The Local Skinny! A Graduation Journey

Journey Coleman is a young woman on a mission. The easy part’s done – she is the first official graduate of Vance County High School’s Class of 2022. Vance County Schools held a graduation ceremony – just for her – on Thursday, July 29 at 3 p.m.

The hard part is yet to come, but Coleman has been determined since she was a little girl, her mother says. The hard part? Beating cancer.

Journey is the younger daughter of Sherronda Minor of Henderson and Richie Coleman of Fremont. She turned 18 in March, just a few months after getting the life-altering news that she had a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.

Her mother spoke with WIZS News last week from her daughter’s hospital room at UNC Hospitals, where she receives her care. She got a chemo treatment on Wednesday, but by Thursday, she had spiked a fever of 102.3 and so back to the hospital she went. She developed pneumonia, Minor said. The chemo compromises her immune system and can cause complications.

Principal Rey Horner, Journey Coleman, Dr. Cindy Bennett

When hospital staff suggested she may not be able to attend the graduation, her mother told the 75 or so in attendance at the graduation that Journey didn’t even consider that an option. VCS Superintendent Dr. Cindy Bennett, along with school board chair Linda Cobb and members of Omega Phi Psi, Inc. and other district officials joined VCHS Principal Rey Horner at the commencement.

“She wasn’t due to graduate until next year,” Minor said. But Journey insisted on completing her course work early. She was not convinced by either her mother or her guidance counselor to shoot for perhaps a mid-year graduation in December, since she spends so much time in hospital getting treatments.

“And here she is, graduating,” Minor said. She said it was heartbreaking to hear her daughter say to her, “Mommy, I just knew I was going to die before I graduate.”

<Click Play for the Graduation Ceremony Audio>

“She had her computer at the hospital,” Minor said. “She was getting chemo and still doing schoolwork.” The plan hit a slight snag when she couldn’t find her charger cord and she couldn’t send her Math 4 work electronically, recalled Journey’s mom. Enter Journey’s godmother, who also happens to work at Vance County High School. She picked up the packet of work and delivered it to school so it could be checked off.

Minor said Journey’s cancer is very rare. It affects the soft muscle tissue. And that’s just what happened with Journey – she complained of pain in her foot. She was visiting her father in Fremont and the parents decided to take her to an orthopedist and podiatrist. After an initial consult on Wednesday, x-rays on Thursday and then an MRI, the parents got the phone call no parent wants to get: “They called us back the next day and said ‘We need to talk,’” Minor recalled.

She started chemotherapy treatments in early October 2020. Since then, doctors tell Minor that Journey’s Stage 4 cancer has spread; despite this news, Journey and her family are still hoping, still praying.

“She’s fighting it unbelievably,” Minor said. “She’s very strong.”

A happy graduate twirls and dances in front of the crowd!

And, once her body has had a chance to recover from the chemo treatments, Journey’s a normal teenager. She and extended family recently returned from a trip to Florida’s SeaWorld, Minor added.

Minor speaks about white counts, updating chemo regimens and regular stays in the hospital for treatments. She knows firsthand about how this all works – she is a cancer survivor herself. She was diagnosed in 2016 and received her care at Maria Parham Health. She is healthy today and said that, back in 2016, she didn’t understand God’s plan for her, why she was having to deal with cancer.

With more clarity now, she said her daughter has a very strong support group of family and friends. Chances are, they all helped to celebrate Journey’s high school graduation Thursday.

The post-graduation festivities include a meal with Journey’s hand-picked favorites: Buttered corn on the cob, collards and ham hock, potato salad, ribs and a ham that her dad is going to prepare. Oh, and cake.

A fitting meal for a deserving young woman and newest graduate of Vance County High School.

Center For Innovation Cutting-Edge Hub For VCS

Vance County Schools officially opened its Center for Innovation at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning, and community representatives were on hand to see how the former Henderson High School building has been transformed into a high-tech hub for student learning.

“It is just a special day in Vance County,” said Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce President Michele Burgess. The building is a city landmark and has been outfitted with all sorts of technology to enhance students’ education. The new life of technology, innovation, virtual learning and robotics that the students will experience is going “to put our school system on top of the leader board for sure,” Burgess told WIZS News Monday.  (Click here to listen to Michele Burgess on WIZS News – 3 min)

There’s an audio room and a “green room” where students can come in and learn about broadcasting and recording, she noted, and added that there will be a community meeting room outfitted to accommodate all types of technology and an adjoining kitchen that can be used for catering. Community groups will be able to rent this space for their meetings, she said.

There will be another ribbon-cutting later to officially open the Wayne Adcock Community Auditorium.

Also housed at the 219 Charles St. location are AdVance Academy, STEM Early High, Vance Virtual Village, MakerSpace/Robotics Lab, a professional practice lab, technology resource center and family resource center.

“Meet And Greet” On July 20 To Welcome VCS Superintendent Dr. Cindy Bennett

Vance County Schools invites the community to an event to welcome new superintendent, Dr. Cindy Bennett, on Tuesday, July 20 at Vance County Middle School.

