portion of MECC courses will be offered online during the fall of 2021, with some in-person classes offered in technical and general education areas. Instructors will be permitted to remove masks when instructing students from a safe distance or from behind a plexiglass barrier.   

 The college will continue to monitor the regional public health trends, as well as state and federal guidelines, regarding the pandemic response.   

  For more information, please visit or contact the MECC Office of Community Relations at 276-523-7480.

MECC Foundation Announces RAPHA Foundation Gift

Rapha giftBig Stone Gap – The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is excited to announce a gift of $375,000 from the RAPHA Foundation of Norton.   

The gift will be used to support scholarship development and to meet MECC’s $245,000 Title III Endowment Grant Challenge supporting student scholarships and strengthening the institution’s health science programming.   

MECC Foundation Executive Director Dr. Amy Greear stated RAPHA’s support is valued and appreciated. MECC serves as the primary career training center in far Southwest Virginia, enrolling hundreds of students in Emergency Medical Technician, Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nursing, Registered Nursing, Respiratory Therapy, and additional Health Science training programs annually.   

“The RAPHA Foundation has served as an incredible community partner, enabling MECC to provide scholarships to students and support growth in our health science programming. This is an amazing opportunity for Southwest Virginia, MECC, and our students, and we are grateful for the Foundation’s support,” said Dr. Greear.   

“The Rapha Foundation Board understands the tremendous value that MECC brings to our region and we feel privileged to be able to support the college and its students.” 

The RAPHA Foundation was formed in 2019 following the merger of Ballad Health and Norton Community Hospital. The Community Healthcare Foundation, which received its federal nonprofit status in 2001, became The Rapha Foundation, a registered nonprofit organization dedicated to “improving population health and access to education in Southwest Virginia.”  

The MECC Foundation supports the mission of Mountain Empire Community College, which is to provide our region with accessible, quality higher education, workforce training, and community programs to ensure an educated population and globally competitive workforce. The MECC Foundation supports this mission primarily through scholarship development, student success initiatives, and training opportunities for instructors and staff.  

For more information on the MECC Foundation, visit or call (276) 523-7466. 

MECC Foundation To Host Annual Scott County Scholarship Fundraiser

Sister Sadie FinalHiltons, VA – The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation will host Grammy-nominated, 2020 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year and Grand Ole Opry Stars, Sister Sadie, for the 2021 Diamonds and Denim Event.  

 Diamonds and Denim will be held Saturday, August 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the beautiful Crooked River Farm in Hiltons, Virginia. The event, now in its third year, has raised more than $100,000 to benefit the Scott County Endowed Scholarship at Mountain Empire Community College. This year’s event will feature a dinner reception, locally sourced wine, beer and refreshments, a silent auction and entertainment.  

 More than 70 percent of all students in Scott County that choose to attend college in Virginia, attend MECC. The scholarship will provide opportunities for those students to reach their educational and career goals while lessening the financial burden of families.  

 Sister Sadie originally formed after playing a sold-out show in 2012 at the legendary Station Inn, located in Nashville, TN. In 2019, they were nominated for a Grammy for their sophomore album “Sister Sadie II” for Best Bluegrass Album. That same year, they made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry & have since been regular guests on the world-famous stage. Later that same year, they were the first all-female group to be awarded Vocal Group of The Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Following that up at IBMA 2020, the ladies repeated that win & were also named Entertainer of the Year. The band is featured in the “American Currents: State of the Music” exhibit through March 2022 at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville, TN. Sister Sadie is made up of world-renowned musicians and singers Tina Adair on mandolin & vocals, Gena Britt on banjo & vocals, Hasee Ciaccio on acoustic bass, Deanie Richardson on fiddle & Jaelee Roberts on guitar & vocals.  

 Tickets are $75 per person and $150 per couple. Tickets can be purchased at and at the Scott County Farm Bureau office at 378 W Jackson St, Gate City, VA 24251.  

 For more information on the Scott County Endowed Scholarship or to donate to this fund, call the MECC Foundation office at 276.523.7480 or visit  


MECC Foundation and Ballad Health partner to host golf tournament for the Lee County Endowed Scholarship

Golf Club and BallThe Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is pleased to announce the MECC – Ballad Health Golf Classic, benefitting the Lee County Endowed Scholarship, will be held on Friday, July 16, at Cedar Hill Country Club in Jonesville. 

 Registration for the Captain’s Choice tournament will begin at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start at 9:15 a.m. The tournament will feature two flights, putting and chipping contests, as well as “Most Accurate Drive” and “Closest to the Pin” prizes. Players who hit a hole-in-one on Hole # 5 will win a 2021 Chevrolet automobile sponsored by Freedom Chevrolet of Big Stone Gap.  

 The entry fee is $75 per person, or $300 per 4-person team. The entry fee includes breakfast, mulligan package, gift, goodie bag, range balls, cart fees, green fees, and lunch. 

All proceeds will benefit the Lee County Endowed Scholarship and will be matched by a donor. The Lee County Endowed Scholarship was launched in 2018 by a group of community volunteers. Thanks to contributions and support generated by the golf tournament as well as gifts and other events, the scholarship was able to award its first recipient in 2019 and will award three scholarships this year. 

 Three levels of corporate sponsorships are available:  Bronze – $500; Silver – $1,000, and Gold – $1,500 and up. Corporate sponsors receive a team(s), a hole sign, and recognition at the tournament.  Hole sponsorships are available for a fully tax-deductible gift of $50 to the MECC Foundation. Signs will be placed on the golf course recognizing all hole sponsors.  

 Businesses or individuals needing information or wishing to be a sponsor, enter a team, or provide a prize may call Jeri Bledsoe, Tournament Coordinator, at (276) 523-9078, or by e-mail at 

 Financial gifts to the Lee County Endowed Scholarship are fully tax-deductible and are always welcomed and appreciated. Gifts of any amount may be sent to MECC Foundation, Attn:  Lee County Endowed Scholarship, 3441 Mountain Empire Road, Big Stone Gap, VA, 24219.  

MECC Announces T-Shirt Design Contest Winne

MECC-50th-Anniversary-T-shirt-Design-Color-Reece-WilliamsMECC is pleased to announce that alumnus Reece Williams, class of 2016, has submitted the winning T-shirt contest design to commemorate the college’s 50th anniversary.  

  More than half of survey respondents chose Williams’s design out of five exceptional entries. Williams, a native of Gate City, is currently employed at Thompson and Litton in Wise as a Civil Design Engineer. He graduated from MECC with an Associate Degree in General Studies and transferred to Virginia Tech, earning his Civil Engineering degree in 2019. 

 “We received numerous quality entries of varying design, and ultimately the MECC community selected a design that strongly encapsulates our 50 years of history and the beauty of our campus,” said MECC President Kristen Westover. 

Williams’ design includes a recognition of the anniversary as well as graphic of Phillips-Taylor Hall. Williams provided a description of his design concept.

This design represents what Mountain Empire means to me, as well as many other students. I have gained so much appreciation for the beauty of our area, and it seems as though MECC was built with that in mind,” said Williams. “I remember walking to class in the mornings and I would see the wonderful architecture of Phillips-Taylor Hall with the stunning mountains in the background with a sunrise to top it all off. This would give me a sense of peace as I navigated this new stage of my life.”  

“The image captured by the zero in my design represents what a student sees when walking through the main entrance. I also included the winding road to represent the road to a better future that MECC provides, and to represent the winding roads I would travel to get to MECC,” Williams added.   

MECC will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022, beginning with a picnic to commemorate the college’s groundbreaking this October. Events and activities are planned throughout the year, to include a concert and gala. Williams’ drawing will be included on t-shirts and other merchandising.   

For more information on MECC’s 50th anniversary, please contact the MECC Office of Community Relations at (276) 523-7480.   


MECC Announces Spring Semester Merit List, Honor’s List & President’s List

MECC announces spring semester Merit List

The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College Merit List for the spring 2021 semester. Students are eligible for the Merit List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.2 to 3.49 during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades, and part-time students who have between 6-11 credits and a GPA of 3.2 or higher during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.

APPALACHIA: Khristiyana Adams, Hailee Conner, David Harding, Preston Joyner, Katherine Kelly, Amia Lawson, Mary Meade, Taylor Perry, Madison Varner, and Asher Whitt.

ARLINGTON: Patricia Healy.

BEE: Katelin Charles.

BEN HUR: Jaelyn Hall.

BIG STONE GAP: Diamond Anderson, Hannah Austin, Kathy Austin, Destiny Bellamy, Amanda Bishop, Rachel Blanton, Kailen Brewer, Courtney Brooks, Willa Campbell, Claire Childress, Riley Christian, Connor Clendenon, Emily Collins, Hannah-Rhea Collins, Jacob Coomer, William Couch, Sean Cusano, Kayla DeFoor, Emma Duncan, Shandon Ehredt, Christian Ernspiker, Jaiden Estep, Michael Falin, Kiley Fannon, Megan Fleenor, Jacob Gordon, Graham Hall, Zachary Hall, Benjamin Hersel, Andruw Hunter, Brandon Kelly, Abbie Lane, Allison Lawson, Aslyn Litton, Keerston Lovell, Gracyn McKinney, Kenneth Meade, Cheyenne Mitchell, Aaron Mullins, Brianna Mullins, Jacob Mullins, Jada Mullins, Jenna Mullins, Leeanna Mullins, Zachary Mullins, Kayley Neece, Jessica Palmer, Tina Pan, Stephanie Santos, Emile Schenck, Samuel Shackleford, Abigail Slagle, Sarah Stanley, Hannah Sturgill, Rose Weitzman, Eden Wells, Chadwick Wilson, Jacob Zeruth, and Haley Zirkle.

BIRCHLEAF: Jasmine Helton and Matney Sutherland. .

BLACKWATER: Brandy Honeycutt, Kylee Honeycutt, and Teresa Maness.

BLUEFIELD: Ashlyn Salyers.

BRISTOL, TN: Lauryn McCoy.

BRISTOL, VA: Gerri O’Quinn, Isabella Pippin, and Isaac Rice.

CALHOUN, GA: Erik Henson and Jeremy Long.

CASTLEWOOD: Mackenzie Franklin, Heather Hill, Kellie Lewis, Taylor Perry, Madison Ramsey, and Harley Smith.

CHURCH HILL, TN: Sarah Cantor and Haylee Hill.

CLINCHCO: Elizabeth Brichant, Tamara Conaway, and CheyAnn McCowan.

CLINTWOOD: Bridget Adkins, Cecil Baker, Emily Browning, Tiffany Cantrell, Jaelyn Dingus, Molly Dotson, Philip Edwards, Kenzie Fleming, Tiffany French, Amber Gibson, Isaac Greear, Evan Hillyer, Jonathan Isom, Julia Mcfall, Jordan Moore, Aaron Mullins, Alicia Mullins, Brady Mullins, Cheyenne Mullins, Hayley Mullins, Makayla Mullins, Leah Newberry, Ellen Oquinn, Chanson Perry, Lakin Phipps, Michael Porter, William Poston, Alyssa Price, Ryan Reynolds, Travis Roberts, Madison Shortt, Gregory Swiney, David Vance, Addison Vanover, and Savannah Zetino.

CLOSPLINT, KY: Amber Kelly.

COEBURN: Olivia Adkins, Eden Allan, Zachary Alley, Angela Blankenship, Hallie Blevins, Christian Buchanan, Dustin Carter, Logan Cochrane, Katelin Cole, Morgan Collins, Colby Farmer, Victoria Farmer, Tyler Gardner, Charles Greear, Logan Hayes, Hannah Hughes, Kasi Johnson, Ethan Kern, Adam Ketron, Clifford Olinger, Justin Palmer, Nicholas Raymond, Aaron Robinson, Hannah Russell, Leah Russell, Dana Wade, and Justin Wade.

DANTE: Taylor Crabtree and Anthony Kiser.

DRYDEN: Tyson Bailey, Jaden Barnette, Caitlyn Cooper, Hannah Fee, Michael Hamilton, Crystal Huff, Ira Middleton, Austin Thomas, April Wampler, and Haven White.

DUFFIELD: Katherine Anderson, Alisha Burchfield, Madison DeRossett, Molly Dockery, Sierra Edens, Caleigh Fletcher, Jessica Ford, Madison Gunter, Nevin Haines, MacKenzie Hall, Leylah Hamilton, Regina Hammonds, Ammon

Huish, Emilee Jerrell, Alisha Kern, Madeline Love, Cieara Osborne, Gabrielle Ramirez, Emily Rath, Brooke Robinson, Lindsey Seay, Kayla Senior, Randall Stigger, and Garrett Winegar.

DUNGANNON: Crystal Grizzle, Linda Minnix, and Christopher Oaks.

EAST STONE GAP: Sydney Maddux.

ERMINE, KY: Tayler Banks.

EWING: Abigail Bullins, JoAnna Hudson, Kaytee Livesay, Sarah Long, Thomas Long, and Madison Mayes.

FT. BLACKMORE: Gabriel hinkle, Bristyn Holder, Bailey Leonard, and Kayleigh Roberts.

GALAX: Kevin Hooven.

GATE CITY: Joules Bagienski, Tabatha Barker, Elizabeth Barnett, Julia Bocanegra, Marissa Canter, Ethan Dishner, Madison Dockery, Jacob Dorton, Bradley Fuller, Emily Fuller, Pacy Gilliam, Abbie Griffis, Alexandria Harris, Sarah Hawkins, Trevor Herron, Riley Houseright, Carson Jenkins, Carolina Jones, Morghan Kinkead, Evan Lane, Haley Lane, Victoria Manning, Abigail McCully, Keaton McDonald, Macey Mullins, Timothy Oakes, Julia Perry, Jack Pierson, Bailee Porter, Isaac Quillen, Kiersten Quillen, Luke Reed, Alexis Sampson, Brevan Spivey, Kiera Starnes, Thomas Starnes, Jacob Taylor, Alexis Thacker, Sarah Thompson, Wendell White, Abby Williams, Audrey Williams, and Jala Williamson.

HAYSI: John Fuller, Raegan Lamkin, Vanessa Mullins, Jenna Nowlin, Garrett Owens, Maggie Rose, Eden Sykes, Quinlan Turner, Lauren Woods, and Jacob Yates.

