Former Dallas Cowboy addresses VGCC students

A former NFL defensive lineman visited the Main Campus of Vance-Granville Community College on March 16 and spoke to students, faculty and staff about his experiences and the keys to success.

Greg Ellis spoke in the VGCC Civic Center for an hour-long presentation that was sponsored by the college’s Male Mentoring Program. That program’s co-coordinator, VGCC Academic and Career Coach Anthony Pope, was Ellis’ middle school football coach in Wendell, his hometown.

Ellis recalled that Pope “was the first coach who saw athletic potential in me” and that middle school was where his football career began. Ellis graduated from East Wake High School and went on to become an All-ACC player and second team All-American at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated as the school’s all-time sack leader, even surpassing Lawrence Taylor. He earned a degree in communications studies at UNC.

Drafted as the eighth pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, Ellis was later selected for the 2007 Pro Bowl. He suffered an Achilles tendon injury that was thought to be a career-ender, but returned to the field and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2007. Ellis played his final season with the Oakland Raiders before retiring in 2010. Today, he is the father of three children and CEO of his Texas-based multimedia production company, Play Now Enterprises.

In his remarks to VGCC students, Ellis started by focusing on “RTP,” which for him stand not for Research Triangle Park, but for “Rules, Tools and Preparation.” He explained that we all must take the time to learn the rules that govern any endeavor in order to succeed. Second come the tools. “I believe that God has put tools in all of us that will allow us to be successful,” Ellis said. “It’s up to us to figure out what those tools are, and then be willing to develop those tools. You want to become a master at whatever you are doing.” Finally, success requires preparation. “Are you willing to prepare?” Ellis asked. “That’s where most people get lost. They’re not willing to put the time and effort into becoming a good football player or a good student or a good coach or whatever it is you want to do. Most people aren’t willing to pay the price.”

Ellis went on to outline for his audience the stages of motivation, inspiration and manifestation. “Motivation is not enough,” he said. “Motivation helps us to get started, but it won’t propel us to the end.” Motivation can turn into inspiration, he explained. “Inspiration means you sacrifice and work hard, and that’s what makes you successful,” Ellis said, citing the example of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “Jerry functions out of inspiration,” he said. “He’s a man who’s willing to burn the midnight oil.” Only through inspiration can anyone experience the manifestation of success, Ellis maintained.

One of his recent projects has been “Carter High,” a feature film based on a true story of a high school football team in Texas. Ellis was the executive producer of the movie, which stars Charles S. Dutton, Vivica Fox and David Banner. He played the film’s trailer for the VGCC audience. “It’s not just about football, it’s about making the right choices and the consequences of the decisions you make,” Ellis explained.

Supported by a grant from the N.C. Community College System, the VGCC Male Mentoring program involves an active, intensive, and engaging process of academic coaching and case management to help male students succeed. For more information on the mentoring program, contact Anthony Pope at [email protected] or (252) 738-3395, or Greg Nash at [email protected] or (252) 738-3305.

VGCC holds Summer Term New Student Orientation sessions

 Registration for classes and orientation sessions for new students have begun for the Summer 2016 term at Vance-Granville Community College, which starts Monday, May 23. Students who wish to enroll at VGCC starting in the Fall 2016 semester may also attend one of the orientation sessions for summer.

Attending an orientation session is required for all new students who wish to enroll in any of the college’s curriculum programs, and for students who are returning to VGCC after being away for three or more years. Students must also meet with an advisor or academic/career coach before registering for classes.

To attend an orientation session, a student must sign up in advance by visiting

VGCC now offers orientation in both an online and a traditional face-to-face format. In either format, orientation sessions help students learn where to find resources on campus or online, including how to register for classes through WebAdvisor.

Face-to-face orientation sessions are scheduled at VGCC’s Main Campus in Vance County on Tuesday, March 29, at 9 a.m.; Tuesday, April 19, at 9 a.m.; Thursday, April 21, at 2 p.m.; Tuesday, May 10, at 9 a.m.; and Thursday, May 12, at 2 p.m.

At the Franklin County Campus near Louisburg, orientation sessions are scheduled on Tuesday, March 29, at 2 p.m.; Tuesday, April 12, at 2 p.m.; Tuesday, April 19, at 5 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 3, at 9 a.m.

Orientation sessions are scheduled at VGCC’s South Campus, located between Creedmoor and Butner, on Wednesday, April 6, at 9 a.m.; Thursday, April 14, at 2 p.m.; and Wednesday, May 4, at 9 a.m.

Students who want to attend a face-to-face orientation session at the Warren County Campus in Warrenton should call (252) 257-1900 for more information.

Registration for summer classes is set to end on Thursday, May 19. College officials encourage students to apply for admission, attend orientation/advising, and register for classes as early as possible. Course schedules are now available online at

All summer curriculum courses are eight weeks in length and will end on July 25. The VGCC course selection for this summer’s term is more robust than in years past, including a variety of online and on-campus sections.

