Rehoboth United Methodist Church endows VGCC Scholarship

A new scholarship has been endowed at Vance-Granville Community College by Rehoboth United Methodist Church, carrying on the legacy of a Granville County native and educator.

The church, located in Vance County between Henderson and Oxford and less than five miles from the college’s Main Campus, received a bequest from the estate of Marie Wilson Thomson. A onetime church member who passed away in 2014 at age 87, she is buried in Oxford and left portions of her estate to several area churches.

Thomson, a schoolteacher who began her career in education in Stovall before teaching for 30 years at an elementary school in San Diego, California, left instructions that the bequest be used to benefit high school seniors entering their first year of college. Church leaders decided that one way they would use the funds would be to create a scholarship at VGCC. The church’s contribution to the college represents approximately 10 percent — in religious terms, a tithe — of the sizable Thomson bequest, the remainder of which will be awarded as scholarships to youth in their congregation. The VGCC scholarship will be awarded in the church’s name as a Presidential Scholar Award, the college’s largest, most prestigious level of endowed scholarship.

“We wanted to help our whole community,” said Donald Clayton, the church’s lay leader, of the VGCC endowment. “A scholarship like this can provide hope for a student and maybe change their lives.”

In awarding the scholarship, preference will be given to residents of Granville or Vance counties who are enrolling as full-time students at the college immediately after graduating from high school and meet certain academic requirements.

“We are honored that the members and leaders of Rehoboth United Methodist Church have entrusted us with a gift that will support students for generations to come,” said Dr. Stelfanie Williams, president of VGCC. “It is a truly fitting tribute to the generosity and vision of Mrs. Thomson, who devoted her life to education.”

Through the Endowment Fund, VGCC has awarded more than 8,500 scholarships to students since 1982. Scholarships have been endowed by numerous individuals, industries, businesses, civic groups, churches and the college’s faculty and staff. Tax-deductible donations to the VGCC Endowment Fund have often been used to honor or remember a person, group, business or industry with a lasting gift to education. For more information about the Endowment Fund, call (252) 738-3409.

VGCC recognizes 22 Medical Assisting students at Pinning

Vance-Granville Community College held a pinning ceremony for its 2016 Medical Assisting program graduates on Aug. 5 at the college’s Franklin County Campus in Louisburg, where the program is conducted.

As VGCC’s program is nationally accredited, the graduates are now eligible to sit for the American Association of Medical Assistants’ (AAMA) certification examination to become Certified Medical Assistants.

The 22 graduates being honored included Heather Harwood and Kimberly Richardson, both of Castalia; Amanda Newton and Shatory Yarborough, both of Franklinton; Jenny Clark, Tonya Henderson, Kenia Puga-Gomez, Stephanie Ranes and Adrienne Robertson, all of Henderson; Ashley Kittrell of Kittrell; Brittany Blacknall, Jessica Crudup, Jodi Hess, Regina Hicks and Lindsay Ward, all of Louisburg; Julius Glasper of Oxford; Kayla Hutson and Samantha Patterson, both of Stem; Brittany Ray and Denise Six, both of Wake Forest; Kelly Tharrington of Warrenton; and Dallas Glover of Youngsville.

Program Head/instructor Donna Gardner served as the mistress of ceremonies. Student Regina Hicks provided the invocation.

Franklin County Campus Dean Bobbie Jo May made welcoming remarks, congratulating the students and thanking their supportive families and friends who had gathered to celebrate the graduates’ success.

“We are all so proud of you, and we’re grateful that you have allowed the VGCC Franklin Campus family to assist in your education, inspiring and supporting you in meeting all of your goals,” May told the class.

Samantha Patterson, who led the graduating class as president of the VGCC Student Association of Medical Assistants chapter, was the featured speaker.

“Our studies at Vance-Granville Community College have culminated in this day, and will echo in our futures,” Patterson said. “Some of us will be working; some going on to pursue an associate’s degree; some may still be trying to figure things out, and that’s okay, too. Therein lies the beauty of life, and, more specifically, life in this country. We have the freedom to pursue our own dreams, but let us not be so caught up in ourselves that we forget those that we pledge to serve. After all, we are Medical Assistants. We are the extra sets of hands, eyes, and ears for our providers. We are advocates for our patients. We are a vital part of the team that makes the medical office work. Let us consider the needs of others as we work to fulfill our own.”