HENRICO: Bradley Halsey.

HILTONS: Carter Babb, Cassandra Brickey, Audrey Carter, Brady Edwards, Caleb Starnes, Jacob Strong, and Shyanna Strong.

JONESVILLE: Ethan Blanken, Jonathan Blanken, Danielle Byington, Madison Combs, Karin Dean, Gracie Dotson, Isaiah Dotson, Wesley Gilliam, Dustin Goss, Nathan Hay, Rachel Higgins, Jacqueline Hurd, Evan Jones, Cody Lane, Timothy Long, Kelli Martin, Shelby Moore, Morgan Pettey, Madison Phipps, Christian Robbins, Olivia Rutherford, Michael Rutledge, Ashley Shoemaker, Verda Skidmore, Alexis Turner, Brooklyn Warner, Leslie Wilder, Jennifer Willis, Stephanie Willis, and Natasha Wolford.

KEOKEE: Sheena Bloomer.

KINGSPORT, TN: Tara Adams, Jessica Castle, Lauren Castle, Makalia Ford, Ethan Gibson, Jacob Hartgrove, Destini Hicks, Haley James, Madeline Smith, and Allie Mullins.

McCLURE: Cheyenne Lester.

McROBERTS, KY: Nicholas Williams.

MOUNT CARMEL, TN: Selena Alsup, Ashtin Burke, and Ross Stokes.

NICKELSVILLE: Hanah Compton, Nevaeh Darnell, Chris Dougherty, Conner Gilmer, Amber McConnell, Kelli Parks, Katie Pearcy, Emaleigh Powers, Raven Sluss, Elizabeth Smith, and Natalie White.

NORA: Crystal McCoy.


NORTON: Abigail Adams, Lucas Addison, Patrick Berry, Jasmine Bowen, Christopher Branham, Jaymen Buchanan, Andrew Cavins, Brittany Clayton, Caitlyn Collins, Wendy Cooke, Tyler Craft, Brayden Dutton, Robert Emershaw, Ashlee Fonseca, Madison Gardner, Michael Gilliam, Clay Hart, Benjamin Harvey, Taylor Holbrook, Kally Hughes, Dalton Keel, Taylor Marcum, Ethan Milam, Breannna Motz, Autumn Mullins, Callie Mullins, Sydney Mullins, Shamiyeh Noel, Rachel Reece, Joshua Rhodes, Kaitlyn Robinson, Sareena Sergent, Garrison Sheppard, Sydney Skeen, Alison Stuedemann, McKenzie Tate, Jacey Taylor, Kinley Taylor, Kaylee Wade, Hannah Wells, and Nathan Wells.

PEMBROKE: Danielle Lee.

PENNINGTON GAP: Jacob Bledsoe, Alexandria Bowen, Cameron Byington, Larissa Crider, Brooke Davis, James Dillman, Victor Do, Andrew Fleenor, Kaylee Glascoe, Leslie Harless, Shyra Hensley, Thomas Hughes, Emileah Johnson, Sarah Johnson, Mary Litton, Michael Martin, Abigail Middleton, Iva Parsons, Kolby Reed, Zachary Shelburne, Jennifer Skidmore, Stephanie Skidmore, Xander Spears, Rebekah Tabor, Alishia Taylor, Ethan Webb, Aaron Williams, Elizabeth Williams, and Alice Woods.

POUND: Samantha Bevins, Kali Bowman, Drake Brock, Billie Crabtree, Alivia Elkins, Ridley Elkins, Amber Hill, Addison Hutchison, Alice Meade, Rachel Meade, Ethan Mullins, Bradley Phillips, Jacqueline Polly, Amber Quillen, Lanie Riley, Lindsay Rose, Sarah Slemp, Maddison Smith, and Caitlyn Stanley.

RICHMOND: Jermaine Murray.

ROSE HILL: Lakin Burke, Noah Cavin, Leslie Gibson, Cameron Grabeel, Tenley Jackson, Anthony Long, Chloe Long, Jaycee Medley, and Dannah Saylor.

RUTHER GLEN: Victor Fischer.

ST. CHARLES: Nicholas Greer and Samantha Lanningham.

ST. PAUL: Lacon Deel, Zoe Gullett, Malik Jallow, Grace McCowan, Rachel McCowan, Jacob Sawyers, Andrew Sutherland, and Jullian Wimbush.

WEBER CITY: Patricia Davidson, William Edwards, Amber Gibson, Ryan Jessee, Kevin Ni, Lydia Repko, Zackary Salyer, and Ashley Stanley. .

WHITESBURG, KY: Savannah Day.

WINCHESTER: Hunter Roberts.

WISE: Jasmine Absher, David Adams, Celeste Aguinaga, Brianna Aldridge, Bayleigh Allison, Ethan Barker, John Boggs, Austin Bolling, Haley Branham, Madison Caldwell, Lucas Coffey, Baylee Collins, Gabriella Collins, Christopher Crabtree, Kaley Crabtree, Mia Cross, Derek Damron, Kelsey Dean, Christopher Dotson, Noah Elkins, Rylee Elkins, Rebecca Elliott, Jackson England, Samuel Fleming, Brooklyn Frazier, Pria Funk, William Gentry, Addie Gilliam, Victoria Gilliam, Caitlin Glover, Alissa Green, Emily Hall, Kara Hamilton-Bower, Christopher Heffner, Katherine Hopkins, Jeremy Jenkins, Stephenson Jones, Sarah Lane, Sebastian Massie, Cassandra Masters, Samantha Miller, Kylee Mullins, Olivia Mullins, Kristy Mutter, Camden Orr, Taylor Pinkard, Megan Reeves, Cameron Sergent, Nicholas Spenilla, Madison Stacy, Montana Stafford, Emma Stallard, Evan Stanley, Tyler Stapleton, Cassidy Sturgill, Sara Sturgill, Tyson Tester, Elizabeth Thompson, Tabitha White, Logan William, Kevin Yates, and Carlie Yeary.


MECC announces spring semester Honor’s List

The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College Honor’s List for the spring 2021 semester. Students are eligible for the Honor’s List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.5 to 3.79 during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.

APPALACHIA: Emili Brooks, Samantha Sizemore, and Thomas Turner.

BANDY: Joshua Hicks.

BEN HUR: Madison Johnson and Lynn Miles.

BIG STONE GAP: Daniel Blair, Kayla Carroll, Logan Christian, Austin Crabtree, Abbi Dickenson, Aaron Earwood, Matthew Gilliam, Britan Gilly, Brieann Lomax, Krista Meredith, Sophia Morgan, Jewelletta Mumpower, Sydney Needham, Linsey Pennington, Destiny Robinette, Joseph Shular, Alexis Tucker, Mia Tucker, Hailey Walker, Brandon Watts, and Heaven Willis.

BIRCHLEAF: Karen Phelps.


BLUEFIELD: Hailey Poe.

CASTLEWOOD: William Ireson.

CLINCHCO: Nicole Deel.

CLINTWOOD: Jessica Boyd, Haley Mullins, Christy Stanley, and Annabelle Wallace.

COEBURN: Brynna Campbell, Devin Campbell, and Jonathan Lawson.

DRYDEN: Kalee Hibbard, Mckinleigh Lane, Matthew Meade, Tavin Stanley, and Alexander Wilder.

DUFFIELD: Gabriel Fletcher, Kaleigh Sloan, and Lydia Tankersley.

DUNGANNON: Natalie Adams.

EAST STONE GAP: Hannah Carter, Emma Fox, and Noa Godsey.

EWING: Ashlyn Dykes.

GATE CITY: Preston Babb, Cheyann Bellamy, Abigail Bledsoe, Christina Hurd, Charles Oaks, Scott Price, Kylie Repass, and Melinda Stallard.

HAYSI: Hunter Souleyrette.

HILTONS: Cortney Vermillion.

JONESVILLE: Aleigha Cope, Mason Glass, Andy Moore, Kylee Phillips, Noah Smith, and Sophie Taylor.

KEOKEE: Devan Young.

KINGSPORT, TN: Piper Banks and Amelia Jennings.

MAYKING, KY: Stephen Burke.

McCLURE: Ravyn Bennett.

NICKELSVILLE: Rykiela Collins, Macarthur Inbody, and Frank Miano.

NORTON: Nicholas Blevins, Tanner Boggs, Laken Culbertson, Isabella Edwards, Brianna Gilliam, Alyssa Hurley, Kathryn Kinman, Macie Matheison, Lorenzo Miles, Gracelyn Moore, Sarah Mullins, Elizabeth Owens, Olivia Owens, Melissa Parker, Kevin Smith, Trinity Smith, Bailey Sturgill, and Isaiah Sturgill.

PENNINGTON GAP: Dustin Anders, Parker Edgar, Devin Garrett, Santana McMurray, Jackie Nickodam, Dillon Rines, Brittany Statzer, Selena Stewart, Kelsie Vandergriff, and Morgan Woliver.

POUND: Shasta Adams, Elijah Cox, and Jacob Meeks.

ROSE HILL: Colee Cottrell and Morgan Rouse..

ST. PAUL: Colby Barnette, Ciara Hollyfield, Darius Mooney, and Kaitlyn Salyer.

WEBER CITY: Tapanga Gillenwater, Jordyn Lawson, Jordan Mullins, and Chloe Shell.

WISE: Madison Beller, Tiffany Boggs, Madalyn Collins, Angela Craft, Gavin Dotson, Cameron Foster, Jansen Large, Sydney Linkous, and Taylor Salyer.


MECC announces spring semester President’s List

The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College President’s List for the spring 2021 semester. Students are eligible for the President’s List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.8 or higher during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.

APPALACHIA: Amanda Cooper, Jazmyine Harrell, Brandon Hicks, Nathaniel Mullins, and Destiny Stidham.

BIG STONE GAP: Mia Bishop, Sharessa Blair, Trista Dotson, Mary Douglas , Kali Durham, Fallon Fox, Joshua Herron, Taylor Hillman, Trevor Lawson, Aleah Litton, Mitzie Lucero, Hallyce McCoo, Garrett Mullins, Madysen Mullins, Kylie Peters, Abigail Phipps, Madalyn Ratcliffe, Nakita Riddle, Matthew Sturgill, Devan Summers, Madison Swiney, and Nickolas Terehoff.

BRISTOL: Brandon Roberts.

CASTLEWOOD: Candler Dudley, Olivia Powers, and Mackenzie Slemp.


CHURCH HILL, TN: Jonathan Cantor and Katelynn Parton.

CLINCHCO: Heaven O’Quinn and Makenzie Robinette.

CLINTWOOD: Emily Beavers, Laura Blair, Gabriel Brown, Zachary Charles, Hannah Dotson, Hannah Flint, Marlee Hall, Mason Kendrick, Ruth Kennedy, Olivia Lambert, Mckenzie Mcamis, Gary Mullins, Paxton Mullins, Kevin Rose, Joey Shepherd, Ashley Vanover, Melissa Wood, and Casey Wright.

COEBURN: Jacob Ashby, Cloey Bailey, Gabrielle Beverly, Hannah Buchanan, Sarah Burke, Amber Freeman, Shaylan Gross, Hayden Hickman, James Kilgore, Lillianne Meade, Bailey Meadows, Whitney Mooney, Cheyenne Mullins, Coy Roop, Nicolby Rose, and Lindsay Salyers.

DANTE: Alyssa Hill and Grayson Martin.

DRYDEN: Melinda Bradburn, Caleb Chester, Gabriel Chester, Kevin Cooper, Abigail Edwards, Jonnie Mullins, and Tori Travis.

DUFFIELD: Emily Bishop, Alexis Bledsoe, Colby Dillon, Christen Edmonds, Saniah Hamilton, Adam Lyons, Preston McElyea, Natalie Sage, and Melissa Spears.

DUNGANNON: Kelly Osborne and Christopher Perry.

EAST STONE GAP: Amanda Collins and Staci Fraley.

ELIZABETHTON, TN: Glenda Hatley.

FT. BLACKMORE: Kayla Dockery.

GATE CITY: Colton Banks, Kasey Barber, Taylor Blevins, Caleb Bolling, Luke Chapman, Tyler Collins, Logan Davidson, Macy Dishner, Hollie Estepp, Jason Fields, Ambria Hagy, Levi Hensley, Avery Johnson, Elizabeth Jones, Aden Lane, Juanita Martin, Lauren Meade, Aubrie Penley, Madison Pierce, Luke Pierson, Charles Quinn, Shauna Shepard, Brooklyn Smith, Makenzie Stallard, Luke Stokes, Jonathan Strong, and Sydney Vaughn.

GRETNA: Natalie Durham.

HAYSI: Shellby Rose, Emily Wampler, and Madison Yates.

HILTONS: Chelsea Barbour and Isabel Sallee.

JONESVILLE: Chelsie Alsup, Olivia Baker, Ryan Bales, Kamrin Bishop, Laine Brooks, Rylee Cox, Tatum Cox, Chloe Dean, Heriberto Donato, Jonah Hilton, Katlyn Jessee, Samantha Lawson, Brandi Lindsay, Gregory Seals, Heather Sprinkle, Katharine Wall, Charles Ward, and Tyler Yeary.

KINGSPORT, TN: Kimberly Barr, Ashton Darnell, Melissa Greear, Lauren Thompson, and Carrie Walton.

LEBANON: Olivia Collins and Joseph Stevens..

NICKELSVILLE: Sheila Bocanegra, Jared Helbert, Mahalia Kinsler, Daniel Mann, Aaron Shelton, Kaitlyn Wallace, and Whitney White.

NORA: Elizabeth Young.

NORTON: Carter Addison, Madison Cox, Morgan Fawbush, Gabriella Hall, McKenzie Hall, Mamie Jenkins, Dauntae Keys, Cadence Lagow, Kelsey Lawson, William Maggard, Linda Mays, Billy Mcclain, Zoe Niece, Maleeah Peters, Shannon Peters, Kelly Pilkenton, Tanner Powers, Naomi Shortt, Adran Smith, Jodi Spriggs, Evan Stanley, Brent Thacker, Carly Tomko, Tammy Ward, and Haley Williams.

PENNINGTON GAP: Victoria Akens, Robert Chester, Amanda Jones, Curtis Reece, and Haleigh Wells.