Summer term offers opportunities for eligible high school seniors to get a head start on college by taking courses through the Career & College Promise (CCP) program. University students may also use the summer to earn transferable credits while they are at home.

The tuition payment deadline is Thursday, May 19, by 5 p.m., if paying in person, or by midnight, if paying online through WebAdvisor.

For more information, contact VGCC at [email protected] or (252) 738-3330, or visit any campus.

VGCC’s new ‘VanGuarantee’ to help area residents afford higher education

Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of Vance-Granville Community College, announced a major new commitment yesterday to eliminate financial barriers to higher education for residents of Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties.

President Williams said a new need-based scholarship program, called the “VanGuarantee,” is designed to cover tuition, student fees and textbooks for eligible students whose financial needs are unmet by federal financial aid and other means of support. She made the announcement at a meeting of the VGCC Board of Trustees and was joined by school superintendents and members of the boards of education from the four counties served by the college.

VGCC already has a robust, almost 40-year-old Endowment Fund that provides primarily merit-based scholarships.

“The VanGuarantee program enhances our college’s commitment to supporting deserving students, particularly those who demonstrate the greatest financial need, because we do not want the cost of attendance to be a barrier for any student at any stage,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to guarantee that every student in our community who wants to earn a college degree can do so.”

Making the VanGuarantee possible is a $1.6 million bequest to VGCC from the estate of Wilbert A. Edwards. The gift, announced in 2015, is the second largest in the history of the college. A resident of Oxford at the time of his death in 2001, Edwards was a native of Vance County and a decorated World War II fighter pilot. In addition to the VanGuarantee, funds from the Edwards estate are being used for faculty development and for college facilities.

In its scope, the new program is believed to be unique in the North Carolina Community College System. As policymakers and students have expressed growing concerns about the rising cost of college, VGCC joins colleges across the country in creating innovative “promise” or “guarantee” programs to make education more affordable and accessible.

Some colleges have made such commitments only to recent high school graduates, but the VanGuarantee applies to all students in the four counties, reflecting VGCC’s longstanding tradition of helping adults retrain for new careers at any age, Dr. Williams explained. Nevertheless, she encouraged 2016 high school graduates to take advantage of the new opportunity to obtain a debt-free college education.

Among the eligibility requirements for the VanGuarantee, students who reside in the college’s service area must enroll in at least nine credit hours per semester in any VGCC curriculum program. They must first apply for and meet the eligibility requirements for federal and state financial aid programs. Next, they will apply for endowed VGCC scholarships. When students still lack the funds to pay for their education after exhausting those and other sources, the VanGuarantee program will help to fill the gap. That makes the program an example of what is often called a “last-dollar scholarship.”

The VanGuarantee will be available in the fall 2016 semester, which starts in August. All residents of the four counties served by the college, regardless of their age or whether they have attended VGCC before, may benefit if they meet the eligibility criteria. Once enrolled in the VanGuarantee program, students must maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) to continue receiving the scholarship.

For more information on the VanGuarantee, students can visit

AT&T sponsors new VGCC Summer Bridge program

AT&T North Carolina has made a $10,000 contribution to Vance-Granville Community College to support a new student success initiative. For the first time, the college will offer a “Summer Bridge” program this year for incoming first-year students. With AT&T’s sponsorship, the program will be available at no cost to participating students.

“Thanks to the strong support of AT&T North Carolina, in a few months, our faculty and staff will be able to offer some extra help to students to prepare them to succeed as scholars at the college level,” said Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of VGCC.

Robert Doreauk, AT&T’s regional director of external affairs, formally presented the donation in February at a luncheon honoring donors to the college, held at the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford.

“We understand that there is no better way to make a lasting difference in a community than by helping support the education of its young people,” Doreauk said. “Through our signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, we support opportunities to foster skills that will meet the needs of the future workforce while helping all students make their biggest dreams a reality. We appreciate the opportunity to support the Summer Bridge program and are excited about the impact it will have on students’ lives and futures.”

VGCC Dean of Arts and Sciences Cynthia Young explained that Summer Bridge will be a comprehensive, two-week program with two overarching themes. “The first theme is providing targeted support, supplemental instruction and skill-building to help students accelerate their pathway from developmental education to regular curriculum courses,” Young said.

Most VGCC students take placement tests as part of the admissions process to evaluate their current skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Placement test scores are used for academic advising and correct course placement. Students may be placed in a developmental math course, for example, to build math skills before moving on to more challenging college courses that are required for diploma and degree programs.

“The second theme of the program is college readiness,” Young said. “Students will participate in orientation and meet with faculty from various curriculum programs so that they understand the opportunities that are available to them here at Vance-Granville. In addition, our coaches from the Student Success Center will help students in the program to create academic plans in line with their career goals.” Young said that the program will serve North Carolina residents who are high school or high school equivalency graduates, are entering VGCC for the first time, and have placed into developmental education.

“We are excited about introducing this program,” said Young. “It will give students more tools to be successful.”

