Town Talk 03/31/20: VGCC Small Business Director Discusses SBA Loans, Webinars

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Sheri Jones, director of the Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC) Small Business Center, appeared on WIZS Town Talk Tuesday at 11 a.m.

U.S. Small Business Administration Loans

In discussing the various ways the VGCC Small Business Center is working with local businesses during the current health crisis, including assistance with loan applications, Jones emphasized that time is of the essence.

“The best advice I can give is to go ahead and apply now; don’t wait,” Jones stated. “People are applying and getting approved, but this situation is unprecedented. We don’t know how long the funds will hold out and how many are going to apply.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to small businesses in all states and territories that are suffering economic injury as a result of the virus.

Terms for these Economic Injury Disaster Loans range from 15 to 30 years and the total loan amount is considered on a case-by-case basis. According to Jones, for-profit businesses will pay 3.75% interest, while non-profits will pay 2.75%.

“These loans are available directly through the Treasury Department with no third-party lender involved,” explained Jones. “Most businesses are eligible to apply.”

According to the SBA’s website, the disaster loans may be used for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to the disaster’s impact.

VGCC Small Business Center’s “Coronavirus Business Ready” Webinars

In an effort to further support local businesses and offer encouragement, the VGCC Small Business Center has scheduled a series of free, live webinars entitled “Coronavirus Business Ready – Protecting Your Small Business.”

Each part addresses various areas of concern that all businesses are currently facing. The remaining webinars include:

Keeping Customers & Employees Safe During Unsettling Times

April 2, 2 – 3 p.m. (Register)

Promoting Your Business & Products During a Crisis

April 4, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Register)

Ideas to Keep Cash Flowing During a Pandemic Shutdown

April 7, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Register)

How to Manage Employees as Coronavirus Spreads

April 9, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Register)

Business Planning & Strategizing as a Coronavirus Antidote

April 14, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Register)

Communicating With Customers & Employees in Light of COVID-19

April 16, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. (Register)

Participants must register at least two days prior to each session with a valid email address in order to receive the webinar login information. After registering, the link will be sent approximately 24 hours before the event, and a reminder email will also be sent approximately an hour prior to the start time.

For more information on assistance for small businesses, please email Sheri Jones at [email protected], visit the VGCC Small Business Center website at or visit the Facebook site at

To hear the interview with Jones in its entirety, go to and click on Town Talk.

VGCC Declares March 16-20 Spring Break; Courses Resume Online Next Week

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-Information courtesy Vance-Granville Community College

VGCC will be moving Spring Break to Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20 to allow the college time to transition to mostly online instruction for the next several weeks in support of our Governor’s directive to practice more social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

This means there will be no credit/curriculum classes from March 16 – March 20.

The only exception to that is clinicals and apprenticeships which will continue as scheduled unless otherwise noted by your college contact. Credit/curriculum courses will resume Monday, March 23 in an online or hybrid format. More details are available on the College website.

Students are asked to please continue to check their email and the College COVID 19 web page for more updates, as the situation is changing rapidly.

VGCC Connects Students to Careers in Biotech

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

With the biotechnology industry booming in North Carolina, Vance-Granville Community College is offering a number of training program options, while focusing on helping students land jobs and, if they choose, transfer to partnering universities.

Students (from left) Tony Williams, Enrique Rodriguez-Jimenez and Denise Marrow practice skills in the biotech lab at VGCC’s Franklin Campus. (VGCC photo)

“According to NCBIO and the N.C. Biotechnology Center, thousands of new jobs in biotech and life sciences are coming to central North Carolina in the next few years,” said Stewart Lyon, who heads VGCC’s Biotech programs, based at the college’s Franklin County Campus. “Vance-Granville can help you enter a rewarding career in biotech or pharmaceutical manufacturing or a science lab position in as little as six months.”

In Bioprocess Technology, the college offers a certificate, which can be completed in six months; a diploma program, which takes about one year, and the two-year Associate in Applied Science degree. All these options are eligible for federal financial aid to qualified students. In addition, there is a BioWork Process Technician continuing education course offered periodically, in a format that takes less than one semester to complete.

Lyon, who has experience in the biotechnology industry and was VGCC’s Faculty Member of the Year for 2018-19, provides students not only with education but also resources and connections to obtain employment. In addition to emailing leads on job opportunities to a distribution list containing current and former students, Lyon is planning special events.

“We’re holding a resume event for current and former students of VGCC’s Biotechnology programs at the Franklin Campus on Monday, March 23, from 5:30 – 8 p.m.,” he said. “A biotech resume expert will visit from the NC BioNetwork to help students cater their resumes for entry into the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.”

Then, on April 16, current and former students are invited to attend a special career fair at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in the Research Triangle Park. Only students who participate in the March 23 resume clinic can attend the career fair.