POUND: Caleb Adams, Alexander Belcher, Bryson Boggs, Heather Collins, Seth Cox, Dakota Dotson, Ashley Jessee, Sadra Mullins, Alexus Powers, Bartley Reynolds, Morgan Shortt, Charity Smith, Adrianna Sturgill, and Qing Yang.

ROSE HILL: Tristan Cline, Hunter Graham, Kennidy Hurt, and Joshua Patterson.

RURAL RETREAT: Landon Lowe and Leigh Mitchell.

ST. CHARLES: Emily Webb.

ST. PAUL: Aaron Duty, Taylor Edwards, and Elizabeth Reynolds.

STONEGA: Kimberly Jones.

WEBER CITY: David Edwards and Sara Gillespie.

WHITESBURG: Joshua Bunch.

WISE: Dennis Asbury, Ammu Boggs, Mackenzie Carter, Autumn Crabtree, Jonathan Edwards, Aiden Fultz, Dennis Hunley, Nicholas Jackson, Jillian Jessee, Ashar Khan, Kaitlin Kiser, Hannah Large, Tristan Miller, Courtney Miniard, Tisha Miniard, Braeden Mullins, Alexandra Rogers, Peyton Rogers, Zachary Rose, Maggie Shell, Denver Short, Chloe Shupe, Jillian Sturgill, Madison Trosper, Jerrard Vance, Megan Wright, and Riley Yates.

MECC To Offer Virginia G3 Scholarships

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College will offer Virginia G3 financial assistance this fall to eligible students seeking certifications and degrees that will lead to an in-demand job.  

G3 Scholarships cover tuition and fees for individuals who qualify for state financial aid, allowing students to gain the skills they need for a good career in their community without worrying about costs. Funding is available for select programs in five of Virginia’s most in-demand industries, including Early Childhood Education, Healthcare, Information Technology, Public Safety and Skilled Trades. 

“Mountain Empire Community College offers amazing educational programming in each of the G3 priority areas, leading graduates to well-paying regional job opportunities in high demand fields,” said MECC President Kristen Westover.  

“Thanks to G3, these programs are not only accessible and attainable, but also affordable. There has never been a better time in the Commonwealth of Virginia to get skills, get a job, and get ahead,” Westover added. 

Applicants for G3 Scholarships must meet certain financial qualifications. For example, a student’s household income (for a family of four) must be less than $106,000 or a single adult making less than $51,000. Income thresholds vary as the household number increases. Once a student qualifies, G3 Scholarships require a level of academic performance to stay eligible. For full-time students who also receive the maximum Pell Grant, additional scholarship benefits are designed to help offset cost of living so they can continue to take care of their family while earning their degree or certificate.  

Typically, the cost of attendance for a full-time student at MECC is $4,650 per year. The G3 Scholarship is a last dollar scholarship that, with other financial aid, could bring that cost down to $0.  

Students who are interested in learning more about the G3 Scholarship at and what programs of study they can pursue, visit To schedule an appointment with an advisor, students can visit or call 276-523-2400. 

MECC Ranked 60th in National Cyber League Competition

Big Stone Gap – Mountain Empire Community College’s Capture the Flag team recently competed in a National Cyber League competition, ranking 60th nationally, with one member ranking in the top 15% of students. 

 The team, which includes students Macarthur Inbody and Staci Fraley led by MECC Technology Director Ritchie Deel, is currently ranked 60th overall out of all colleges and universities in the United States and 21st in the Eastern Division. More than 350 schools competed in the event. 

 “MECC is extremely proud of Macarthur and Staci,” said Deel. “These students have been the cornerstone of MECC’s CTF team since its inception only a few years ago.  Macarthur has been the team captain from day one and has been a tremendous leader. We hope to build on this success and continue growing the team in the years to come.” 

 MECC’s team placed higher than John Hopkins University, Western Governors University, New York University, Tidewater Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, and Radford University. In the team game, MECC’s CTF team “The Transcendentalists”, reached an overall ranking of 104th out of 738 teams competing.  

 MECC competed in the gold bracket during the team game which is meant for the top 15% of players overall. Ranking details are found at: and

 In the individual game, student Macarthur Inbody placed 57th overall while competing in the gold bracket. Staci Fraley placed 922nd overall and in 361st place while competing in the silver bracket. The gold bracket was for the top 15% of all players and the silver bracket was for the next 35% of players(aka top 50% overall). In the individual game there were 3,461 players competing, with details included at

 MECC offers a Cybersecurity Career Studies Program as well as Associate degrees in General Studies – Software Engineering Specialization and Computer Networking Technology. For more information on MECC’s Cybersecurity offerings or the Capture the Flag team, please contact Ritchie Deel at (276)523-2400.   

MECC Announces Class of 2021 – Largest Graduating Class in College’s 49 Year History

Big Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College is honored to announce the Class of 2021, the largest graduating class in the history of the college, including 635 graduates earning 872 academic awards.

The Class of 2021 completed 343 Associate degrees – 164 Associate of Arts and Science degrees and 179 Associate of Applied Sciences degrees. Graduates earned 178 Certificates and 351 Career Studies Certificates.

“Mountain Empire Community College’s success is measured through the accomplishments of our graduates and never have we had such success,” said MECC President Kristen Westover. “I am so proud of our graduates for their perseverance in completing their goals during the challenges of a pandemic. I am also very proud of MECC’s faculty and staff who exhibited extreme flexibility and determination over the course of the last year as they ensured students were able to continue to learn, complete their coursework, and graduate.”

Graduates will be recognized with a Virtual Graduation Ceremony at the Central Drive-In Theater in Blackwood on Friday, May 14. Due to parking limitations, the ceremony is limited to graduates and their families only as well as college staff. MECC will feature the ceremony to include pre-recorded speeches by the College President, Advisory Board President, Vice Presidents, Special Guests, and Student Speakers. Refreshments will be provided. Guests are welcome to stay for the movie feature following the ceremony.

2021 Honored Student Speakers include Aleigha Cope of Jonesville and Jacob Kilgore of Coeburn. Cope is graduating Magna Cum Laude with an Associates of General Studies and Certificate of Health Sciences. She also graduated from Mountain Empire’s Dental Assisting program in December. Her parents are Robbie and Rebecca Cope, both of Jonesville. She has received the Student Diplomat and Life Campus Ministry award while at MECC. Kilgore is graduating Summa Cum Laude with two Associate of Applied Science degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Science: Water/Wastewater Specialization and is an AIMS Scholar.  Kilgore obtained his Class 4 and Class 3 state operating license while in college and working full time.  He is currently employed by the City of Norton as a Plant Operator. 

For a complete list of the candidates for degrees, click here.


MECC To Host T-Shirt Design Contest

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is hosting a t-shirt design contest to celebrate the College’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2022.  

MECC is seeking artwork to be used for t-shirts and marketing materials for this special milestone. The winning entry will receive a $200 cash prize and will be recognized at 50th anniversary events.  

Second prize is $100, and third prize will be $50. Entries should be original, should not include commercial or copyrighted images, and should be reproducible. All entries should be submitted by Friday, May 14 at 4:30 p.m.  

“We are excited to announce the first of many community activities for our upcoming 50th anniversary. More information will be forthcoming, but the College plans a year of events recognizing this important milestone, said Dr. Kristen Westover, President.   

To submit an entry, visit For questions or additional information, contact the MECC Foundation at (276) 523-7480.  

Images must be in an original file format or PDF file with the ability to be reproduced. Submissions may be utilized by MECC for recognition of the college’s 50th anniversary. MECC will retain the rights to this image for future use and the image will not be used for any other purpose by the artist. Submissions not selected as winners will not be used by MECC. 


MECC to Host 16th Mountain Music School

Big Stone Gap, VA –Mountain Empire Community College is currently accepting applications for the 16th annual Mountain Music School, to be held at the Center for Workforce and Innovation of Appalachia, July 26-30.

MECC’s Mountain Music School is a week-long event dedicated to the preservation and continuation of Appalachian music and culture. Student’s age 10 and up learn to play an instrument of their choice, including beginning and advanced options in “old-time” fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, autoharp, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, and doghouse bass. In addition, a string-band class for intermediate/advanced musicians is offered for students who want to expand their skills in a group setting. A limited number of instruments are available to loan during the week.

 “After cancelling in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, we are thrilled to bring back MECC’s Mountain Music School. This event brings participants from throughout the nation, and even international students. We are excited to host the school at a new facility which will allow for social distancing. We look forward to a great week with students of all ages,” announced co-directors Dr. Mike Gilley and Lee Davis.

Registration for Mountain Music School is $150 for the week and $25 for youth, which includes lunch each day, and a t-shirt. Classes are held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Scholarships are also available for students 17 years and younger.

To register for the Mountain Music School, or to apply for a scholarship, please visit the Mountain Music School website at or call (276) 523-2400 ext. 640267.


State Board for Community Colleges to Consider 2021-22 Fees at May Meeting

Richmond, Virginia — In accordance with Section 23.1-307 (D) of the Code of Virginia, the State Board for Community Colleges provides notice that it will consider tuition and mandatory fee increases for Virginia’s Community Colleges, effective fall 2021, at 9 a.m. on May 20, 2021, via a virtual meeting.

The State Board will consider mandatory fee increases of between 0 percent and 1.2 percent for all undergraduate students, subject to provisions of the 2021 session of the General Assembly. The maximum potential increase equates to a tuition rate of $158.84 per credit-hour for in-state students and would result in a net annual increase of $55.20 for a student enrolling in 30 credit-hours during the academic year. The community colleges will use revenue generated from any increase in mandatory fees to pay for mandatory cost increases, contractual obligations, debt service, and proposed adjustments to student fees.

Written comments from the public will be accepted through May 19 and will be made available to the Board before action on tuition is taken. Written comments may be sent to Rose Marie Owen, Executive Assistant to the Chancellor, at, or they may be mailed to the attention of Rose Marie Owen at:

Office of the Chancellor

Virginia Community College System

300 Arboretum Parkway

Richmond, Virginia 23236.

MECC Foundation to Host Auto World – MECC Golf Classic

Big Stone Gap — One lucky golfer will go home with a $500 cash prize, and other great prizes will be awarded, as well, at the Auto World – MECC Golf Classic on Friday, June 4, at Lonesome Pine Country Club with proceeds benefitting the scholarship program at Mountain Empire Community College. 

All players hitting a hole-in-one on Hole #10 will win a 2021 Jeep Renegade sponsored by Auto World of Big Stone Gap. There is also a prize of $1,000 for hitting to within 12 inches of the pin on Hole #10. If more than one player accomplishes this feat, the prize money will be divided among the winners.  

Registration will begin at 8 a.m., with a shotgun start at 9:15 a.m. The tournament will be a Captain’s Choice Scramble and will feature two flights and two places. There will be “most accurate drive” and “closest to the pin” prizes. 

The entry fee of $100 per person includes a continental breakfast, golf shirt, cart and green fees, luncheon, goodie bag of snacks, most accurate drive and closest to the pin contests, and entry into the drawing for the $500 cash prize to be given away at the end of the tournament. Golfers must be present to win the cash prize.  

A barbeque lunch will be served following the tournament. During that time, golfers may bid on unique and interesting items including art, sports memorabilia, and spa packages during the live auction. There will also be a silent auction which will begin during the breakfast and continue throughout the event.  

Tournament Sponsorship is available at four levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum for financial support in the amounts of $500, $1,000, and $2,500, and $5,000 and above respectively. All tournament sponsors will receive a complimentary team(s) and will be recognized during the tournament welcome and in the printed materials for the tournament.  

Other sponsorships are available. Please visit the MECC Foundation website at for more information, to become a sponsor, or to register a team.   

Registrations may be faxed to 276-523-7485, e-mailed to Jeri Bledsoe at, or completed by phone at 276-523-2400, extension 640287.  

Individuals or businesses who would like to sponsor the tournament, provide an item for the auction, or receive more information may contact Jeri Bledsoe, Tournament Coordinator, by telephone or e-mail as indicated in the previous paragraph. 

MECC to Co-Host Manufacture Your Career Event

Manufacture Your Career

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College and Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing will co-host the Manufacture Your Career event, an afternoon panel discussion highlighting the manufacturing sector and the career paths it offers. 

The event will be held Tuesday, March 16 beginning at 1:30 via Zoom. A panel discussion featuring professionals in different positions within manufacturing organizations in Southwest Virginia will be held. Participants will include Leah Sawer, Chief Human Resource Officer for Real Performance Machinery, LLC, formerly Metalworx, Inc., Lisa Jones, Director-Human Resources and Safety for Hapco and Concord American Flagpole (VA, TX, MN, China), and Martha Rasnake, Senior Human Resources Advisor for General Dynamics Mission Systems. Panelists will discuss a range of topics including the types of careers available in manufacturing, soft skills sought after in the manufacturing sector, the future of manufacturing in Southwest Virginia, and more.

Students are encouraged to learn more on the growth of manufacturing, the possibility for advancement in the field, and the educational benefits an employer might provide to employees. Interested individuals should register for the event at Information for the Zoom Meeting will be distributed to the email address provided in the registration form.  For more information contact: Beth Boggs Kelly, Career & Transfer Counselor at

MECC Foundation Seeking Outstanding Alumnus

Big Stone Gap, VA The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is seeking nominees for the 2021 Outstanding Alumnus Award.  

 The award recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to one or more areas of society, i.e., professional, academic,orpersonal achievements, civic service, or service to MECC.  All living MECC alumni who have completed at least one class at MECC are eligible to be nominated and considered for the award. Self-nominations are also welcome.  Current members of the MECC Local AdvisoryandFoundation Boardsof Directors, current faculty and staff of the college, and members of the MECC Alumni and Friends Advisory Committee are not eligible to receive the award.   

 Nominations can be made online atthe MECCwebsite,www.mecc.eduunder the Alumni & Friends tabat the top.  Those needing a paper copy of the Nomination Form should contact Jeri Bledsoe at276-523-2400, extension640287. There is no limit to the number of nominations that one may submit. All entries must be submitted by April 15, 2021.A subcommittee of the MECC Alumni Advisory Committee will select the winner of the award. 