Gardner presented each graduate with his or her pin, signifying that each had successfully completed the course of study and was prepared to enter the growing Medical Assisting profession. As they were pinned, VGCC Dean of Health Sciences Angela Thomas read reflections from the graduates about their educational experiences and their career aspirations. Instructor Patrice Allen then led students in reciting the creed of the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Dr. Angela Ballentine, VGCC’s vice president of academic and student affairs, rounded out the ceremony with concluding remarks. “You have wisely chosen a profession in which you can make a difference in the lives of others, and in which there are a variety of career opportunities,” Ballentine told the class. She encouraged all graduates to maintain high standards as professionals and to become lifelong learners. “I know that you will continue to succeed and make us proud as VGCC alumni,” Ballentine said.

Student Tonya Henderson gave the benediction.

With their one-year diplomas in hand, many graduates are continuing their education to complete the two-year associate degree in Medical Assisting. For more information about Medical Assisting, call the Franklin Campus at (919) 496-1567.

VGCC Culinary Arts student reflects on national competition

Dustin Gregory of Oxford, a student in the Culinary Arts program at Vance-Granville Community College, is back on campus after representing not only his school but the entire state of North Carolina in a nationwide competition.

Gregory competed at this summer’s SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He qualified for the competition by winning the top prize in Culinary Arts at the state-level SkillsUSA conference in April, and became the first student from VGCC to take part in a national SkillsUSA contest.

As one of 27 culinary competitors from across the nation, and the only one from a North Carolina college, Gregory was given a box of ingredients and specific rules to follow as he created a soup, salad and two entrees in a limited amount of time. His dishes, all prepared in a little more than five hours, started with a tomato soup topped with a poached egg. His salad included mixed greens with fried chicken livers and a honey Dijon vinaigrette. Gregory said that the requirement to use chicken livers seemed to “stump” many of the competitors. “I put it on the salad, and I wasn’t the only one,” he noted with a laugh.

The two entrees he prepared were airline chicken with roasted potatoes and haricots verts, followed by beef shank braised in a demi-glace with a mushroom au jus sauce, couscous and lentils, and sautéed squash with red pepper. In the end, Gregory did not medal, but he viewed the experience as a positive one. “I’ve always liked competitions,” he said. “It can only make you better, and it builds character. Just to be able to make it to that level, to represent your school and your state, is a really good feeling.”

Gregory was accompanied to Louisville by his Culinary instructor, Chef Teresa Davis, as well as VGCC Dean of Business & Applied Technologies Angela Gardner-Ragland, Public Services department chair Steven Hargrove, Business Technologies department chair Spring Tucker, Applied Technologies department chair Keith Shearon and Cosmetology program head Tomeka Moss. “We are so very proud of him,” Gardner-Ragland said. “It was a great experience that he can put on his resume.  He represented VGCC and the state of North Carolina very well.”

“Everyone from Vance-Granville was very supportive,” Gregory said. Davis, in particular, helped him prepare after they arrived and learned what ingredients he would have to use, but she could only watch during the actual competition. Gregory not only had to compete in the skills competition but also had to take written tests, in which he used the knowledge he has gained in his two years as a VGCC student.

Gregory expressed his appreciation to US Foods and other friends of VGCC who made donations to help sponsor his trip to the conference.

With his VGCC Culinary classes complete, Gregory is currently finishing up some general education courses on a part-time basis, with plans to graduate in 2017. Meanwhile, he continues to work at the award-winning Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh as a sauté cook. Gregory is thinking about continuing his education to complete a bachelor’s degree in the culinary field. “I originally enrolled in this program because I wanted to open up a restaurant on the coast,” he said. “I’d still like to be my own boss, but right now, I’m focused on my education. The higher your education is, the more things will fall into place.”

SkillsUSA is a partnership of secondary and post-secondary students, teachers and industry, working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA chapters help students who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations excel. Among the benefits to VGCC students are opportunities to participate in competitions, which are designed by industry experts and showcase the nation’s top career and technical education students.

For more information about the Culinary Arts program, contact Chef Davis at or (919) 690-0312.

VGCC Scholarship established in memory of nurse Priscilla Brooks

A new scholarship is being established at Vance-Granville Community College in memory of Priscilla Brooks, a longtime licensed practical nurse in Granville County. Brooks passed away suddenly on Jan. 13, 2016, at age 75.

“Priscilla was a great nurse and a problem-solver, inside and outside of the doctor’s office,” said John W. Watson, Jr., an attorney and the son of one of the doctors for whom Brooks worked. “More than anything, Priscilla enjoyed connecting with the people around her, whether they were patients, Duke medical students or the young nurses who attended to her in later days.”