The growing biotech field encompasses a wide variety of employers, including companies that are on the front lines of developing tests and treatments for diseases. Everything from pharmaceutical manufacturing to research, testing and medical labs, agricultural feedstock and industrial biosciences businesses are included in the broad sector, which are represented in the Triangle as well as VGCC’s service area.

“We have students and alumni employed at several companies in the area, including Novozymes in Franklinton, Grifols in Clayton, Isolera Extracts in Oxford, Revlon in Oxford, and Scientific Calibration in Cary,” Lyon said. To increase his students’ knowledge of the industry, he regularly takes them on field trips to some of these locations.

Lyon also points out that students have options to continue their education beyond VGCC, particularly through new transfer opportunities. Graduates with the Bioprocess Technology degree may transfer into the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences program at North Carolina Central University.

“A summer internship is available at NCCU’s research labs, which gives students professional experience and can count for credit toward the VGCC degree,” Lyon added.

NCCU also offers master’s degrees in both Drug Discovery and Biomanufacturing, and a Ph.D. program is under development. Since VGCC’s Bioprocess Technology certificate is also a Career & College Promise (CCP) option for current high school students, the partnership with NCCU means that a pathway from high school training through advanced graduate degrees is possible.

Meanwhile, through the new “Pirate Promise” program, students from VGCC can transfer to East Carolina University to complete a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology, with a concentration in Bioprocess Manufacturing. ECU’s degree can be completed entirely online or in-person.

Anyone interested in learning more about studying biotechnology at VGCC is invited to visit the Franklin Campus open house on Saturday, April 18, from 9 a.m. until noon. The campus is located at 8100 N.C. 56, just west of Louisburg.

For more information on VGCC’s biotech programs, contact Mr. Lyon at [email protected] or 252-738-3632.

VGCC & ECU Celebrate New ‘Pirate Promise’ Partnership

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

A pair of recent agreements between Vance-Granville Community College and East Carolina University – one a new partnership and the other an update to a longstanding program – help put a four-year university degree within reach for more students.

Pictured, from left to right: President Rachel Desmarais of VGCC and Dr. Art Rouse, Acting Dean for the College of Education at ECU, sign the “Partnership Teach” agreement. (VGCC photo)

First, a new agreement guarantees eligible VGCC students admission into East Carolina University. Earlier this semester, ECU Interim Chancellor Dr. Ron Mitchelson and VGCC President Dr. Rachel Desmarais signed the “Pirate Promise” Agreement.

The Pirate Promise, a co-admission agreement between the two colleges, will guarantee admission into East Carolina for all Vance-Granville students who fulfill certain criteria. They must be enrolled in, or preparing to enroll in, their first year at the community college in an approved associate degree program. Students must be enrolled full-time (a minimum of 12 hours per semester) unless they are Early College High School or Career and College Promise students, who may be eligible only if they are high school juniors pursuing an approved associate degree. To retain eligibility for the program, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 at VGCC.

The Pirate Promise does not guarantee admission into any specific program or major at East Carolina University.

“We are continuing to provide new pathway opportunities for students which will allow them to enter a four-year institution or go directly into the workforce,” said Dr. Levy Brown, vice president of Learning, Student Engagement & Success/Chief Academic Officer for VGCC. “This is important work and our faculty and staff are glad to be a part of Pirate Promise.”

Representatives from East Carolina University will be on campus soon to answer any questions that students may have about the Pirate Promise Agreement. To learn more about Pirate Promise, contact the VGCC Admissions Office at (252) 738-3234.

Meanwhile, ECU is continuing to partner with Vance-Granville and other colleges to train teachers. Earlier this academic year, East Carolina University celebrated decades of eastern North Carolina partnerships and a program rebrand at an annual College of Education (COE) advisory board meeting on Dec. 4.

Partnership Teach was officially unveiled as the new name for the COE’s online degree completion model. In the program, formerly known as Partnership East, students take courses at a North Carolina community college, like VGCC, and then transfer to ECU to complete a teaching degree.

“The name Partnership East reflected the original footprint which was only in eastern N.C. We continue to focus our efforts in the east, but over the years, we have expanded our online opportunities to all 100 counties,” said Kathy Bradley, Partnership Teach coordinator. “With this being the last year we receive funding from the SECU Foundation, it was a good time to embrace the name change to Partnership Teach, which better reflects our mission of growing teachers through partnership.”

During the meeting, representatives from Vance-Granville and 22 other two-year and community colleges that compose Partnership Teach renewed their agreements with ECU. Public school systems that are members of the Latham Clinical Schools Network also reaffirmed their commitments.

“All the public school systems in VGCC’s service area are interested in recruiting and developing qualified, dedicated teachers for our communities’ students,” said Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of the community college. “VGCC is pleased to help strengthen the pipeline for local residents to become our region’s future teachers.”