2007 MECC Graduate Elisha Oakes 2007 MECC Graduate Elisha Oakeswas named 2020 Outstanding MECC Alumnus. Sheis currentlyan Assistant Public Defender withthe MacombCounty Public Defender’s Office. Previously, she was asololaw practitioner with her business located in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan.  

 Ms. Oakes has devoted her practicetocriminal defenseand family law cases.Shereceived her Associateof Applied Science Degree in Paralegal Studies from Mountain Empire Community College in 2007 andher Associate Degree in General Studiesin 2008. She continued her education atThe University of Virginias College at Wise, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  Shewasawardedher Juris Doctor degreefrom The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2013 andcompletedherMaster of Laws (LLM)in 2014.   

 For the pastfouryears Elisha has served on the Young Lawyers Executive Council for the State Bar of Michigan, and sheis also a member of the WomenLawyers Association of Michigan. 

 For questions, please contact Jeri Bledsoe in the MECC Foundation office at 276-523-2400, extension640287, or 


MECC Earns 2021-2022 Military Friendly® School Designation

Big Stone Gap, VA — Mountain Empire Community College is honored to receive the 2021-2022 Military Friendly® School designation. 

 Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. Over 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-2022 survey with 747 earning the designation. 

MECC provides veterans with specialized support services including academic advising, counseling, and support. Lena Grace, a 30-year MECC staff member, serves as the college’s Veteran’s Coordinator. The college hosts a Student Veterans of America Club, which is engaged in several community and campus activities throughout the year. 

 Final ratings for the 2021 Military Friendly® School designation were determined by combining the institution’s survey response set and government/agency public data sources, within a logic based scoring assessment. MECC met key thresholds for Student Retention, Graduation, Job Placement, Loan Repayment, Persistence (Degree Advancement or Transfer) and Loan Default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans. 

 “MECC is fortunate to serve our nation’s best and brightest, veterans that bring diverse experiences and skills to the college campus,” said Lena Grace, MECC’s Veterans Affairs Officer. “The college not only supports veterans with personalized advising and financial aid assistance, but also creates a community where veterans can encourage one another in reaching their educational and career goals.” 

For more information about MECC’s student veteran programs, visit 

The 2021-2022 Military Friendly® Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine and can be found at

MECC to Host Virtual Transfer Fair


Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is partnering with Southwest Virginia, Virginia Highlands and Wytheville Community Colleges to offer a Virtual Transfer Fair on Wednesday, February 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

 The Spring 2021 Virtual Transfer Fair will be held via Zoom teleconference. The purpose of the fair is to allow students, alumni, and other individuals interested in gaining information from various institutions the opportunity to do so in one place. Representatives from more than 30 institutions will share program options, scholarship opportunities and requirements for transferring. 

 Participants are encouraged to meet with several institutions to ensure they make the best decision when it comes to their transfer education. To register for the event visit: The website also provides information about the institutions currently registered to attend.

 For more information on MECC’s Transfer Services, please contact Beth Boggs, Career & Transfer Counselor, at 276-523-2400 ext. 324. 

MECC Foundation to Host Virtual 45th Annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival Featuring Lee Smith, Silas House, and Cassie Chambers. Entries Sought for Lonesome Pine Short-Story and Poetry Contests

Big Stone Gap, VA — The MECC Foundation is pleased to announce the 45th Annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, a virtual event featuring three renowned Appalachian authors – Lee Smith, Silas House, and Cassie Chambers, on Wednesday, March 3 from 10 a.m. to noon at

In coordination with the festival event, the MECC Foundation will host the 34th Annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 17th Annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest. The deadline for submitting entries is Wednesday, February 17, at 4:30 p.m. Entry categories include adult, high school (grades 9 through 12), and middle school (grades 5 through 8) categories. Contest rules are available on the MECC Foundation website at Winners of the contest will be announced during the Literary Festival Event. All winners will receive a cash prize and be invited to participate in a writing workshop hosted by Lee Smith on March 3.

The virtual festival will feature an introduction by Cassie Chambers on her novel Hill Women. A discussion of the role of women in Appalachia will follow featuring Chambers, House, and Lee. Participants may submit questions for the authors to be answered during the remaining portion of the festival.

Born in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia, Lee Smith began writing stories at the age of nine and selling them for a nickel a piece. Since then, she has written seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and, most recently, Guests on Earth. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

Silas House is the nationally bestselling author of six novels–Clay’s Quilt, 2001; A Parchment of Leaves, 2003; The Coal Tattoo, 2005; Eli the Good, 2009; and Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani) 2012, and Southernmost (June 2018)–as well as a book of creative nonfiction–Something’s Rising, co-authored with Jason Howard, 2009; and three plays. House is a former commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered”. His writing has appeared recently in Time, The Atlantic, Ecotone, The Advocate, Garden and Gun, and Oxford American. House serves on the fiction faculty at the Spalding School of Creative Writing and as the NEH Chair at Berea College.

Cassie Chambers grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Her earliest memories are of playing on her grandparents’ farm in Owsley County, Kentucky and exploring the campus of Berea College with her mother and father. Cassie graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student-run law firm that represents low-income clients. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce. She is a lawyer and the current vice chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. For more information on the MECC Foundation, please visit our website at

MECC to Host ESTEAM Competition for Entrepreneurial Education

BIG STONE GAP — Mountain Empire Community College and The National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education (EntreEd) are partnering to bring the ESTEAM Pitch Series to local middle- and high-school students.

The live virtual event will take place on Wednesday, March 17 from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm EST. The competition encourages students in the Appalachian region to develop and pitch ideas for business development, emphasizing the development of creativity and entrepreneurial innovation.

“At EntreEd, our goal is entrepreneurship education for every student. Our vision for this ESTEAM Pitch Series is to encourage the entrepreneurial creativity of students across Appalachia. We know there are great ideas just waiting to be brought forward, and we want this ARC POWER-funded initiative to be an engaging activity that will encourage teachers and students to develop and pitch those ideas in a competitive environment. As the region begins to recover from the hardships brought on by the pandemic, there will be a great need for entrepreneurial thinking and new ideas. Let’s get started here and now,” said EntreEd’s Executive Director, Dr. Gene Coulson.

Eligible teams include middle- and high-school students within Lee, Wise, Buchanan, and Dickenson counties. To compete, a team must have a minimum of two students and a teacher identified. Instructors must declare Intent to Compete by January 31. Each competition will have two rounds. Round 1, due February 17, 2021 includes a Business Model Canvas submission and a 90-second elevator pitch. Upon internal review, 10 teams will be invited to compete in Round 2, March 17, a live pitch via Zoom to a panel of local judges. Student teams can earn up to $1,000 for their idea, and students aren’t the only winners! The three top teams will also receive $500 for their classroom. For additional resources, information, and to register, visit

The ESTEAM Pitch Series is an initiative of EntreEd’s Fostering Self ESTEAM in Appalachia’s Emerging Workforce project, funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The project helps middle and high school programs in a seven-state region infuse Entrepreneurship into academic classrooms with a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) initiatives. To learn more about the project and the ESTEAM Pitch Series, contact Amber Ravenscroft, ESTEAM Project Director, at

REV Funding Extended to Assist Students Enrolling at MECC

Welding _REV

Big Stone Gap, VA – Students impacted by COVID-19 now have until December 30, 2021 to apply for Re-Employing Virginians (REV) tuition assistance to attend Mountain Empire Community College.

Governor Ralph Northam has extended the deadline, which was previously December 14, 2020, to appropriate $30 million in federal Coronavirus Aid,  Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars as part of the new REV initiative. The program provides scholarships to eligible individuals to enroll in a workforce or community college in five essential industries, including health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education.

MECC will receive more than $782,000 to assist residents of Lee, Wise, Scott, and Dickenson Counties and the city of Norton who are interested or are currently enrolled in high demand fields and have been impacted by COVID-19. MECC students as well as those considering enrollment, who are unemployed and underemployed, are eligible for a training voucher to pay for the cost of enrolling in a high-demand workforce education program. 

To receive a voucher, individuals must self-certify that (1) they are a Virginia resident (2) received unemployment benefits on or after August 1, 2020 or that they are working in a part-time job with an hourly wage under $15 after losing a full-time job due to COVID-19 and (3) enroll in an eligible program before December 30, 2021. Students and interested individuals who want more information related to eligible career paths and financial assistance are encouraged to visit

Those enrolling at MECC choosing short-term workforce training would receive up to $1,500 applied to their student account. Those choosing to pursue a career studies certificate, or an associate degree would receive up to $1,500 as a part-time student or up to $3,000 as a full-time student, which would cover the full cost of tuition for one year. 

For more information on MECC’s REV program, please visit or call MECC’s Office of Enrollment Services at 276.523.2400 ext. 474.

MECC Basic Construction Class Assisting in Appalachia Downtown Revitalization Effort

Appalachia — Mountain Empire Community College has partnered with the Town of Appalachia and a small business owner to help renovate one of the town’s main street storefronts.

The small business, located beside of the famous Peake Building on Appalachia’s main street,  will soon open as the new Appalachia Mercantile. Owner Tommy Adkins said the business will feature local artisan goods, coffee and snacks.

MECC’s Basic Construction class has spent the last month helping Adkins renovate the interior of the store. MECC Instructor Bryce Shular is leading the class of 15 students teaching local residents basic construction skills with a hands-on, real-world application. The class meets once a week and is based at MECC’s Center for Workforce and Innovation in Appalachia.

Shular said students have completed demolition work, painted, practiced woodworking, basic HVAC/ventilation assessment, and basic electrical work. The transformation in the building site has been remarkable. Plaster walls were removed to reveal original brick. Tin tiled high ceilings and a mezzanine space are highlights of the Mercantile.

“These are basic skills. This is stuff you need to know for life, if you own a house or do any type of construction,” said student Colby Dillon. “It feels good to do something to help the community.”

“It’s pretty nice to see something come to Appalachia” added student Aaron Duty.

Most of students are enrolled in MECC’s Associate Degree in Energy Technology and are completing the course as part of their degree program.

“I’m trying to get several of our programs involved here,” noted Shular. “Our welding fabrication class may work on some of the railing for the stairs. I try to put these students in real-life scenarios. I thought this project was great, and I would love to have many more of these projects.”

Adkins said the partnership has helped him complete renovations in a shorter time frame, and hopefully he will be able to open in the spring.  “10-15 guys are a lot better than one. They have put in a lot of hours here. They pulled 10,000 nails here in a day’s time. It would have taken me forever. This has been a good partnership,” Adkins said.

While the town has struggled economically in the last decade due to closer of several mines and businesses, Adkins is hoping for a resurgence in the community. He would recommend other business take advantage of the opportunity and consider investing in Appalachia.

“Our Main Street Association is working hard to get more businesses here. We have a motorcycle route that goes through the town, the Dragon Slayer, and we are getting around 75 motorcycles here on the weekend. We need businesses here to support that and we are trying,” said Adkins.

For more information on MECC’s Basic Construction program, contact Shular at 276-523-2400 or by email at


Governor Ralph Northam today announced that eHealth Technologies, Inc., a provider of medical record and image retrieval and clinical intelligence services, will invest $375,000 to establish a new customer support center in Scott County. This initiative will create 160 new jobs.

Mountain Empire Community College, along with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Scott County, InvestSWVA, and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission are collaborators in the project Governor Northam approved a New Company Incentive Program grant of $626,500, which will be provided by the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund (COF). Eligible companies that meet statutory investment and employment requirements in traded sector industries looking to establish a new presence in Virginia are offered potential access to the COF as part of the New Company Incentive Program. eHealth Technologies represents the first company in Virginia to benefit from the New Company Incentive Program.

“The growth of telehealth during the pandemic has created an increased demand for companies like eHealth Technologies that provide innovative solutions to streamline health information and enhance patient care,” said Governor Northam. “Southwest Virginia is proactively working with its higher education partners to equip the workforce with 21st-century skills, and this announcement is a reflection of that progress. We thank eHealth Technologies for creating 160 new jobs in Scott County, and stand ready to support their success as they work to deliver much-needed services to hospital systems and healthcare organizations across the nation.”

eHealth Technologies is a leading provider of clinical information services for recently diagnosed, chronically ill patients needing to be admitted for hospital care on an expedited basis in the United States. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, with employees worldwide, eHealth Technologies serves more than half of the nation’s top 100 hospitals, including 17 of the top 20 U.S. News & World Report 2020-2021 Honor Roll Hospitals. eHealth Technologies enables institutions to reduce the time from referral to first appointment by as much as 80 percent. The company’s eHealth Connect® platform offers the easiest and fastest way to get a patient’s external records, images, and pathology slides in the hands of the clinical team. By opening a site in Virginia, eHealth Technologies will further diversify its operations and create system redundancies to benefit its customers.

“Scott County and Southwest Virginia are committed to providing the infrastructure and workforce to ensure that tech companies like eHealth Technologies can succeed,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This great project is evidence of the growing trend of global businesses diversifying operations in lower-cost regions, and we are confident that eHealth Technologies will thrive in Southwest Virginia.”

“This expansion in Southwest Virginia is the right next step in our strategic growth plan,” said Jeff Markin, CEO of eHealth Technologies. “We appreciate the support received from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission-backed InvestSWVA team, and we are excited to grow our partnerships around the Commonwealth of Virginia. This Scott County expansion will enable eHealth Technologies to strengthen our focus on helping the clinicians we serve get seamless access to the healthcare information they need—when they need it—for the benefit of patients receiving critical care.”

In 2019, Virginia-based Aldrich Capital Partners became the parent company of eHealth Technologies, providing support for business expansion and development. Aldrich Capital Partners supports disruptive innovation in healthcare IT, fintech, and application software by investing equity capital in privately held growing companies. Founded by serial entrepreneurs and investors, Aldrich Capital brings its portfolio companies strategic guidance and a broad set of relationships that enable them to reach their growth potential. Aldrich Capital is committed to supporting entrepreneurs in geographies outside traditional investment hot spots, where Aldrich believes fundamentally sound businesses can be built and communities can be positively impacted.