Friends and family members established a memorial scholarship fund after her death and have collected more than $4,000. More contributions are needed to fully fund the scholarship, so that the college will be able to award it to students regularly. The ultimate goal is to raise $50,000, and an anonymous donor has pledged to match $5,000 in new contributions. The new scholarship is intended to assist VGCC Nursing students.

“Priscilla’s desire for nursing became evident early in life,” according to Ella Schmit of Oxford, one of Brooks’s three younger sisters. “One day, a large open truck carrying a troop of Boy Scouts accidentally turned upside down in front of her home and threw children all over the front yard, up and down the highway…. Priscilla and her mom ran out the door and Priscilla, at only 13 years old, immediately ran from one child to the next, helping them and treating them as best she could. It was apparent even then that she was a real nurse at heart.”

Determined to become a nurse, Brooks graduated from Stem High School with honors and went on to the Mary Elizabeth Hospital School of Nursing in Raleigh. She worked at a couple of hospitals, finally going to work for Doctors Watson and Tarry in Oxford. “She stayed with them for years, and she always called them ‘her’ doctors,” Schmit said. “When Dr. Watson retired, Dr. Eugene Day took over his practice. Priscilla continued to work for Dr. Day. She adored him and continued to give from her heart. She cared for her patients and doctors.” Patients, meanwhile, sometimes considered Brooks to be “one of the doctors,” Schmit recalled.

Brooks eventually retired after more than 40 years in nursing, but kept helping people all the way to the end, Schmit recalled. She was always caring and showing concern for people outside of the doctor’s office, tending to the sick in their homes. “She helped people stricken with Alzheimer’s to be able to stay at home as long as possible and assisted the elderly, making sure their medicines were correct, that they had proper nutrition, and that they felt safe,” Schmit said. She also loved to help children, who, like her family, called her “P” for short. “Priscilla wanted to make a difference in the world, and she truly did,” her sister said. “She was a confidant to so many people, and I am proud to call her my sister.” Brooks left behind a daughter, Lisa Jones, who resembles her mother in her appearance and in her compassionate heart, Schmit added.

“This scholarship will be a lasting way to honor and remember Priscilla’s incredible legacy of compassion and excellence in health care, and it will help VGCC Nursing students to follow in her footsteps,” said VGCC Endowment Director Eddie Ferguson.

Through the Endowment Fund, VGCC has awarded more than 8,500 scholarships to students since 1982. Scholarships have been endowed by numerous individuals, industries, businesses, civic groups, churches and the college’s faculty and staff. Tax-deductible donations to the VGCC Endowment Fund have often been used to honor or remember a person, group, business or industry with a lasting gift to education.

For more information or to make a contribution to help fully endow this scholarship, call Kay Currin at (252) 738-3409. Contributions may be mailed to the Vance-Granville Community College Endowment Fund at P.O. Box 917, Henderson, NC 27536.

Award named in honor of VGCC Vice President Graham

A new award has been named in honor of Vance-Granville Community College Vice President of Finance and Operations Steven Graham by the Carolinas Association of Governmental Purchasing. The association has established an award for outstanding candidates seeking to become Certified Local Government Purchasing Officers, and has named it the “Steven C. Graham Achievement Award” in recognition of Graham’s commitment to developing current and future government purchasing professionals. He was instrumental in developing a training program for purchasing officers with the UNC School of Government.

The Carolinas Association of Governmental Purchasing (CAGP), organized in 1953, is a group of state and local government employees in North and South Carolina whose duties consist of purchasing and contracting of public goods and services. The CAGP is an affiliate of the North Carolina League of Municipalities and a chapter of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP). Since 1986, the CAGP has offered a voluntary certification program for governmental purchasing officers called the Certified Local Government Purchasing Officer (CLGPO) that requires completion of core courses and the passing of a certification examination administered by the UNC School of Government. The purpose of the certification program is to recognize achievement of an established level of competency and proficiency among purchasing officials.

“I obtained my CLGPO designation in 2004,” Graham recalled. “At the time, there was no formalized instruction to assist in prepping for the exam, and the pass rate for the exam was only 40%. After obtaining my certification, I decided to develop a course that could be taught to future governmental purchasing officers seeking this designation. Through sponsorship from the CAGP and the UNC School of Government, I founded and developed the CLGPO Examination Review Course in 2005, which I have taught for the past 12 years. Since offering this course, the pass rate for the exam has increased to 80%.”