“These kinds of partnerships are integral to our work that we do together to prepare educators,” COE Interim Dean Art Rouse said. “The College of Education’s motto is ‘Excellence Through Partnership’ and these partnerships exhibit that motto daily. Our College of Education believes in a clinically-based model of educator preparation and we truly cannot accomplish that without the willingness of our public school partners to open their doors and welcome our students into real-life situations. Our college is also committed to access and we could not be accessible to prospective educators without the community college connections and collaborations with our Partnership Teach.”

Agreements with public schools and community colleges help to fulfill ECU’s dedication to eastern North Carolina.

“There’s no better strategy for the future of our region than homegrown talent,” Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said. “These local pipelines result in a huge level of success for our region and our students.”

Another successful partnership for ECU is the Latham Clinical Schools Network, a group of 43 public school systems in eastern North Carolina that provide classrooms for ECU student teachers. Among them are the four public school systems in VGCC’s service area: Franklin County, Granville County, Vance County and Warren County.

“It shows a commitment of our college to the region and to these public schools that we really care about putting out quality teachers to help the students in this region get a quality education,” said Dr. Vivian Covington, COE assistant dean of undergraduate affairs.

These partnerships have multiple benefits for both the school systems and ECU, especially when it comes to collaborating on educator preparation and grant work.

“We leverage this network in so many ways for student success and for the success of the network and its school systems,” Mitchelson said. “But we also leverage it in very creative ways in terms of professional development and also grant work. I’ve seen a lot of this work firsthand. It’s really exciting. We had a room full of students the other day and their teachers from this network who were focused on the intersection of computational science and art.”

Being able to partner with a wide variety of schools is an invaluable resource for both future teachers and the schools that want to employ them.

“This network is a very rich region of real-world experiences and challenges that our students are exposed to,” Covington said. “We would never dream of preparing teachers without making sure that they are fully steeped in real-life experiences. In order to do that, you have to have a commitment with public school partners.”

Students’ work in public schools begins their sophomore year and culminates in a two-part internship during their senior year.

“The internship is roughly 600 hours and they probably do at least another 80-100 hours between their sophomore and junior years,” Covington said. “They’re getting about 700 hours of on-the-job training before they are hired and I think that’s why our public school partners want our students.”

The partnerships that ECU has with community and two-year colleges benefit the university and colleges beyond increased enrollment. Almost 900 students have graduated from the Partnership Teach degree completion model.

“Many of our students are nontraditional and have experience as teacher assistants,” Bradley said. “They bring a more seasoned perspective to the discussions in the online classes.”

VGCC Students Find New Support System Through Men’s Academy

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

A unique, new program at Vance-Granville Community College is providing support, as well as new leadership opportunities, to male students.

The “Men’s Achievement Academy” began with an induction ceremony in October of 2019. Its stated mission is “to provide intentional support to male students that will empower them to accomplish their academic and career goals.” Any male student can join the academy, which boasts about 30 members currently.

VGCC student and Men’s Achievement Academy member Ronnie Brodie (pictured above) presents information on the Civil Rights Movement. (VGCC photo)

At the core of the program is mentoring, according to Jeffrey Allen, the college’s Dean of Student Retention & Success and an advisor for the program (alongside Marque Debnam, who heads the Paralegal Technology at VGCC’s Franklin Campus).

“Our students’ mentors are members of our faculty and staff who volunteer their time,” Allen explained. “We provide training to the mentors, and we expect each mentor and ‘mentee’ to meet at least once a month face-to-face. Some choose to meet more often. In between, they communicate regularly via email or text.”

The academy also meets as a group monthly. “We base the topics for the meetings on what these students are interested in,” Allen said. Some meetings have discussed networking, careers, and health.

Recently, the academy was in the spotlight after Allen and other staff talked to mentees about the college’s annual celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. “We explained to them that traditionally, this had often been more of a community event than a student activity,” Allen recalled. “We said, if we want our students to come, then we should have the students plan it.”

That’s exactly what the Men’s Achievement Academy did. Two students in the program co-chaired the committee for the Martin Luther King event: Osvaldo Martinez of Granville County, a student in the Radiography program; and Nicholas Addesso of Franklin County, a student in the Associate in Arts (College Transfer) program.

“What they came up with blew my mind,” said Allen. “They took a whole different direction than I imagined. They wanted to teach people about the life and legacy of Dr. King themselves.”

The mentees developed posters about Dr. King and used those posters as teaching tools, which were presented to visitors during a floating event on VGCC’s Main Campus. Lunch was served to students who listened to the presentation and answered questions about what they had learned. The lunch was provided by the VGCC Endowment Office with support from several community sponsors: Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity, Inc.; Judge Randolph and Sarah Baskerville; Judge Henry and Mamie Banks; and Duke Energy.