“eHealth Technologies will be a game changer for talent development in Southwest Virginia,” said Dr. Kris Westover, President of Mountain Empire Community College. “Mountain Empire Community College has a successful track record of preparing the region’s workforce for careers in health information management, and we are proud to partner with eHealth Technologies on developing a well-trained workforce that will ensure the highest level of customer service and, ultimately, patient care.”

“During strategic planning sessions with the executive team at eHealth Technologies, we identified the need to open a new office location to support our ambitious growth goals,” said Mirza Baig, Founding Partner of Aldrich Capital Partners. “We evaluated numerous options and are proud to announce Southwest Virginia will be home to our fourth ACP site in the state. After investments in Richmond-based Paymerang and Hampton Roads-based, we are looking forward to building multiple, world-class teams in Virginia.”

The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $94,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project, and eHealth Technologies is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Scott County is ready to play a key role in eHealth Technologies’ strategic growth plan,” said Danny Mann, Chairman of the Scott County Board of Supervisors. “We appreciate being part of a team effort over the last year to attract eHealth Technologies to Southwest Virginia as it expands its operation and continues to deliver top-notch service to hospital systems across the country.”

“We are proud to welcome eHealth Technologies to our county and the region,” said Roger Fraysier, Chairman of the Scott County Economic Development Authority. “The company’s healthcare focus and patient-driven mission will be an asset to the region, and our workforce is ready to meet the demands of these well-paying jobs. Thanks to our partners who assisted us in making this expansion a reality.”

“I welcome the arrival of eHealth Technologies in Scott County,” said Congressman Morgan Griffith. “As a provider of medical record services to hospitals nationwide and in Virginia, eHealth Technologies will deliver new employment opportunities for our region’s workers. Its choice to locate in Scott County indicates the economic advantages our region offers.”

“eHealth Technologies’ decision to expand its operation to Southwest Virginia underscores the region’s strategic advantages and the strength of our workforce,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore, Chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. “We are proud to have worked along with InvestSWVA and Mountain Empire Community College to guide eHealth Technologies leadership over the last year to ensure they selected Scott County for this key expansion. This project demonstrates that Southwest Virginia is a location of choice for companies looking to diversify their operations.”

“eHealth Technologies has made a strategic decision to expand its worldwide operation in Southwest Virginia,” said Senator Todd Pillion. “Our workforce, particularly in health information management, is second to none. I am proud that our legislative delegation and InvestSWVA team took the lead in advising eHealth Technologies’ leadership to invest in our community and our people. The company’s mission and patient-driven work makes this announcement a proud moment for the region.”

For more information on MECC’s eHealth partnership or health information management training, contact Dr. Vickie Ratliff, or Instructors Nora Blankenbecler, Jane Jones or Sabrina Ward at 276-523-2400.  

MECC President Kristen Westover and UVA-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry have partnered to send a message to their campus and community: Wear Because You Care. 

MECC President Kristen Westover and UVA-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry have partnered to send a message to their campus and community: Wear Because You Care. 
Henry and Westover are asking residents to wear a mask, practice regular handwashing, and maintain social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is surging in our region. Doing these simple things will help our health care system, benefit our economy, and most importantly, save lives.
Click here to view video message, Wear Because You Care.

MECC Announces Re-Employing Virginians Funding

Welding _REVBig Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College will receive more than $782,000 to assist residents of Lee, Wise, Scott, and Dickenson Counties and the city of Norton who are interested or are currently enrolled in high demand fields and have been impacted by COVID-19. 

Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday that Virginia is allocating $30 million in federal Coronavirus Aid,  Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars as part of the new Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiative which will provide scholarships to eligible individuals to enroll in a workforce or community college program in five essential industries, including health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education.

For a limited time, MECC students as well as those considering enrollment, who are unemployed and underemployed, are eligible for a training voucher to pay for the cost of enrolling in a high-demand workforce education program. To receive a voucher, individuals must self-certify that (1) they are a Virginia resident (2) received unemployment benefits on or after August 1, 2020 or that they are working in a part-time job with an hourly wage under $15 after losing a full-time job due to COVID-19 and (3) enroll in an eligible program before December 14, 2020. Students and interested individuals are encouraged to visit  For more information related to eligible career paths and financial assistance. 

Those enrolling at MECC choosing short-term workforce training would receive up to $1500 applied to their student account. Those choosing to pursue a career studies certificate, or an associate degree would receive up to $1,500 as a part-time student or up to $3,000 as a full-time student, which would cover the full cost of tuition for one year. 

Dr. Kristen Westover, MECC President said, Statistics show that those with less education were hit hardest by COVID-19 job losses. This is an incredible opportunity for individuals whose jobs have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The certification process is quick and simple. For anyone who is unemployed or working part time making less than $15 an hour because of COVID-19, it is a great opportunity to receive education and training that may provide more job security in the future. 

“If you have lost your job, or seen a reduction in your hours and paycheck, Virginia’s community colleges want to help you,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “The REV initiative offers you another way into the short-term credential and degree programs that prepare you for a high-demand career. These opportunities will be more affordable than ever before thanks to these grants, and we look forward to helping individuals and families who want to move forward, beyond the unexpected challenges posed by the pandemic.”

For more information on MECC’s REV program, please visit or call MECC’s Office of Enrollment Services at 276.523.2400 ext. 474.

O’Quinn Joins MECC’s Small Business Development Center

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce that Becki O’Quinn has been appointed as Business Advisor at MECC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

 MECC’s Small Business Development Center provides advising, training, and business resources for small businesses, to help grow the region’s economy. Most services are offered at no cost to Virginia residents. 

 Services for new and existing small businesses include business planning, funding services and capital formation, marketing strategies, financial and strategic advices. New businesses can receive help in developing a business plan, financial projections, licensing and regulatory information and product development. 

 Ms. O’Quinn formerly served as a Program Director for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise for the last eight years, leading the SWVA Ag Expo, SWVA Economic Forum, Rally SWVA and SWVA Rise Emerging Leadership Program, among other events and programs Becki also served as Director of the Southwest Virginia Technology Development Center in Lebanon, Virginia before moving into the program director role.

O’Quinn holds a bachelor’s degree in Business and Public Administration from UVA-Wise.  Before joining UVA Wise she served as Vice President of Customer Relations for SouthEast Telephone in Pikeville, KY. 

O’Quinn resides in Hiltons, Virginia with her husband, Donald. Together they enjoy a family of five children, five grandchildren and their labradoodle, Mel.

For more information on MECC’s Small Business Development Center, contact O’Quinn at 276-964-7345 or by email at

MECC Foundation, Haunted Forest Hosts Scare Night

Big Stone Gap — The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation, in partnership with MECC’s Haunted Forest, will host a special Scare Night this Saturday, October 24 at the Central Drive-In, Blackwood.

 Central Drive-In will feature two movies beginning at around 7:30 p.m., World War Z and Pet Cemetery. MECC’s Haunted Forest Ghouls will be lurking around throughout the movie, so roll up your windows and lock your doors

 Concessions will be provided by Central Drive-In and Dough and Joe. All proceeds will benefit the MECC Emergency Student Assistance Fund which provides for food, utility, and transportation assistance for MECC students in need. Donations to the fund will be accepted and appreciated. 

 For more information, contact the MECC Foundation at 276-523-7480 or visit the MECC Facebook page at


MECC to Host Virtual Home Craft Days Festival This Weekend 

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College will host a virtual Home Craft Days special event this weekend, paying tribute to past craft and food vendors, music performances, and cultural demonstrations. 

A two-hour virtual program will be broadcast Friday, October 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, October 17 at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The program will be available for view on, and Comcast Channel 6. Recordings will be available following the initial broadcast. 

The College is also pleased to share this year’s virtual festival to an even broader audience through Project Southwest, a streaming video production of Blue Ridge PBS.  Through this venue, the 49th annual HCD event will be available throughout the year, with additional footage of the traditional music and crafts you will find at the 50th anniversary of the festival in 2021. 

The 49th Home Craft Days Festival virtual program is hosted by Tyler Hughes and Todd Meade, long time Home Craft Days volunteers, and will feature new and old music performances dating back to the original Home Craft Days’ event in 1971. Current performers highlighted include the Childress Sisters, Rich Kirby, and Eric McMurray. 

Additional craft demonstrators featured in the program include Ganell Marshall, Mark Ramsey, Maurice Vanhook, and members of the Mountain Tradition Woodcarvers.  Youth re-enactors from the Daniel Boone Wilderness Road Association demonstrate 18th Century frontier games and Dr. Harriette Arrington shares a story with festival viewers. 

In addition, MECC will present the first in a series of history lectures developed by the college. The program will feature local historian Dr. Lawrence Fleenor and will focus on Chief Benge. That program will also be featured on Saturday, October 17 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the college’s youtube and facebook channel, listed above. 

MECC plans to host the 50th anniversary of the Home Craft Days Festival on campus in October 2021. The event is planned to be the biggest celebration yet. 

For more information, please contact Home Craft Days Festival Director Mike Gilley at 276-523-2400 ext. 304 or visit the festival website

MECC Announces Free Redbud Tree Distribution

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College, in partnership with the Metallurgical Coal Producers Association, and the state parks in Southwest Virginia, will offer a redbud tree giveaway in October in coordination with the College’s 2020 Home Craft Days Virtual Festival. 

Approximately 2,500 trees are available for distribution at no cost at three Southwest Virginia state parks and MECC by student and staff members of the MECC Environment Club. Distribution will be on a first-come, first serve basis and there a limit to 10 trees per community member Anyone picking up a tree during the distribution event is required to wear a mask and adhere to State Park COVID-19 guidelines. 

The distribution will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Tuesday, October 13 – Wilderness Road State Park from 10 am. to 2 p.m. in the Visitor Center
  • Wednesday, October 14 – Natural Tunnel State Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Visitor Center
  • Thursday, October 15 – Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the lawn of museum
  • Friday, October 16 – MECC Campus (Parking Lot B by Solar panels) from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on the MECC Environmental Club Tree Distribution, please contact Rosa Cooke, MECC Water/Wastewater Associate Professor, at 276-523-2400. 

MECC Will Offer Majority of Classes Online for Spring 2021

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College will offer a variety of options for courses for Spring 2021, with most courses being offered online to protect the safety and welfare of students and staff. 

Programs such as Welding, Manufacturing, Commercial Driver’s Training (CDL),  Construction, HVAC and others that require face-to-face instruction will be configured for smaller class sizes to allow for social distancing. Additional cleaning and sanitizing protocols will be implemented in these classrooms. 

For students enrolled in health programs, such as Practical and Registered Nursing, Respiratory Therapy,  and others, the College will ensure that students have the necessary safety equipment (Personal Protective Equipment-PPE) to complete coursework and practicums.  

All courses will have some online content, others will be entirely online, and some will be a combination of in-person and online (hybrid offerings).   

In-person advising sessions will be held at the college to support students wanting to enroll, or who need assistance with advising and financial aid. A schedule for these sessions will be announced at a later date. 

 “The college is prepared to continue our current academic and training platforms, both online and in person, for Spring 2021. Services at the college will continue to be offered remotely to protect the safety and welfare of our students, staff and community, “ said Dr. Kristen Westover, MECC President.  

MECC will continue to support online learners, including assessment of online learning readiness, career exploration, tutoring, advising, online testing, etc. in a virtual format. In some instances, for face-to-face courses, this may require a modified schedule to address safety concerns and comply with safety requirements.   

 Online courses will be offered in various formats. Some online courses, which are synchronous offerings, are structured to meet at specific times on tools like Zoom, just like a traditional in-person class, so students can engage with their instructor and classmates together. Others offer a chance to learn material at one’s own pace to complete assignments or take exams by specific deadlines in faculty-facilitated courses, or asynchronous offerings.  

For more information regarding Spring 2021 course scheduling options, or to apply to enroll, please call 276.523.2400 or visit the MECC’s website at

MECC Student Tests Positive for COVID-19

Mountain Empire Community College has been notified that a student has tested positive for COVID-19. The student is self-isolated, according to CDC and local public health guidelines. Contact tracing is being coordinated through the local health department in conjunction with the college. Those persons who may have come into close contact with the positive case are notified directly by the Health Department and given further instructions to prevent the spread.

As part the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requirements for all colleges and universities, Mountain Empire Community College is required to send this initial Emergency Notification to students and employees of a positive COVID-19 case(s) on campus. Additional information regarding COVID-19 prevention, symptoms, testing and academic planning can be found at the college’s COVID-19 Prevention and Response webpage at

With the increase in COVID-19 cases in our local community and state, MECC would like to remind the community to continue to practice healthy habits:

  • Practice social distancing by putting at least 6 feet between yourself and others, including covering your  mouth and nose with a cloth face covering, especially in public places where 6 feet of separation is not feasible.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and then disinfect frequently used surfaces.
  • Cover coughs/sneezes with a tissue or inside of your elbow.
  • Monitor your health for symptoms and stay home if you’re sick.

COVID-19 affects all age groups – even college-aged students – and the social distancing guidelines, including wearing face coverings when around others, are to protect yourself and care for others as well.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control, the LENOWISCO Health District, and the MECC COVID-19 Prevention and Response page.

Unique partnership in Appalachia will bring 10 megawatts of solar, new jobs to Southwest Virginia

Norton, Va. — The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia today announced an innovative partnership with Secure Futures to provide commercial-scale solar installations in the coalfield region that are specifically designed to employ local workers. The initiative, “Securing Solar For Southwest Virginia,” will provide affordable solar solutions for businesses, nonprofits and local governments in the seven-county region, while building local workforce skills and opportunities for well-paying jobs in the growing solar energy sector.

The announcement comes at a critical time in Southwest Virginia, which was already economically stressed from the coal industry’s decline prior to the current Covid-driven recession. Additionally, today is the first day of the annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum, where the idea for the Solar Workgroup began in 2015. Since then, the workgroup has boosted enthusiasm for solar energy in the historic coalfield region and laid the groundwork to grow solar development through public outreach, research, training and policy. Last year, eight Southwest Virginia communities achieved national recognition through SolSmart designation for their initiatives to encourage growth of the local solar market. 

The new solar partnership — an alliance of nonprofit, state government, educational and private sector entities that is unique in the Central Appalachia region — will take these efforts to the next level. The partners are working to achieve significant goals over the next three years, including the construction of 10 megawatts of solar in the coalfield region by the end of 2023, and the creation of 15 new, full-time jobs in solar construction, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship and small business development.