The “meet and greet” will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and all are welcome, according to Aarika Sandlin, VCS public information officer.

Bennett succeeds Dr. Anthony Jackson, who took the superintendent’s job in Chatham County. She has worked in VCS for six years and began her new job as superintendent on July 1.

Literacy Tutors To Help K-3 Students Overcome Loss Of Instructional Time During Pandemic


The plea from N.C. Education Corps is as simple as A-B-C: school children in grades K-3 need literacy tutors to help overcome lost instructional time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applications for paid, part-time tutors are being taken now, but the deadline is July 20, 2021 to be considered for the next wave of tutors that will work in specific counties across the state, including Vance and Granville.

Tutors will commit to work for nine months, according to information received from the non-profit organization, which is “committed to helping all NC students have the support they need to thrive.”

Vance County Schools has openings for 16 literacy tutors; Granville County Public Schools has 6 slots open. The organization hopes to send 250 literacy tutors to more than 20 N.C. counties to work directly with K-3 students during the school day. There also are 3 positions open at Henderson Collegiate; applicants should have a high school diploma and some college experience. The pay rate is $13.15/hour.

The pay in Vance for the tutor position is in the $13.15 – $25 per hour range, depending on experience. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma. In Granville, the pay range is $15-$25 per hour, depending on experience. Applicants must have a minimum of 48 hours of college credit.

The group recruits community college and university students, recent college graduates, retirees, and adults who are actively engaged in their community, with a “special focus on recruiting students from universities and community colleges with teacher prep programs,” according to the statement, with the hope that “young corps members consider a career in public education and public service after working with NCEC and our school partners.”

Visit to learn more.






The Local Skinny! Dr. Cindy Bennett, Vance Co. Schools, Sworn In

Today is day one for Dr. Cindy Bennett as Vance County Schools superintendent. Bennett said Wednesday she would be sworn in this morning at the Vance County Schools Administration Building on Graham Avenue.

It begins her seventh year with Vance County Schools.

At the regular meeting of the Vance County Board of Education on June 14, the board voted unanimously to select Dr. Bennett.

Dr. Anthony Jackson is departing to become superintendent in Chatham County, NC. He was here for six years.

Immediately after the school board appointed Bennett, she said at the meeting, “Thank you so much. Madam chair, to all the board members, Dr. Jackson, I can’t thank you enough for this honor. I love this community. This community is my home, and I will do everything within my power to serve the children in this community and to give them all that they deserve. Thank you again. I am humbled.”

In a press release from Vance County Schools later the night of the meeting, Board Chair Linda Cobb said, “Dr. Bennett is dedicated to our community, our schools and most importantly our students. We have been impressed with her work in Vance County Schools over the last six years. Her qualifications and experience beyond Vance County will allow her to boldly lead our district. We look forward to supporting her, working together towards ongoing excellence.”

VCS Students Return To School 5 Days A Week For 2021-22 Year

Students in Vance County Schools can expect to be back in school five days a week for the 2021-22 school year.

With the exception of Vance Virtual Village Academy (V3), all schools will be back in face-to-face instruction, said VCS public information officer Aarika Sandlin.

Parents who want their child or children to remain in remote instruction should request a transfer to V3 no later than July 19, Sandlin said in a statement to WIZS.

Be reminded that V3 is a one-year commitment. Parents can contact their child’s school or V3  at 252.506.7172 to learn more.

Students on the traditional calendar return to school on Aug. 23; students in year-round school return on Aug. 9; Early Start students return on Aug. 5, according to information on the district website.

Dr. Cindy Bennett Next Vance County Schools Superintendent

At the regular meeting of the Vance County Board of Education Monday evening, the board voted unanimously to select Dr. Cindy Bennett as the next superintendent of Vance County Schools.

Presently Bennett serves as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Strategic Planning.

Effective July 1, she will replace Dr. Anthony Jackson who is leaving in early July to become superintendent in Chatham County, NC.  Jackson was superintendent for six years.

Board member Ruth Hartness made a motion that “the Vance County Board of Education offer the position of superintendent to Dr. Cindy Bennett.”

On the Zoom meeting it was difficult to hear exactly who seconded the motion, but there was an apparent zeal on the part of many members to do so.

Congratulations were offered and board members clapped.

Bennett said, “Thank you so much.  Madam chair, to all the board members, Dr. Jackson, I can’t thank you enough for this honor.  I love this community.  This community is my home, and I will do everything within my power to serve the children in this community and to give them all that they deserve.  Thank you again.  I am humbled.”

Board members clapped a second time after Bennett spoke.

In a press release from Vance County Schools, Board Chair Linda Cobb said, “Dr. Bennett is dedicated to our community, our schools and most importantly our students. We have been impressed with her work in Vance County Schools over the last six years. Her qualifications and experience beyond Vance County will allow her to boldly lead our district. We look forward to supporting her, working together towards
ongoing excellence.”

Bennett, who has worked for the North Carolina Department of Public instruction said in the Vance County Schools press release, “I am excited to lead an innovative, educational organization, that will expand educational opportunities for all learners.  Henderson has been my home now for over eleven years. I am honored to serve this community.”