Allen said the Men’s Achievement Academy is meeting a widespread need for male students, and for minority males in particular. “My research for my dissertation at North Carolina State University has been about student success for African American males,” he said. “Research shows that these students want to know they are supported by their college. So I hope this program helps to encourage more males to feel welcome attending Vance-Granville because they know there is a support system in place. And over time, we hope to see an impact on these students’ retention and completion rates.”

In addition to the strong role of mentoring by faculty and staff, Allen said one of the main pillars of the program is brotherhood. “We want the group to lean on each other and build relationships with each other, to provide support to one another and foster a sense of belonging,” he added.

“Dean Allen’s vision for this program and our male students being successful speaks volumes. The Men’s Achievement Academy is an important part of our student success agenda. We are supportive of the work of Dean Allen, Mr. Debnam and other faculty and staff who are mentoring the Academy participants,” said Levy Brown, vice president of Learning, Student Engagement & Success.

Currently, VGCC is recruiting a second group, or cohort, to join the Men’s Achievement Academy in the fall 2020 semester. That recruitment effort includes students who are about to graduate from high school. Allen hopes for students from the first cohort of the program to serve as peer mentors to members of the second cohort.

For more information on the Men’s Achievement Academy, contact Jeffrey Allen at (252) 738-3405 or [email protected] or Marque Debnam at (252) 738-3619 or [email protected].

VGCC Succeeds By Going ‘All-In’ for CDL

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

The new Truck Driver Training class that began at Vance-Granville Community College in early February 2020 is full to capacity, with demand even greater than the college could accommodate. That is due not only to the growing need for qualified commercial truck drivers with a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) but also to a highly successful enrollment marketing campaign.

Above: Students listen during the classroom instruction portion of VGCC’s CDL/Truck Driver Training program. (VGCC photo)

A team of VGCC staff from numerous departments collaborated in creative ways to design, coordinate and implement several strategies, ranging from the traditional — signs placed in the ground around the community, a press release and print advertising — to the more high-tech social media and video advertising.

“This success demonstrates the power of partnership – including not only our own VGCC professionals but also employers in the community and workforce development partners,” said VGCC President Dr. Rachel Desmarais. “We went ‘all-in.’ Our students and our community will benefit from this new program, along with all the other valuable education and training programs that we continue to provide.”

Students started the process of completing the CDL credential by attending an orientation session on Jan. 23. Lead instructor Roger Chester gave the students information on the requirements of the nine-week program. Meanwhile, to connect the training to careers, seven local employers set up information tables. “They took the time to speak with students about employment prospects in CDL and trucking at their respective locations,” said VGCC Director of Occupational Extension Kyle Burwell.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for qualified commercial truck drivers is expected to grow by 21 percent through 2020, and trucking companies actively seek quality student drivers right out of programs like this one. “The logistics experts estimate a national shortage of over 50,000 drivers,” added Ronald Bennett, Director of Transportation for Variety Wholesalers, Inc., located in VGCC’s service area. “Variety Wholesalers, as well as other area businesses, will certainly benefit from this program.”

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates will have the opportunity to be employed by commercial trucking companies, become an owner-operator, or take advantage of local jobs. This Truck Driver Training program is certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). VGCC offers the program in collaboration with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, a sister institution of the N.C. Community College System.

“Our Truck Driver Training program is an excellent example of how North Carolina community colleges connect students to fulfilling careers and provide a pipeline of qualified talent to employers,” said Jerry Edmonds, VGCC’s vice president of workforce and community engagement. “We’re responding to the region’s economic needs and providing easy access to low-cost, high-quality job training.”

The college plans to offer a second class starting in August.

For more information about enrolling in the Truck Driver Training program in the future, contact Kyle Burwell at [email protected] or 252-738-3276, or Gina Brewer at [email protected] or 252-738-3324.

VGCC Offering Free Entrepreneurship Training Retreat

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

The Vance-Granville Community College Small Business Center, in partnership with the Economic Development Commissions and Chambers of Commerce of Franklin, Granville, Vance & Warren counties, is offering a FREE all-day entrepreneurship training retreat entitled “Fostering An Entrepreneurial Mindset: The Entrepreneur in Us All” on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Granville County Expo Center located at 4185 US-15 in Oxford.