“Secure Futures brings innovative solutions for solar customers and a track record of excellent customer service to the partnership,” said Chelsea Barnes, New Economy Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, a co-convener of the workgroup. “We are excited to work with a team so dedicated to ensuring that the economic benefits of the solar industry come to Southwest Virginia.”

“We applaud the Solar Workgroup for seeking to bring solar jobs into the region, offering well-paying jobs in a rapidly growing industry that falls into the category of essential services in today’s pandemic environment,” said Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures, based in Staunton, Va. “In order to help ensure that these jobs come to Southwest Virginia, we need to work collaboratively with the incumbent electric utilities — including APCo, Old Dominion Power and Powell Valley Electric Cooperative — to apply the standards and expectations of the 2019 Electric Co-op Net Metering legislation and the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. Key to our work will be solar Power Purchase Agreements and net metering solutions for commercial-scale customers.”

Secure Futures will provide start-up funds for Lonesome Pine Solar and hire a Southwest-Virginia-based project coordinator. Additionally, Secure Futures is awarding a $50,000 grant to Mountain Empire Community College to fund solar installation apprenticeships and faculty mentoring. Lonesome Pine Solar will employ graduates of the college’s programs and provide the installation services for the partnership’s projects. 

“Mountain Empire Community College is excited about the partnership and opportunity to bring more solar installation projects to our service region,” said Dr. Kristen Westover, president of MECC. “The partnership will provide MECC’s Energy Technology program students and graduates with incredible new hands-on opportunities in solar installation.”

Securing Solar For Southwest Virginia builds on the established partnership between Secure Futures and Lonesome Pine Solar, LLC, headquartered in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. 

“I’m pleased and honored to join this innovative business model to establish local solar power businesses where none currently exist,” said Glen “Skip” Skinner, president and manager of Lonesome Pine Solar. “In partnership with Mountain Empire Community College, Lonesome Pine Solar hopes to help students move from the academic world to applying their knowledge and skills developed to become gainfully employed in the solar industry, a new economy for Southwest Virginia.”

“This partnership directly contributes to our Clean Energy Virginia efforts. While we continue to advance the renewable energy portfolio to meet the goals outlined in the Virginia Clean Economy Act, organizations like the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia play a vital role in fostering these opportunities,” said John Warren, director of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. “DMME is glad to be a part of this group to also identify workforce development needs and help to create new jobs in the clean energy marketplace.” 

“This innovative and strategic collaboration promises to accelerate solar development across our region and wouldn’t be possible without coordination among private sector, education, nonprofit and government partners. This partnership will provide building owners a real opportunity to leverage the advantages of solar while supporting and growing the local economy,” said Bryan Phipps, vice president and chief development officer at People Inc., a co-convener of the workgroup. 

Nonprofits, businesses and local governments interested in installing solar sign up for an initial consultation, register for an interested building owner webinar on September 30, and find more information at Individuals interested in potential training opportunities with Mountain Empire Community College and Lonesome Pine Solar can sign up for future announcements at the same link.


Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia 

The Solar Workgroup is comprised of nonprofit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, planning district commissions, and other interested citizens and businesses seeking to develop a renewable energy industry cluster in the coalfield counties of Virginia. The Workgroup is co-convened by the UVA-Wise Office of Economic Development & Engagement, People Inc., and Appalachian Voices, with facilitation from Dialogue + Design Associates.


Secure Futures, LLC

As a market and policy leader, Secure Futures builds, owns, manages and funds affordable Resilient Solar Solutions® for hospitals, schools and businesses. The company combines state-of–the-art solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial scale solar readily affordable in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, helping customers to realize the economic, environmental, and community benefits of solar energy.  In 2017, Secure Futures became a Certified B Corporation®.

MECC Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Mountain Empire Community College has been notified that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is self-isolated, according to CDC and local public health guidelines. Contact tracing is being coordinated through the local health department in conjunction with the college. Those persons who may have come into close contact with the positive case are notified directly by the Health Department and given further instructions to prevent the spread.

MECC will continue with previously scheduled classes and classes will continue as they have this semester.  There is no change to the staff schedules and access to the campus as a part of this notification.

As part the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requirements for all colleges and universities, Mountain Empire Community College is required to send this initial Emergency Notification to students and employees of a positive COVID-19 case(s) on campus. Additional information regarding COVID-19 prevention, symptoms, testing and academic planning can be found at the college’s COVID-19 Prevention and Response webpage at

With the increase in COVID-19 cases in our local community and state, MECC would like to remind students and staff to continue to practice healthy habits:

  • Practice social distancing by putting at least 6 feet between yourself and others, including covering your  mouth and nose with a cloth face covering, especially in public places where 6 feet of separation is not feasible.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and then disinfect frequently used surfaces.
  • Cover coughs/sneezes with a tissue or inside of your elbow.
  • Monitor your health for symptoms and stay home if you’re sick.

COVID-19 affects all age groups – even college-aged students – and the social distancing guidelines, including wearing face coverings when around others, are to protect yourself and care for others as well.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control, the LENOWISCO Health District, and the MECC COVID-19 Prevention and Response page.

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 asso-ciate’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 prepar-ing 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 re-gions

• 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

For more information, please visit

MECC To Host First-Ever Southwest Virginia Oral Health Summit

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College will host the first-ever Southwest Virginia Oral Health Summit, a virtual conference, on September 11 and 18. 

The Summit is designed for both community members and oral healthcare providers and will feature continuing education opportunities. Panelists will focus on dental health issues in rural Appalachia, including Virginias Medicaid expansion, links between oral and systemic health, public health trends, a regional opioid epidemic, and the current dental workforce and future recruitment needs.   

The conference will be a two-part series, held on Friday, September 11 from 9 a.m. to noon, and again on Friday, September 18 from 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is free, but registration is required. Registration for the event is available at 

Through a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University, eight hours of Continuing Education credits will be available for $25 per participant. Sponsors for the event include Dentaquest Partnership, Anthem Health-Keepers, Lenowisco Planning District Commission, University of Virginia’s College at Wise Healthy Appalachia Institute, Mountain Empire Community College, and the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation.  

For decades, the Appalachian area has faced many dental related stereotypes and challenges. The Lenowisco Planning District, along with UVA-Wise and Mountain Empire Community College, want to highlight success stories in our region. We also hope to create a networking opportunity among community members, fostering a platform for growth and expansion of dental care,” says Dr. Emily Bowen, Dental Assistant Program Director for MECC.  

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Omar Abubaker, DMD. Dr. Abubaker has been on the Faculty at VCU School of Dentistry and VCU Medical Center since 1991, and he currently serves as Chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. After the tragic loss of his youngest son to an opioid overdose, Dr. Abubaker became involved with education and research in the field of addiction and pain management.  

Dr. Abubaker has appeared with numerous state and national organizations on these topics over the past two years, and quickly rose to the forefront of addiction specialists. Because of his personal connection to the opioid epidemic, he champions reform among prescribers in the dental field, changing the curriculum at medical and dental schools across the country. Dr. Abubaker holds a Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies from the International Program in Addiction Studies which is jointly housed in Virginia Commonwealth University, The University of Adelaide, Australia, and Kings College London, England.  

Mary Otto is a Washington Post journalist who began writing about oral health, focusing on social issues, including health care and poverty. She is also the author of Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America, an NPR Best Book of 2017. Otto continues to write about health and social issues as a freelance writer for the Post, as a contributing writer for an online publication for oral health professionals called, and as the editor of Street Sense, a newspaper produced and sold by homeless men and women in Washington, DC. 

Emilie Bonovitch, RDH, will speak on recent COVID developments and the impact those new restrictions on dental clinicians. Making a comparison between the historic AIDS crisis and the Bloodborne Pathogen Universal Protocols that were derived from that, the dental industry expects COVID restrictions to reformat the respiratory and infection control standards again. Bonovitch has served as a dental hygienist in the Greater Richmond, Virginia area for the last six years.  She has represented the state of Virginia as a delegate to ADHAs House of Delegates for the last four years. Most recently, she completed a term as President of the Virginia Dental Hygienists’ Association (VDHA) and is now serving an extended term as Immediate Past President. 

The planning committee has worked diligently to prepare an agenda packed with distinguished speakers covering a broad spectrum of topics relevant to our area. Although this event was originally scheduled as an on-campus forum, current circumstances lead us to a transition this to a virtual conference; however, we hope it may work to our advantage to ultimately reach a larger audience, added Bowen.  

For more information on the event, please contact Dr. Emily Bowen at 276-523-2400×760 or by email at 

MECC Selected for FAA Training Program

BIG STONE GAP, Va. – Mountain Empire Community College announces the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected its unmanned aircraft systems courses for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Program, or the UAS-CTI.

The FAA’s UAS-CTI program recognizes institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones. To qualify for the initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associates degree in UAS or a degree with a minor, concentration or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide a curriculum covering various aspects of UAS training including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety and federal policies concerning UAS.

With its UAS-CTI membership, MECC can assure its students that the UAS training it offers abides by FAA-mandated standards. “The FAA UAS-CTI program will ensure those trained in commercial UAS applications at MECC are receiving a program that meets FAA performance standards for faculty and instruction,” said MECC President Dr. Kristen Westover, “and that is part of MECC’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge programs that meet high industry standards.”

MECC began offering UAS classes in 2015, and currently offers a Small UAS Operations Technical Studies associate degree program and two Career Studies certificate programs in the field of Smart Farming, which is the study of how modern technology can address agricultural challenges. In addition, the college holds a 94 percent pass rate for all MECC students who take the FAA’s Small Pilot Certificate test—a credential legally required for those who wish to operate drones for commercial purposes.

MECC lead UAS instructor Fred Coeburn, who primarily developed the college’s UAS curriculum, believes that the diverse training offered by the program is one of its strongest attributes.

“Our unmanned systems training focuses on photogrammetry, mapping, infrastructure inspection, thermal plant health, and yield studies along with automated plant seeding and spraying.” Coeburn also noted that it is MECC’s priority to make sure its UAS students are trained “in all phases of mission planning, execution, data processing, equipment purchasing and systems repair.”

MECC currently offers six UAS classes, with class availability varying with each semester. For the Fall 2020 semester, there are currently three UAS classes scheduled to be offered in-person on MECC’s main campus. All in-person classes are currently being delivered in compliance with statewide mandated COVID-19 safety measures, and information regarding those measures can be found at

Those interested in learning more about the UAS program can visit or contact Mr. Coeburn at 276-523-2400, ext. 285.

MECC Announces Spring Semester Honor’s List, Merit List & President’s List

The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College Honor’s List for the spring 2020 semester.  Students are eligible for the Honor’s List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.5 to 3.79 during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.


APPALACHIA:  Ethan Church, Nathaniel Herron, Katherine Kelly, and Christian Worley.

BIG STONE GAP:  Erin Austin, Tyler Bowen, Lakeisha Calhoun, Madison Childress, Caitlyn Clymer, Emily Cooper, Christina Gibson, Jacob Goodman, Sydney Hall, Billy McMillan, Zachary Mullins, Samantha Owens, Jacinta Peak, Larissa Phillips, Joshua Price, Elizabeth Rock, Franklyn Santos, Crystal Sexton, Rylie Spears, Michael Storie, and Jared Sullivan.

BIRCHLEAF:  Raegan Rasnick and Kayla Taylor.

BRISTOL:  Alyssia Moss and Isabella Pippin.

CHURCH HILL, TN:  Haylee Tignor.                      

CLINTWOOD:  Shauna Counts, James Crabtree, Dustin Fannon, Max Fletcher, Tiffany French, Brian Jackson, Harley Mullins, Kaylee Mullins, and Kody Whitt..          

COEBURN:  Connor Blevins, Sarah Burke, Caleb Carico, Linda Cochran, Stephanie Fraley, Savannah Hill, Jaylen Mullins, Tiffany Robinson, Thomas Salyer, and Kevin Smith.

DRYDEN:  Mackenzie Dinsmore, Hannah Phillips, Hannah Reasor, and Ethan Wynn. 

DUFFIELD:  Morgan Baker, Caitlyn Cox, Caitlin Goins, MacKenzie Hall, Grace Isbel, Katie Salling, Kayla Senior, and Jacob Stanley.

DUNGANNON:  Natalie Adams, Danielle Brickey, and Lauryn McCoy.

EAST STONE GAP:  Raven Cantrell and Nathaniel Cheek.

FT. BLACKMORE: Lindsey Gibson.

GATE CITY:  Faith Church, Kadmiel Gardner, Kinslee Hammonds, Kaley Jenkins, Ryan Lark, Caroline Musick, Rebekah Owens, Andrew Pendleton, Rachel Reid, and Alexa Summers.

HAYSI:  Jacob Deel, Nolan Lamkin, Lindsey McReynolds, and Shellby Rose. 

HILTONS:  Reagan Bartley and Jacob Strong.

JONESVILLE:  Caleb Coleman, Bronwen Fischer, Jordan Hampton, Jonah Hilton, Noah Middleton, Callie Perkins, Madison Phipps, Andrew Sanders, Brooklyn Warner, and John Wright. 

KEOKEE:  Linsey Pennington and Emily Whisman.

KINGSPORT, TN:  Baylie Jones, D’Andre Mack, and Elisabeth Roberts.

NICKELSVILLE:  Deborah Ben-Saleck, Macarthur Inbody, Frank Miano, Aaron Shelton, and Summer Smith.

NORTON:  William Bolling, Allison Brady, Haley Brummitt, Brittany Cress, Akyssa Hollinger, William Maggard, Sydney Phillips, Emily Trent, and Sydney Wells.

PENNINGTON GAP:  Cameron Byington, Jeremy Cosby, Walker Feck, Zachary Shelburne, Matthew Spears, and Alexander Stafford.       

POUND:  Samantha Austin, Tristan Craiger, Alivia Elkins, Lanie Riley, and Lauren Roop.

ROSE HILL:  Colee Cottrell, Brian Humphrey, and Dawson Lee.             

ST.PAUL: Lacey Murphy.

STONEGA:  Kimberly Jones.

VANSANT:  Abygail Eason.

VIRGINIA BEACH:  Patrick Fisher.