In recognition and appreciation of his service and his significant contributions to the success of CLGPO examination candidates, the CLGPO Committee established the Steven C. Graham Achievement Award, which will be presented annually to the certification examination candidate who achieves the highest passing score. The first annual award was presented on March 8, 2016, at the CAGP Spring Conference in Wilmington, N.C., to Julia Vosnock, Procurement Manager with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. “Julia was a student of mine and the first candidate to ever receive a perfect score on the examination,” Graham said.

“We congratulate Steve Graham on this well-deserved recognition for his leadership in supporting education, training and excellence in public service,” said Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of VGCC. “As our colleague and a VGCC alumnus, it is fitting that the award bearing his name will recognize professional development and achievement.”

A resident of Oxford, Graham joined VGCC in 2013 after serving as Finance Officer for the Vance County school system. Prior to joining Vance County Schools as purchasing and distribution manager in 2000, Graham worked in banking in the Henderson and Hillsborough areas. Graham graduated from VGCC with an Associate in Arts degree in 1986 and then transferred to N.C. State University, where he completed degrees in Accounting and Business Management. He is currently completing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration, one of the top programs in the United States in public management and administration.

In 2005, Graham also earned the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) designation of Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.), which is recognized globally by industry and government as the top level of competency in professional purchasing. He continues to serve as a Guest Lecturer at the UNC School of Government, teaching public purchasing and contracting laws and practice.

As VGCC Vice President of Finance and Operations, Graham leads a division that includes the Business Office, the Bookstore, the Endowment office, the Civic Center, Plant Operations, and purchasing.

VGCC to offer Private Pilot Ground School

Vance-Granville Community College will soon offer a course that prepares area residents to take flight with a private pilot’s license.

The Private Pilot Ground School is scheduled to be held on VGCC’s South Campus, located between Creedmoor and Butner, on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m., May 18 through July 27. In this course, students gain the knowledge they will need to take the FAA private pilot written exam, under FAA-certified flight instructors from Blue Line Aviation. Students who complete the course will also receive a discount on an introductory flight lesson with Blue Line.

The instructor, Blue Line Aviation president Charles “Trey” Walters of Wake Forest, has deep connections to VGCC, even though this is his first time teaching the course in partnership with the college. His grandmother, Reba Walters, was a VGCC Nursing instructor. His father, Ray Walters (who is also a longtime pilot), taught business classes at VGCC after retiring from SAS in Cary.

Trey Walters took VGCC criminal justice courses through a dual-enrollment program while in high school. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He also served in the Civil Air Patrol, and was awarded the Billy Mitchell Award for becoming a cadet officer. During his career in the Air Force Reserve, Walters was a member of the Security Forces, which included duties in the military police with some air base defense functions. He served a six month deployment to Iraq.

Walters continued taking online courses at VGCC while serving in the Air Force, even while in Iraq. When his tour of duty ended, he went back to classes at the Main Campus, became a Raleigh police officer and then completed his VGCC Criminal Justice degree after taking additional online courses.

Simultaneously, Walters continued to work on pilot training. He started flight training when he was 13. His first solo flight was on his 16th birthday, and he obtained his private pilot license when he was 17. He flew recreationally until 2011, when he decided to get more advanced certifications. Walters earned his Commercial Pilot license, Flight Instructor license, Instrument Instructor license, Commercial Multi-Engine license, and multi-engine instructor licenses in 2012.

In August of 2012, he founded Blue Line Aviation with his wife, Kelsey. The business grew rapidly, leading Walters to resign from the Raleigh Police Department to work there full-time in early 2013. Walters also rejoined the Civil Air Patrol in 2014. Currently, he serves as a Captain in the Raleigh Unit. He volunteers as a search and rescue mission pilot, instructor pilot and check pilot. “I believe that using our resources to give back and make a positive difference in the world is one of our most important duties as Americans,” Walters said. He is excited about the new venture with VGCC.

“There is a huge demand for pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and training for drone operators. Through our partnership, we can build the programs and infrastructure to fill those jobs by veterans and members of the local community,” he said.

The cost of the Private Pilot Ground School, including all materials, is $280.

“We are excited about having a private pilot ground school here at VGCC, which is advantageously located near several airports,” said VGCC Personal Enrichment Coordinator Gail Clark. “Our partnership with Blue Line Aviation gives us the opportunity to offer this program and help students move to the next level with a team.”

The deadline to register for this class is May 17. Prospective students can register online at or in person at Main Campus (in Henderson), Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact Gail Clark at (252) 738-3385 or