 This session features the well-known Ice House Entrepreneurship Training program based on the book “Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons From An Unlikely Entrepreneur.” Inspired by the life story of Pulitzer nominee Clifton Taulbert and the life-changing influence of an unlikely entrepreneur, the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program is an experiential, problem-based learning program that immerses attendees in experiences that develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.  They will learn to:

  • Identify and Evaluate Opportunities That Others Overlook
  • Embrace an Entrepreneurial Mindset as a Life-Skill
  • Identify and Overcome Self-Limiting Beliefs
  • Take Imperfect Action to Test an Idea
  • Map Out an Opportunity Canvas and Share It
  • Interact With Local Entrepreneurs and Business Counselors

Local successful entrepreneurs will speak to the group during the lunch break to share some things about their personal stories and local chamber and economic development directors will be on hand to observe and talk with attendees as well.

Morning coffee, snacks and lunch will be provided and each participant will receive a copy of the “Who Owns the Ice House” book. To register, go to and click on the class title.

This project received support through a grant from NC IDEA.

VGCC Names 273 Students to President’s and Dean’s Lists


-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

Vance-Granville Community College has announced that 117 students earned President’s List academic honors and another 156 earned Dean’s List academic honors for the fall 2019 semester, which ended in December.

The President’s List recognizes students who achieved a perfect 4.0 grade-point average (GPA) while carrying a “full load” (of at least 12 credit hours) in 100-level or higher curriculum courses. To qualify for the Dean’s List, a student had to earn a GPA that was at least 3.5 but less than 4.0, and have no grade lower than “B,” while carrying a “full load” of such courses.

Fall Semester President’s List honorees are listed below by program of study and then by residence. The Dean’s List follows the President’s List.

Accounting & Finance:

Andres-Manuel Mata Espino of Creedmoor;

Aaron  W. Rettig of Oxford.

Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology:

Jeremy M. Johnson of Manson;

Alexander J. Quintana of Youngsville.

Associate in Arts:

Crystal D. Clayton of Butner;

Tanaura R. Harrison and Cintly Vargas-Arias, both of Creedmoor;

Emma M. Cascino of Durham;

Randi A. Bowen and Cassidy A. Holmes, both of Franklinton;

Alejandro Duran, Emani’ D. Foster, Jorge Alberto M. Gomez, Aaliyah S. Jackson, Isaiah A. Johen, Josiah Jones, Caroline A. Nutt and Sarah R. Parish, all of Henderson;

Ashley E. Bolling and Rebekah L. Varker, both of Kittrell;

Brianna C. Pressey and Sara G. Woodard, both of Louisburg;

Spencer B. Boyd, Kai Z. Doege, Erica L. Evitts, Stephanie Gomez Palacios, Matthew P. Henderson and

Calli S. Massey, all of Oxford;

Grayson B. Williams of Rougemont;

Ronnie Brodie, Jr., of Wake Forest.

Associate in Fine Arts – Visual Arts:

Rachel R. Hughes of Creedmoor.

Associate in General Education – General Science:

Anahi Galvan of Butner;

Genevieve N. Mua of Creedmoor;

Cody M. Greene of Oxford.

Associate in Science:

Janis D. Terry of Bullock;

Jeremy J. Medley and Akoya M. Penny-Campbell, both of Creedmoor;

Isaac D. Sutton of Louisburg;

Rewees A. Ebrahim of Oxford;

Zion T. Page of Raleigh;

Naomi L. Campbell of Wake Forest;

John E. Moore of Youngsville.

Automotive Systems Technology:

Cameron M. Pierce of Creedmoor;

David D. Bragg and Larry G. Dupree, III, both of Franklinton;

Alec L. Moran of Henderson;

James H. Pope of Norlina;

Cesar L. Vazquez of Oxford;

Xavier Durham of Warrenton.

Bioprocess Technology:

Adrine L. Pettaway of Henderson.

Business Administration:

Gadiel A. Ogaz of Franklinton;

Alejandra Ponce, Grady A. Rollins and Crystal D. Wilkins, all of Henderson;

Timothy H. Powell of Louisburg.

College Transfer Pathway:

David B. Foster of Castalia;

Sophia J. Metcalf of Franklinton;

Jillian Hanchey of Louisburg;

Nancy A. Nasher of Manson;

Kaleigh V. Booker of Norlina;

Lana E. Horton of Oxford;

Jacob A. Comer of Rougemont;

Chase A. Tuttle of Wake Forest;

Evan M. Corsar of Youngsville;

Micah D. Hall of Zebulon.


Brandi N. Mitchell of Franklinton;

Megan N. Henderson of Henderson;

Madison L. Adams and Leslie B. May, both of Louisburg;

Edna J. Johnson of Raleigh;

Hannah L. Carpenter of Wake Forest;

Brittaney J. Kilmer of Youngsville.

Criminal Justice:

Ricardo L. Ellis of Creedmoor;

Alexis R. Lincoln of Franklinton;

Natasha A. Alston of Henderson;

Jessica M. Wiles of Norlina;

Wyatt D. Mote of Wake Forest.

Culinary Arts:

Cassidy A. Young of Franklinton;

Noah O. Hendrick of Oxford.