WEBER CITY:  Tapanga Gillenwater and Seth Lucas.

WISE:  Sarah Aguinaga, Buffy Bell, Kinsley Davis, Ericka Fisher, John Hines, Tyler Hopkins, Brittany McConnell, Courtney Miniard, Haylea Mullins, Peyton Rogers, and Jason Stine.



The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College Merit List for the spring 2020 semester.  Students are eligible for the Merit List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.2 to 3.49 during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades, and part-time students who have between 6-11 credits and a GPA of 3.2 or higher during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.


APPALACHIA:  Kenneth Brooks, Katlyn Collins, Gabriel Dillon-Harlow, John Fields, Kaileb Johnson, Nancy Marion, Mary Meade, Chloe Mooneyhan, Ethan Roberts, Emily Rogers, Chantarae Shepard, Ashley Thomas, and Thomas Turner. 

BEN HUR:  Lynn Miles.

BIG STONE GAP:  Jesse Austin, Kathy Austin, Alexis Barker, Bethani Barker, Melinda Bradburn, Elizabeth Brooks, Farrah Bunch, Katelyn Christian, Emily Collins, Jacob Coomer, William Couch, Austin Crabtree, Ashley Cusano, Ricky Daniels, Alivia Davidson, Abbi Dickenson, Emma Dietz, Mary Douglas, Alyssa Dupree, Aaron Earwood, Jerry Elkins, Anngel Gallihar, Aubrey Gentry, Bethany Giles, Matthew Gilliam, Saylor Gilly, Andrea Gross, Graham Hall, Ethan Harris, Benjamin Hersel, Hannah Houston, Kellie Kamplain, David Kelley, Brandon Kelly, Jennifer Kennedy, Jason Kilgore, Owen Lawson, Brooke Light, Heather Lipps, Brieann Lomax, Keerston Lovell, Tiffine McMillan, Andrew Meador, Krista Meredith, Alli Miller, Seth Morgan, Koby Poff, Camrynn Russell, Stephanie Santos, Tiffany Seals, Samuel Shackleford, Rebecca Stapleton, Lynzee Sturgill, Nickolas Terehoff, Trevor Wagner, Galen Welch, Crystal Zeppa, and Jacob Zeruth.            

BIRCHLEAF:  Kayla Combs.

BLACKWATER:  Katherine Anderson and Teresa Maness.


BOGART, GA:  Quitman Brown.

CALHOUN, GA:  Erik Henson and Jeremy Long.

CASTLEWOOD:  Jannike Johnson, Taylor Perry, Olivia Powers, Nikki Scarberry, and Emily Slemp.

CHESTER:  Tanzania Earl.

CHURCH HILL, TN:  Ethan Billips, Brandon Dillman, Haylee Hill, and Brooklyn Smith.

CLINCHCO:  Cheyenne Blansett, Elizabeth Brichant, Tiffany Davis, Nicole Deel, and Daniel Patterson.                               

CLINTWOOD:  Bridget Adkins, Cecil Baker, Savannah Baker, Brenda Blankenship, Dawson Boyd, Caitlin Bradford, Kalianna Brooks, Katy Brooks, Emily Browning, Justin Browning, Jayda Colley, Amber Crihfield, Jaelyn Dingus, Dixie Duty, Christy Edwards, Philip Edwards, Grayson Kendrick, Ruth Kennedy, Michael Kincaid, April Mullins, Cheyenne Mullins, Kandice Mullins, Noah Mullins, Ashton O’Quinn, Ellen Oquinn, Nicholas Phillips, Lorin Phipps, Michael Porter, Travis Powers, Amanda Ramey, Travis Roberts, Tabitha Rose, Joseph Salyers, Kathleen Steffey, Phillip Strouth, Gregory Swiney, David Vance, Addison Vanover, and Tonya Wallace.                

COEBURN:  Zachary Adams, Eden Allan, Robert Backherms, Stephanie Barker, Chandler Brickey, Megan Call, Brynna Campbell, Tanner Charles, Ashley Crabtree, Abbie Crutchfield, Rachel Green, Jillian Hall, Elizabeth Huffman, Hannah Hughes, Fallon Jacobs, Daniel Johnson, Ariel Lawson, Summer Lee, Monica Light, Carrie Lund, Kaitlyn Maine, Marissa Meade, Kirklyn Milgrim, Nathan Minor, Taylor Moore, Christy Osborne, Coy Roop, Leah Rose, Sarah Schrader, Alyssia Sensabaugh, Marisa Shupe, Seirra Smith, Tabitha Smith, Caitlin Stanley, Skylar Sturgill, Gabrielle Swann, Savannah Varney, and Justin Wade.

DANTE:  Alyssa Hill and Grayson Martin.

DRYDEN:  Kevin Cooper, Abigail Edwards, Toni Fitzgerald, Savannah Jessee, Amber Johnson, Jonnie Mullins, Courtnee Rome, Kayla Thatcher, Austin Thomas, and April Wampler.

DUFFIELD:  Joanna Begley, Seth Berry, Jamie Bowen, Madison Butler, Ryan Cheek, Patricia Christian, Sierra Edens, Caleigh Fletcher, Veronica Gendron, Miranda Gilbert, Madison Gunter, Saniah Hamilton, Rachel Hubbard, Ammon Huish, Emilee Jerrell, Hannah Jones, Alisha Kern, Cieara Osborne, Emily Rhoton, Brooke Robinson, Jayda Smith, and Logan Tomlinson.

DUNGANNON:  John Carter.     

EAST STONE GAP: Tiffany Colvard, Emma Fox, Staci Fraley, Aki Godsey, and William Stidham.

EXOLIA, KY: Emily Brock.

EWING: Michael Locascio.

FT. BLACKMORE: Camryn Begley, Summer Dean, Michael Griffin, and Haley Wood.

GALAX:  Kevin Hooven.

GATE CITY:  Katlin Akers, Preston Babb, William Bellamy, Callie Blessing, Marissa Canter, Ashley Catron, Megan Cooper, Madison Dean, Brittany Estepp, Hannah Fields, Anna-Grace Fraley, Emily Fuller, Lauren Griffin, Zackary Hammonds, Destiny Hatfield, Jacob Helms, Kalea Holland, Devan Hoover, Riley Houseright, Samantha Jerrell, Kressa Johnson, Chloe Lane, Rachel Lane, Ashley Lawson, Keaton McDonald, William Painter, Aubrie Penley, Nalani Peters, Josette Picano, Kiersten Quillen, Patricia Repass, Alexis Sampson, Channa Sanders, Emma Smith, Makenzie Stallard, Samantha Stallard, Jentry Taylor, Chase Templeton, Hayden Thomas, Angela Vanzant, Sydney Vaughn, Abby Williams, Jacob Williams, and Jala Williamson.

HAYSI:  Tessa Colley, Rachel Hillman, Raegan Lamkin, Heaven O’Quinn, Brandy Presley, Breanna Presley, Alexis Souleyrette, Larisa Stanley, and Madison Yates. 

HILTONS:  Carter Babb, Isabel Sallee, Ava Seagle, Caleb Starnes, Shyanna Strong, Hannah Taylor, and Isaiah Wallen.

JONESVILLE:  Olivia Baker, Ryan Bales, Eden Benfield, Jasmine Brewer, Alyssa Clark, Cameron Cope, Mackenzie Davis, Chloe Dean, Heriberto Donato, Luke Estes, Nathan Hay, Miranda Howard, Evan Jones, Cody Lane, Samantha Lawson, Hannah Long, Kalli Marcum, Kelli Martin, Jessalyn Mullins, Lydia Russell, Michael Rutledge, Kaitlyn Skidmore, Daniel Smith, Caleb Snodgrass, Micah Stewart, Alicia Stiltner, Charles Ward, Kayla Weston, Allison Wilson, and Brady Yeary. 

KEOKEE:  Sheena Bloomer. 

KINGSPORT, TN:  Tara Adams, Breanna Bernard, Hannah Douthat, Ethan Gibson, Carrianne Hanmer Harris, Kari Head, Alexis Horton, Amelia Jennings, Ann Lane, Kayla Middleton, Madeline Smith, Lauren Thompson, and Allie Mullins.

MANASSAS: Krystal Grimes.

MARION: Marra Havener.

MOUNT CARMEL, TN:  Jessica Reed and Toni Stamper.

NEW TAZEWELL, TN: Samantha Cupp.

NICKELSVILLE:  Lakin Castle, Bradley Dean, Richard Hughes, Mahalia Kinsler, Zachary Lane, Gerald McConnell, Kelli Parks, Aubrey Powers, Cory Powers, Emaleigh Powers, Victoria Quillen, Justin Reed, Kaitlyn Wallace, and Austin White.

NORA: Brittany Johnson, Brittany McCoy, and Kelly McCoy.

NORTH CHESTERFIELD: Linwood Dabbs and Douglas Towne. 

NORTON:  James Campbell, Kelsey Culbertson, Morgan Fawbush, Kristina Garrison, Cassie Gouge, Blake Hammonds, Emily Hobbs, Taylor Holbrook, Cameron Jenkins, Amy Jones, Dalton Keel, Alexander Kennedy, Savahanna Kern, Cadence Lagow, Linda Mays, Maranda McGraw, Lucas Messer, Gracelyn Moore, Autumn Mullins, Callie Mullins, Sarah Mullins, Jackson Orr, Elizabeth Owens, Olivia Owens, Regan Phipps, Shealin Pruitt, Summer Rhodes, Shelli Roberts, Caelen Robinette, Stacy Robinson, April Rose, Rebecca Salamon, Jeremy Shepherd, Donna Sluss, Adran Smith, Trinity Smith, McKenzie Tate, Mary Tootill, Hannah Wells, Macy Wells, and Nathan Wells.

PENNINGTON GAP: Jacob Bledsoe, Jim Clark, Larissa Crider, Kenley Eisenmenger, Devin Garrett, Shyra Hensley, Rebecca Howard, Mary Litton, Jackie Nickodam, Misty Robbins, Samantha Smith, Michael Snodgrass, Dawnna Stebbins, Alishia Taylor, Madaline Wade, Alyssa Werner, Jacob Whitaker. and Aaron Williams.             

POUND:  Jerrid Adams, Andrea Anunson, Andrew Baker, Allyson Boggs, Bryson Boggs, Alexander Bolling, Ethan Bolling, Destiny Fleming, Melissa Freeman, Lynette Kendall, Alexa Lester, Isabella Maggard, Carly Maine, Penny Mullins, Jacqueline Polly, Alexus Powers, Amber Quillen, Brittany Roberts, Christian Rose, Lindsey Strange, Adrianna Sturgill, Alyssa Sturgill, Qing Yang, and Jody Young.

RALEIGH, NC:  Kayla Halsey.

ROSE HILL: Rebekah Glass, Emily Hollandsworth, Jaycee Medley, Jimmy Pittman, and Morgan Rouse.

RUTHER GLEN: Victor Fischer.              

ST.PAUL: Brianna Houchins and Andrew Sutherland.


SWORDS CREEK:  Sarah Price.

WEBER CITY:  William Deskins, David Edwards, Zachary Farmer, Jordan Mullins, Lydia Repko, Amanda Ward, and Kendra Ward. 

WHITESBURG, KY:  Savannah Day.

WISE:  Nicole Aguirre, Rebeckah Alcantara-Roberts, Brianna Aldridge, Olivia Basham, Marissa Bell, Madison Beller, Jacob Cantrell, Emma Chandler, Joshua Church, Adam Clark, Nicole Collier, Chloe Collins, Lauren Collins, Madalyn Collins, Aaron Crabtree, Christopher Crabtree, Reagan Dotson, Rylee Duncan, Rylee Elkins, Pria Funk, William Gentry, Hailea Gilliam, Leighann Hall, Arietta Harvey, Joseph Hayes, Hannah Hess, Amber Hill, Caleb Hill, Holden Hunnicutt, Tanya Isbell, Ron Johnson, Hannah Kegley, James Kinser, Luke Kirk, Kaitlin Kiser, Haley Large, Hannah Large, Sydney Linkous, Cassandra Masters, Stephanie McCoy, Lauren Milam, Emily Mullins, Peter Nauss, Camden Orr, Richard Pientka, Bethany Powers, Megan Reeves, Jordan Richardson, Kayla Roberts, Kaylee Robinette, Casey Sexton, Justin Sexton, Madison Shoffner, Macayla Singleton, Makayla Smith, Evan Stanley, Tyler Stapleton, Mackenzie Stidham, Kenneth Sturgill, Timothy Sturgill, Alexander Thompson, Elizabeth Thompson, Madison Trosper, Ashleigh Wampler, Loretta Wampler, and Megan Wright.



The following students have been named to the Mountain Empire Community College President’s List for the spring 2020 semester.  Students are eligible for the President’s List if they have at least 12 credits and a GPA of 3.8 or higher during the semester with no incompletes, re-enrolls, unsatisfactory or failing grades.


APPALACHIA: Ethan Bowman, Shaphan Fisher, Madison Head, Keaton Johnson, Morgan McGuire, Nathaniel Mullins, Samantha Sizemore, Amber Stidham, Bobby Whiteaker, snd Brittany Worley-Johnson.

BEN HUR: Madison Johnson.

BIG STONE GAP: Jasmine Absher, Miranda Blair, Sharessa Blair, Rebekah Earwood, Jacob Falin, Zoe Falin, Emilie France, Britney Freeman, Krystina Gangl, Britan Gilly, Jacob Gordon, Christopher Hall, Lauren Harkleroad, Joshua Herron, Nathaniel Hersel, Titus Houston, Autumn Johnson, Danielle Lamb, Christy Lee, Megan Lovell, Michael Martin, Sophia Morgan, Brayden Mozingo, Madalyn Ratcliffe, James Richardson, Madison Shuler, Emily Stanley, and Megan Wagner.

BIRCHLEAF: Camdyn Sykes.    

BLACKWATER: Joshua Winegar.          

BLUE RIDGE: Cameo Smith.

BRISTOL: Ethan Hensley.

CASTLEWOOD: Allison Compton, Selena Powers, and Madison Ramsey.

CHURCH HILL, TN:  Michaela Franklin, Ashtyn Gibson, and Katelynn Parton.