The Local Skinny! VCS Recognizes School-Community Partnerships For 2021

Vance County Schools gave special thanks to the community partners of the schools in the district during end-of-year recognitions.

Each school in the district identified a particular partner – business, church or individual – that has made contributions to support the school.

A district committee reviews all the partnerships and awards one as the district partnership of the year. This year’s partnership award goes to TechTerra for its support of STEM Early High School.

TechTerra founder Susan Wells worked with STEM and donated a class set of 3D doodler pens, along with project kits. “This generous contribution allows for students to be afforded innovative opportunities and learning experiences,” VCS public information officer Aarika Sandlin said.

Students can extend their knowledge through use and application with the items from TechTerra.

STEM Principal Gradesa Lockhart expressed her gratitude to TechTerra for “the ongoing efforts in providing our students with innovative equipment and experiences.” The partnership makes an impact on the students and the school, Lockhart said.

District leaders expressed gratitude not only to the partners of the individual schools, but also the support that comes from civic organizations, churches, businesses and the Vance County Public School Foundation.

“We are grateful for each and every partnership, as they find ways to support our students and staff through impact, innovation and outreach,” according to a press release from Sandlin.

Below is a list of schools and the community partners that were recognized:

Advance Academy – Melissa Elliott

Aycock Elementary – Lowe’s of Henderson

Carver Elementary – Cokesbury United Methodist Church

Clarke Elementary – First Baptist Church of Henderson

Dabney Elementary – First United Methodist Church

Early College High – AIS Carolinas

E.M. Rollins Elementary – First Baptist Church

E.O. Young Elementary – Middleburg United Methodist Church

L.B. Yancey Elementary – Rowland Chapel Christian Church

New Hope Elementary – Rock Spring Baptist Church

Pinkston St. Elementary – First United Methodist Church

STEM Early High – TechTerra Education

Vance County High – Gill Clopton

Vance County Middle – Sean Alston

Vance Virtual Village – Poe Center for Health Education

Zeb Vance Elementary – Clearview Baptist

Mako Medical Contributes $5K to Vance Co. Public School Foundation

– VCS Press Release –

The Vance County Public School Foundation is pleased to announce MAKO Medical, a national reference laboratory and leader in COVID-19 testing, has matched the Foundation’s initial funding of $5,000 for Learning that Extends Actual Performances (LEAP) Grants to double the amount available to Vance County educators. The Foundation initially committed $5,000 for the LEAP teacher mini-grants to support quality programs and educational ideas, and MAKO Medical agreed to match that amount with another $5,000.

“The foundation appreciates MAKO’s support for our mission of promoting quality programs in public schools,” Aarika Sandlin, Public Information Officer for Vance County Schools. “We will ensure that these mini-grants have the greatest impact on our educators and students.”

MAKO Medical’s Mikey the Shark visiting Vance County teachers in February 2020

The LEAP grants will be distributed in August at a district convocation. More details on how to apply and receive the grants will be provided in the following weeks.

“MAKO Medical values the vital work of educators,” said Josh Arant, COO, MAKO Medical. “We are honored to be able to help educators implement their innovative ideas in the classrooms.”

The recruitment and retention of certified teachers for Vance County Schools and the enhancement of programs and services for students are priorities for the Foundation. Over the years, the foundation has provided financial support for school system projects, teacher workshops, and special activities.

“We welcome additional donations for companies and individuals wanting to support our Vance County educators,” said Sandlin. “We all know how tough 2020 was on students, teachers and families. Helping our teachers enact their innovative ideas to improve classroom performance is a great way to support teachers and students.”

The LEAP grants for teachers are given annually, along with the co-sponsorship of the Teacher Executive Institute with the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce. The foundation also gives monetary awards to the local teacher of the year, principal of the year, and teachers who obtain National Board Certification.

About the Vance County Public School Foundation

The Vance County Public School Foundation supports all local public schools and encourages the successful development of the younger generation through community support. The Vance County Public School Foundation seeks to leverage the investment of private contributions from business, industry, and individuals to ensure the most significant possible impact in education. The foundation was chartered in 1988 and is governed by a volunteer board of directors.

COVID-19 Vaccine Q & A On June 2, Followed by June 8 Clinic For Anyone 12 And Older

Vance County Schools is partnering with local health experts to present a virtual information session next week designed to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for those with questions about vaccinating children.

Join Dr. Cornelius Cathcart and Granville Vance Public Health on June 2 at 6:30 p.m. to learn more about the vaccination, according to a press release issued by Aarika Sandlin, VCS public information officer.

A vaccine clinic will be held on Tuesday, June 8 at Vance County Middle School from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The clinic is open to anyone ages 12 and up who wants a shot. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone who wants a shot has a spot,” the VCS statement read.

In advance of the information session, the public is invited to complete a short survey, which can be found on the VCS website and social media accounts, Sandlin said. “Our district continues to make calls, encouraging families to complete the survey,” she said.

A link to the survey is listed below:

Vaccination Survey

Click the link below to join the June 2 webinar:

Visit for information on how to join by telephone.