Early Childhood Education:

Emily S. Bickerstaff of Raleigh.

Electronics Engineering Technology:

Dakota L. Hodnett of Oxford.

Human Services Technology/Substance Abuse:

Noah D. Yeargin of Oxford.

Information Technology:

Joshua R. Jones of Butner;

Douglas Boulia of Creedmoor;

Matthew J. Stein of Franklinton;

Mario D. Silver of Havelock;

David B. Ayscue, Jr., Marvion A. Criddle and Mary L. Mosny, all of Henderson;

Alexander N. Long of Kittrell;

Allen T. Jones and Katelynn A. Ray, both of Louisburg;

Julian W. Causey, III, and Nicholas C. Parker, both of Oxford;

Amanda S. Aiken of Rougemont;

Marsha S. Musick of Warrenton.

Mechatronics Engineering Technology:

Derek K. Gay of Franklinton;

Triston L. Tilley of Stem.

Medical Office Administration:

Keishla M. Garcia and Erika Portillo, both of Creedmoor;

Bambi F. Coleman of Durham;

Desiree Annis of Franklinton;

Melanie A. Slaton of Henderson;

Savannah K. Alford and Elizabeth L. Wiggins, both of Louisburg;

Lisha T. Harris of Oxford;

Rebecca Lynam of Youngsville.

Office Administration:

Mia N. Wireman of Clayton.

Paralegal Technology:

Rachel G. Roberson of Franklinton;

Emari N. Ragland of Henderson;

Megan L. Finch of Kittrell;

Brandol J. Pahuamba Hernandez of Louisburg.


Kacie L. Gann of Durham;

Michelle A. Matthews of Henderson;

Kimberly Henderson of Raleigh.

Supply Chain Management:

Mariana G. Mitchell of Franklinton.

Welding Technology:

Hunter A. Norwood of Henderson.


Fall Semester Dean’s List honorees are listed below by program of study and then by residence:


Accounting & Finance:

Daequan L. Oakley of Oxford.

Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology:

Isaac A. Saleh of Oxford;

Tyler R. Holsonback of Stem.

Associate in Arts:

Amir L. Branch, Caden C. Colvin, Kayleigh N. Redmond, Megan M. Smith and Brennon M. Warren, all of Creedmoor;

Tanecia Leathers and Kathleen T. Zoldos, both of Durham;

Kimberly Ross of Franklinton;

Wafa A. Alazab, Taylor V. Cavanaugh, Kimberley M. Coghill, Hannah P. Foster, Micaela C. Harrah, Sierra McBurrough, Kristyn M. Medlin, Faith A. Orr, Josie M. Roberson, Nychelle M. Robinson, William A. Strickland, Alondra M. Torres-Ornelas, Leslie Zuniga  Trejo, Cristian J. Ventura, Anna B. Weaver, Haley L. Williams, Autumn N. Wortham, Brian Ramirez, Damion Harris, Jester Williams and Viviana Hernandez, all of Henderson;

Paul V. Rogerson of Littleton;

Cameryn A. Bostic, Jeremiah Calamaco, Kasey M. Nida, Kaleb M. Pulley and Christian A. Saroza, all of Louisburg;

Spencer T. Huff, Bree Kromah, Magaly D. Martinez and Erin P. Whitt, all of Oxford;

Mariana G. Alonzo and Gabriella M. Fuentes Wilson, both of Stem;

Kaitlyn E. Hopkins of Wake Forest;

Kayla W. Hargrove of Warrenton;

Angelica N. Montano of Wendell;

Sonia Gonzalez of Youngsville;

Tomas J. Olivares-Beddoes of Zebulon.

Associate in Fine Arts – Visual Arts:

Brandon K. Lewter of Franklinton;

Tyler R. Potter of Youngsville.

Associate in General Education – General Science:

Richard S. Kudayah of Durham;

Alexis N. Brown-Fincher of Henderson;

Kayla D. Stancil of Oxford;

Jaleka L. Alston of Warrenton.

Associate in Science:

Garret L. Deane and Timothy D. Hunter, both of Creedmoor;

Paola N. Contreras Escalera and Nidia K. McBride, both of Garner;

Safa A. Alazab of Henderson;

Nancy J. Alvarez Lopez, Jason Avila-Soria, Madeline R. Beck, Heveen N. Issa and Miguel M. Magana, all of Louisburg;

Sha’da Bullock of Manson;

Abigail D. Dickerson of Oxford;

Jordan A. Gilmore of Wake Forest;

Cheyenne M. Carroll of Warrenton;

Malorie R. Stasiewicz of Youngsville;

Bryson W. Bridges of Zebulon.

Automotive Systems Technology:

Josiah R. Yarborough of Henderson.