CLINCHCO: CheyAnn McCowan and Makenzie Robinette.

CLINCHPORT: Jessica Baker.

CLINTWOOD: Jennifer Barry, Gabriel Brown, Gabriel Counts, Nicholas Cox, Bethany Davis, Charles Dotson, Hannah Flint, Dawson Hillyer, Amber Hopson, Haleigh Jackson, Jordan Moore, Selena Moore, Hailey Pease, Ryan Reynolds, Joey Shepherd, Evan Smith, and Amelia Strouth.

COEBURN: Olivia Adkins, Cloey Bailey, Danielle Beaver, Gabrielle Beverly, Joshua Blankenbecler, Carrie Boyd, Tyler Bright, Hannah Davis, Amber Freeman, Shaylan Gross, James Kilgore, Jonathan Lawson, Elizabeth Mann, Elizabeth McReynolds, Whitney Mooney, Justin Palmer, Katherine Perry, Nicholas Raymond, Zachary Rose, Kaylee Sexton, Evan Stanley, and Michelle Venable.     

DANTE: Anthony Kiser, Lauren Rasnick, and Ayden Vitatoe.

DRYDEN: Brad Bledsoe, Colt Muncy, Tori Travis, and Alexander Wilder.          

DUFFIELD: Aaron Best, Savannah Bowen, Christen Edmonds, Janis Garrett, Nevin Haines, Holly Jones, Alyson Morgan, Brian Pearcy, and Dominic Webb.

DUNGANNON: Dustin Dockery.

EAST STONE GAP: Hannah Carter.

EOLIA, KY: Logan Sturgill.

EWING: Peyton Redinger and Seth Zumbrum.

FT. BLACKMORE: Kert Gibson, Brittany Lawson and Kara Smith.

GATE CITY: Kasey Barber, Elizabeth Barnett, Kallie Berry, Michael Calhoun, Shania Calhoun, Dylon Clark, Christopher Cunningham, Jason Fields, Ambria Hagy, Ashlyn Horne, Valerie McConnell, Magdalen Millichamp, Madison Parks, Teresa Phillips, Madison Pierce, Jack Pierson, Kendal Quillen, Charles Quinn, Lex Reed, Elizabeth Salyers, Shauna Shepard, Chloe Smith, Jonathan Strong, Loren Vermillion, and Sophie Vermillion.      

GRETNA: Natalie Durham.

HAYSI: Quinlan Turner. 

HILTONS: Phyllis McGlothlin.

JONESVILLE: Jerry Allen, Chelsie Alsup, Roger Clark, Aleigha Cope, Tanner Cope, Asia Dean, Gracie Dotson, Wesley Gilliam, Dustin Goss, Kelly Harvel, Caleb Haynes, Kalee Hibbard, Scottie Lawson, Timothy Long, Abigail Middleton, Caleb Moore, Joshua Smith, Sarah Sumpter, Tanya Woodard, and Mackenzie Wright. 

KINGSPORT, TN: Emily Adkins and Jacob Hartgrove. 

MENDOTA: Matthew Gobble. 

MOUNT CARMEL, TN: Ross Stokes.

NICKELSVILLE: Morgan Campbell, Amber Collins, Jared Helbert, and Cynthia Herron.

NORA: Amanda O’Quinn.

NORTON: Madison Bohnert, Jaymen Buchanan, Mark Caruso, Roland Cochrane, Laken Culbertson, Kaden Fisher, Michael Gilliam, Gabriella Hall, Kally Hughes, Kelsey Lawson, Harper McCall, Kaylei Miller, Maggie Moore, Kelly Pilkenton, Jaden Pritchard, Jacqueline Rose, John Still, Alison Stuedemann, Tammy Ward, and Aidan Wells.

PENNINGTON GAP: Alanah Aldridge, Andrew Barrier, Keisha Boldon, Olivia Evans, Mary Hall, Derick Hamilton, Noah Harber, Ashley Longsworth, Jared Massingill, Curtis Reece, Katherine Reuille, Dalton Rivers, Lisa Scott, Gregory Seals, and Morgan Woliver.    

POUND: Caleb Adams, Carrie Adams, Tabitha Adams, Kali Bowman, David Brummitte, Hannah Carter, Barbara Coleman, Hunter Grant, Wallace Mullins, Samuel Powers, Sarah Slemp, Charity Smith, Maddison Smith, Amber Sowards, Benjamin Stallard, Yijia Wang, and Hannah White.   

ST. PAUL: Catherine Levy, Grace McCowan, Marissa Moore, Carissa Mullins, Kaitlyn Salyer, and Jacob Sawyers.

STONEGA: April Bailey.

WEBER CITY: Kaylyn Collier and Emily Lane. 

WISE: Celeste Aguinaga, Lance Collie, Sandra Collins, Taylor Gentry, Caitlin Glover, Sagan Holbrook, Sarah Lane, Ethan Maggard, Tisha Miniard, Makayla Powers, Izah Qureshi, Taylor Sanders, Chloe Shupe, Elle Smith, Madison Stacy, Chassay Stafford, Emma Stallard, Cassidy Sturgill, Noah Sturgill, Jerrard Vance, and Chasity Wireman.

MECC to Provide Internet, Access to Laptops for Former Foster Youth


MECC’s Great Expectations program was awarded a $29,500 grant to provide personal computers and internet access for former foster youth enrolled in classes the 2020-2021 academic year.

Great Expectations is an initiative of the Virginia Community College System dedicated to reducing barriers to postsecondary education for former foster youth and helping them transition successfully into living independently. With the emergence of COVID-19 and the move to primarily online instruction last spring, many Great Expectations students have experienced an increased need for reliable internet access and an up-to-date personal computer or laptop.  

This grant, which was made possible through the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, is intended to alleviate financial strain on Great Expectations students and enable them to remain enrolled. Funds will be provided to purchase 20 new laptops that Great Expectations students can borrow to complete their coursework virtually. The grant will also allow Great Expectations to provide free internet access for students two months each semester.

Great Expectations will pay for one month of internet service for each enrolled Great Expectations student at the beginning of the semester, and one month of internet service after the withdraw date. Students can submit their internet bills to the GE Coach at the start of the semester.

“In these challenging times, any additional support we can offer Great Expectations students could be a tipping point towards a successful semester for them. This funding will provide invaluable access to resources that these students need. We are so grateful for the generous support from the VFCCE,” said Kari Paschetto, MECC’s Great Expectations Coach.

For more information about Great Expectations at MECC, contact Kari Paschetto, Great Expectations and Student Activities Coordinator, at or 276-523-2400 ext. 422.

MECC, UVA-Wise Sign Transfer Agreement for Software Engineering Courses

WISE, Va. – Mountain Empire Community College and The University of Virginia’s College at Wise have signed a transfer agreement between the two colleges for software engineering.

The agreement, effective Aug. 5, 2020, renews and updates an existing commitment between the two institutions to ensure that multiple software engineering-related courses at MECC transfer seamlessly to UVA Wise’ Software Engineering degree program.

MECC students who complete an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in General Studies with a specialization in Software Engineering have a pathway for those students to transfer to UVA Wise and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Software Engineering. Terms agreed to by the two colleges include UVA Wise accepting qualifying MECC students, granting students junior status with regards to academic and financial aid consideration, and considering all general education requirements as being met with exception of foreign language requirements.

In addition to accommodating MECC students who complete the General Studies associate degree, UVA Wise will also allow certain MECC software-related courses that exist independently of the community college’s General Studies program to transfer towards UVA Wise credit hours.

“UVA Wise and MECC have always had a strong relationship, especially when it comes to helping our students succeed,” said UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “The articulation agreement is yet another example of a vibrant partnership that has grown over the years between our institutions. Working together on the software engineering agreement will not only steer our students in the right direction but will also allow a smooth transfer of courses from our institutions.”

“MECC is excited to again partner with UVA-Wise in order to create more seamless educational pathways,” said MECC President Dr. Kristen Westover. “This articulation agreement is a wonderful assurance to students that when they complete the appropriate associate of arts and sciences degree at MECC, they can begin as juniors at UVA Wise on their way to a bachelor’s degree in software engineering.

Mountain Empire Community College is a public, two-year college serving residents of Lee, Scott, Wise, and Dickenson counties, as well as the City of Norton. The College is one of twenty-three in the Virginia Community College System. Mountain Empire Community College’s mission is to provide our region with accessible, quality higher education, workforce training, and community programs to ensure an educated population and globally competitive workforce.

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is a public, four-year residential liberal arts college located in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. As a COPLAC member institution, UVA Wise is nationally accredited and has been nationally ranked among top public liberal art colleges in the U.S. UVA Wise offers 33 majors, 39 minors, five pre-professional study tracks and 24 teaching licensures.

Along with MECC’s General Studies degree program with its specialization in Software Engineering, the college also offers a variety of software development programs that result in either an Associate of Applied Science degree or a Career Studies certificate. Those interested in learning more about the General Studies degree program can contact Dr. Derek Whisman at Inquiries regarding MECC’s software development programs can be directed to Terri Lane at 



MECC Awarded $1.7M TRIO Grant to Support Tutoring, Completion

Big Stone Gap — Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce the college has received a $1.7M U.S. Department of Education TRIO grant to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in completing a college degree. 

TRIO programs provide academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other supports necessary for educational access and retention. The TRIO program has been in existence on MECC’s campus since 1983. More than 800,000 low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities, from sixth grade through college graduation, are served by over 3,100 programs nationally. 

“We are excited and fortunate that MECC will be able to build on the success of 37 years of impactful programming through TRIO grants,” said MECC President Kristen Westover. “The grant process is competitive, and with both a strong application and history, we were successful in ensuring the program’s continuance.”

MECC applied for and was awarded the competitive grant, one of 1,311 Colleges nationwide. The College TRIO program currently serves 175 students annually. The grant is funded for a five-year period. 

“This is an incredible opportunity to continue the success of this long standing program,” said TRIO Director Jessica Ketron. “The impact of supporting students for a 37-year span can now continue to subsequent generations and help increase college degree attainment in MECC’s service region.  This grant provides the opportunity to support students from the beginning of their college journey all the way thru to graduation.”

Mountain Empire Community College is a comprehensive two-year public college serving residents of Dickenson, Lee, Scott, Wise and the city of Norton. The college offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs, with 96% of students receiving federal, state, and/or scholarship financial assistance. 

For more information on TRIO programs, including registrations for TRIO services, please contact Ketron at 276.523.2400 ext. 342 or by email at 

MECC Announces Creation of Garnett Gilliam Buccaneer Scholarship 

Garnett Gilliam

Garnett Gilliam

Big Stone Gap – The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is pleased to announce the creation of the Garnett Gilliam Buccaneer Scholarship honoring long-time local educator and community volunteer Garnett Gilliam.  

Garnett is widely recognized in the region as a teacher, historian and community volunteer. A life-long resident of Big Stone Gap, Gilliam’s endowed scholarship will benefit graduates of Union High School, and/or graduates of the former Powell Valley and Appalachia High Schools.  

The MECC Foundation encourages donations to the scholarship fund in Gilliam’s honor be made either online at or by mail to MECC Foundation, Attention: Garnett Gilliam Buccaneer Scholarship, 3441 Mountain Empire Road, Big Stone Gap, VA, 24219. 

“MECC students will be able to reach their educational and career goals without additional financial burden thanks to the generosity of the Gilliam family in establishing this scholarship. The MECC Foundation is honored to assist in this fitting tribute to Mr. Gilliam, who has dedicated his life to public education, community service, and historical preservation,” said Dr. Amy Greear, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at MECC and Executive Director of the MECC Foundation.  

Born in 1935, the youngest of five brothers, Garnett came to his love of history early in his schooling. After graduating from Big Stone Gap High School in 1954, Garnett earned a 4-year football scholarship to Emory and Henry College where he continued his love of the sport as well as his love of history. In 1958, he graduated with a B.A. in History and a Minor in Physical Education. 

Curious about the world and with a desire to serve his country, Garnett enlisted with the U.S. Army and was stationed in San Diego, CA before shipping out to Korea. Following his tour of duty, he returned to his beloved mountains of Southwest Virginia and began his teaching and coaching career at the former J.J. Kelly High School in Wise, VA. During this time he met Carolyn, his future wife. Together they would rear three daughters. 

In 1963, Garnett came to Powell Valley High School (now Union High School) and stayed there 35 years, teaching, coaching, serving in administration, and creating the driver’s education program. He often combined his driver’s ed lessons with local history lessons, pointing out landmarks and sharing tales as students drove the back roads of the town and valley. Garnett never stopped learning and achieved his Master of Arts in Education from Union College in KY in 1974 which, he boasted, had Colonel Sanders provide the commencement address. 

As retirement approached, Garnett’s collection of memorabilia about the county’s towns and schools had outgrown his bookshelves at home. He then opened a dedicated space in the June Tolliver House to showcase annuals, pictures, and history of the area. In 2000, the Town of Big Stone Gap recognized Garnett’s contribution  to the preservation of the area’s history by designating a “Garnett Gilliam” day. That same year, the Gap Corporation awarded him Citizen of the Year.  

As the memorabilia outgrew “The School Room” at the Tolliver House, he and other members of the community came together in 2007 to create The Lonesome Pine School and Heritage Center in a renovated Sears and Roebuck home on Clinton Avenue.  The collections continued to grow and more space was needed. In 2020, Garnett’s fellow volunteers surprised him by naming the newest addition to the Center in his honor. The Garnett Gilliam Continuing Education Center will host guest lectures, book signings, and special exhibits. 

Today, The LPS&HC houses a historical collection of past and present school memorabilia as well as thousands of pictures. It’s a research center for genealogy and a local gathering spot to learn about everything from the area’s coal mining heritage to author John Fox Jr. to the local camps of the Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Garnett has touched the lives of thousands of Wise County residents through his work as an educator and continues to do so as a historian. He hopes this scholarship will benefit those of any age who value an education but may not have the means to achieve it. “Without the help of scholarships,” Garnett says, “I would not have gone to college.” 

For more information on the Garnett Gilliam Buccaneer Scholarship, or information on creating a scholarship for MECC students, please contact the MECC Foundation at 276-523-7480 or by email to Amy Greear,