Business Administration:

Katlyn M. Hunt, Lainey G. Neal and Christopher L. Pulley, all of Henderson;

Jennifer S. Crabtree and Vanessa L. Crabtree, both of Kittrell;

Breanna L. Lewis of Oxford.

College Transfer Pathway:

Alexis N. Simmons of Henderson;

Alexander H. Rote of Kittrell;

Anthony D. Goreman, Abbie L. Mann and Kamarion E. Moore, all of Oxford;

Ava E. Stoddard of Rolesville.


Mia P. Ellis of Creedmoor;

Carter E. Gilliam of Franklinton;

Shakyla M. Cathey, Skylar N. Mulhollen and Ce’Anna K. Willis, all of Henderson;

Cannon G. Bigham of Louisburg;

Logan B. Breedlove and Victoria L. Hackett, both of Oxford;

Samantha J. Tackema of Wake Forest;

Megan L. Sandell of Winston Salem.

Criminal Justice:

Carly J. Minor of Butner;

Courtney A. Glenn of Oxford;

Mikayla Pendergrass of Stem;

Joshua R. Martus of Wake Forest.

Culinary Arts:

Michael J. Stephens and Kali B. Wiggs, both of Henderson;

Karsen O. Garrett of Youngsville.

Early Childhood Education:

Nancy E. Crumpler of Louisburg;

Chermella E. Durham and Catherine A. Mendell, both of Oxford.

Electrical Systems Technology:

Timothy L. Reid of Creedmoor.


Marianna Coppola of Fayetteville;

Nigoria B. Alston of Henderson

Joshua D. Manson of Louisburg;

Benjamin P. Eales of Raleigh;

Summer M. O’Brien of Roxboro.

Human Services Technology:

Ruth A. Terry of Oxford;

Rachel H. Allen of Stem.

Human Services Technology/Substance Abuse:

Heidi M. Kulhawik Angelini of Franklinton;

Tara E. Brame of Henderson;

Tiffiney Whitt of Roxboro.

Information Technology:

Malcolm J. Jones of Butner;

Janie M. Evans, Joshua T. Norton, Marquita L. Perry and Elizabeth H. Wonsetler, all of Henderson;

Emily Durling and Roderick A. Lewis, both of Oxford.

Mechatronics Engineering Technology:

Herbert H. Davis of Henderson.

Medical Assisting:

Yemika E. Hernandez of Creedmoor.

Medical Office Administration:

Yamileth D. Portillo of Creedmoor;

Ashley A. Hedgepeth, Christie K. Matthews, Maryjo M. Parks and Denise M. Woodard, all of Henderson;

Paola Rebollar of Louisburg;

Chassity A. Evans of Middleburg;

Kasey V. Evans and Felicia B. Fuller, both of Oxford;

Brooke W. Nowell of Roxboro.

Office Administration:

Kimberly C. Cagney of Creedmoor.

Paralegal Technology:

Guadalupe Z. Mata of Henderson;

June J. Terry of Louisburg;

Carol L. Coleman of Morrisville.

Pharmacy Technology:

Candace Wallace of Butner.


Lauren A. Stephenson and Yvonne A. Stills, both of Creedmoor;

Michael A. Leslie of Durham;

Matthew S. Denton, Heidy M. Morosumi and Amber D. Peoples, all of Henderson;

Carly M. West of Littleton;

Tanena S. Sims of Mebane;

Jennifer M. Banning and Sabrina E. Bedard, both of Wake Forest;

Jesslyn E. Bader of Youngsville;

Maria J. Perry of Zebulon.

Welding Technology:

Noah W. Pearce of Franklinton;

Branson P. Hight and Justin H. Ranes, both of Henderson;

William M. Balash and Benjamin H. Branch, both of Oxford.

From High School Dropout to First-Generation College Graduate, Through VGCC

100.1 FM / 1450 AM WIZS; Local News broadcasts M-F 8am, 12pm, 5pm

-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College

“I was 16, and I was done.” That is how Samantha Huffman recalls thinking back in 2004. She was “done” with education, in her mind. Feeling depressed and awkward at her high school, Huffman dropped out. “I had nothing to look forward to when it came to school, so what was the point?” she said. “It’s not like I was going to go to college. I couldn’t afford it. No one in my family had made it through high school, much less gone further.”

Samantha Huffman poses in her cap and gown at Meredith College. (Photo courtesy VGCC)

Sixteen years later, Huffman actually has gone further, with a pair of college degrees to her name, thanks to her experience at Vance-Granville Community College.

The story of how she went from high school dropout to college graduate essentially starts with a tragedy, Huffman said. “In 2011, my world was turned upside down,” she reflected. “I lost my best friend, who was also my cousin and my confidant, in a car accident where she was hit head-on and killed instantly. She believed in me and pushed me to do better. At that moment, I made a promise in her memory to change.”

The sort of change she intended to make required education in order to obtain more than what she called “dead-end” jobs. One day in 2012, Huffman heard that Vance-Granville Community College offered night and online class options to prepare for the GED High School Equivalency diploma. “I went, signed up, and took the pre-test,” she said. “I passed the pre-test, and the teacher looked me dead in my eyes and asked me what in the world I was doing there. I did not test like a person with only a 10th-grade education.”

With a level of natural ability that surprised her, Huffman quickly completed her studies and obtained her high school diploma by passing the required test. “My first thought was, ‘Well, that was easy,’” she recalled. “I almost immediately signed up for college classes at VGCC.”

She took her time because she was working two jobs and raising a child while going to school. Finally, in 2016, she graduated from VGCC with an Associate in Arts degree, as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and a senator in the Student Government Association.

Soon, Huffman transferred her community college credits into Meredith College, with approximately half her tuition covered by scholarships. In December of 2018, she graduated from the four-year college with a bachelor’s degree in English. Now, she works full-time in a job in which she uses her communication skills to create marketing and promotional materials to increase her company’s client base.

“For anyone who thinks school is too hard or takes too much of a commitment, I urge you to walk into any VGCC campus and talk to an advisor,” Huffman said. “They will coach you, mentor you, comfort you, and guide you through schooling that anyone can do and help you achieve any goal you set your mind to completing.”

Town Talk 02/04/20: Jobs, Removing Barriers Focus of Desmarais’ First Year


Dr. Rachel Desmarais, president of Vance-Granville Community College, appeared on WIZS Town Talk Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Desmarais, who celebrated her one-year anniversary with the college in January, said she is pleased with the recent strides the college has made in workforce development, marketing and removing “barriers” to education.

Making it her mission from day one to “find the programs that could get people into jobs more quickly,” Desmarais and VGCC staff have worked with EMSI, Inc., a national firm that reviews job data, to provide information on the most needed types of employment in the local area.

“The number one and number two jobs of availability in this area were truck drivers and heavy equipment operators,” Desmarais explained of EMSI’s findings.

In response to the community’s need for truck drivers, VGCC, in partnership with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, now offers a truck driving program that gives students the training required to operate tractor-trailer rigs, obtain a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) and become professional truck drivers.

Orientation for the first nine-week program was completed last week with classes to begin Wednesday, February 12, 2020. Students will participate in a combination of classroom instruction, range driving and road driving.

According to Desmarais, 17 students are currently participating in the program and a waitlist has been started for others who are interested. “Local companies that need truck drivers are very excited about the opportunity to have local folks who can take those jobs.”

For more information on the truck driving program, please click here.

By changing the way the college approaches marketing, including getting back to basics with “going out, talking and listening to the people in the community,” Desmarais said the college is learning what local organizations and residents need while strengthening existing partnerships and creating new alliances.

“We are going back to some of the things we use to do such as offering classes out in the community,” said Desmarais. “We have started a new partnership and are offering classes at the Mary Potter School in Oxford, for example.”

Desmarais said VGCC staff are also focused on removing what is frequently considered “barriers” to education, with the recent announcement of the college’s partnership with public and rural transportation service KARTS being a prime example of this commitment.

“This program removes one of the larger barriers of education – students getting to and from college,” Desmarais said.

Thanks to a combination of grant funds and VGCC Endowment Fund donations, the KARTS service is provided free-of-charge to students attending all four VGCC campus locations – Henderson (Main), Louisburg (Franklin), Creedmoor (South) and Warrenton (Warren).

Students can make appointments for KARTS by calling (252) 438-2573 and then dialing “0.” Appointments can be made up to two weeks in advance. For more information on the KARTS program, please click here.

VGCC is currently piloting and tracking the success of another program aimed at reducing perhaps the largest barrier in education – the financial barrier.

“We know that students who get Pell Grants have a lot going on in their lives,” Desmarais stated. “They have a lot of challenges in terms of working and going to school, transportation, living arrangements, and sometimes they aren’t as successful at the school part as they’d like because life gets in the way.”

Explaining that students have to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) to keep their financial aid, Desmarais said the college is offering a “Second Chance Scholarship” to those that may have fallen below the required GPA.

“We [VGCC] help connect them with other agencies to help them solve non-school problems that are getting in the way of them being successful here. Once we do that, we provide what we call a second chance scholarship for them to improve their GPA so that they can get back on financial aid.”

With all of this, Desmarais said the college is writing its narrative as a student-ready college. “We are going to be here for the students that we have. We are not a selective institution, but we are a quality-proud institution.”

To learn more about VGCC, please visit the college’s official website at or visit its YouTube channel by clicking here.

To hear the interview with Desmarais in its entirety, go to and click on Town Talk.