The Summer Bridge initiative is being developed as Dr. Williams and other college leaders across the country are increasingly focused on bringing students up to speed quickly, so that they can start their college-level coursework earlier and graduate on schedule. According to a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement, 86 percent of students nationwide believe they are academically prepared to succeed in college, but 67 percent test into developmental coursework.

For more information on the Summer Bridge program, contact Cynthia Young at [email protected] or (252) 738-3424.

VGCC students partner to register bone marrow donors

The SkillsUSA chapter at Vance-Granville Community College recently teamed up with national organizations and a local cancer survivor to find some potential heroes.

The survivor, Whitney Johnson Espinosa of Henderson, who calls her campaign against childhood cancer “Whitney’s Hope,” organized a bone marrow registration drive in the Civic Center on VGCC’s Main Campus. She connected with the SkillsUSA student organization through her mother, VGCC Dean of Business & Applied Technologies Angela Gardner-Ragland.

Espinosa was working in concert with three national organizations, “There Goes My Hero,” Delete Blood Cancer and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, to register new bone marrow donors. “Your college drive is an amazing opportunity to impact the lives of patients around the world who need bone marrow transplants by improving their chances of finding a matching donor,” Kristina Gaddy of There Goes My Hero wrote to Espinosa.

There Goes My Hero was founded by transplant recipient Erik Sauer in 2008, and seeks to provide hope and nourishment to leukemia patients and their families. Since its founding, the organization has added over 10,000 new people to the bone marrow registry.

The event at VGCC registered 30 new donors. Students, faculty, staff and community members signed up and swabbed their cheeks to provide DNA samples. The painless registration process took only a few minutes, but could save a life if a participant turns out to be a match for someone in need of a bone marrow transplant. Such treatments are the only hope for many people diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other blood cancers and diseases. VGCC held a similar drive in 2015 in partnership with the Project Life Movement and the “Save the Fox” campaign.

The initiative is one of several community service projects that have been conducted under the auspices of the college’s SkillsUSA organization. VGCC recently joined the national partnership of students, teachers and industry, working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. Students in a variety of VGCC programs are eligible to join SkillsUSA. For more information on SkillsUSA at VGCC, contact Public Services department chair Steve Hargrove at [email protected] or (252) 738-3467.

For more information on becoming a bone marrow donor, visit or

VGCC to offer Biotech Workshop to high school students

Vance-Granville Community College has scheduled its fourth annual Biotech Workshop for local high school students, as one of a series of VGCC Arts & Sciences camps and workshops being held this year.

All tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders who have taken or are currently taking biology and chemistry are invited to attend the workshop, which is set to take place over the course of two Saturdays: April 2 and April 9, each day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students must attend on both days.

Sessions will be taught by VGCC faculty in the state-of-the-art biotech lab in Building 8 on the college’s Main Campus in Vance County. “This workshop will give students a great opportunity to build their résumés and gain hands-on experience in a real laboratory with advanced equipment,” said VGCC Bioprocess Technology program head Dr. Tara Hamilton, who will oversee the workshop. “You can develop lab skills here that you can use in college and in various STEM careers, whether it’s in scientific research, high-tech manufacturing or medicine.”

Students will be introduced to Biotechnology, which is broadly described as using living organisms to develop and manufacture products for human use. This can range from making yogurt and cheese to producing human proteins in bacteria. This workshop will focus on the manipulation and use of various cellular molecules and the techniques commonly employed in a biotechnology laboratory.  Participants will separate proteins and DNA on gels, learn how to culture bacteria for use in obtaining a useful product, and become accustomed to utilizing common laboratory equipment.

The cost to attend the workshop is $50, which includes lunch each day.

This opportunity is one of a number of initiatives by the VGCC Arts & Sciences division to reach out into the community with unique learning activities. The annual VGCC Science Camp for rising sixth, seventh and eighth graders and the Teenworks Drama Camp, which targets rising eighth graders through high school seniors, will both be held this summer.

Registration for the Biotech workshop can be completed online at For more information, contact Dr. Hamilton at (252) 738-3285 or [email protected].

VGCC Child Care Center awarded Five Stars


The state of North Carolina has once again awarded a five-star license — the highest possible rating — to the Child Care Center at Vance-Granville Community College’s Main Campus.

State evaluations of child care programs are conducted once every three years, explained Bridget Perry, the manager of the VGCC center. “On a scale of one to 15 points, our program received 13 total points, earning the renewal of our five-star status,” Perry said. “The five-star rating shows our parents and children how dedicated we are to providing quality care, facilitating positive learning, and maintaining a healthy and safe environment on a daily basis.”

Since the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education began the current system of rating child care centers in 2000, the center on VGCC’s Main Campus has earned the five-star rating in six consecutive evaluations (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016). VGCC also maintains a five-star-rated child care center on its Franklin County Campus.

As part of the evaluation process, the Main Campus Child Care Center was visited by fire and sanitarian inspectors, a state licensing consultant and two state-appointed evaluators. They rated the center in two categories – staff education and program standards. The center received a perfect score of seven points in the area of staff education, five points for program standards, and a bonus point because all of its teachers have associate’s degrees in early childhood education.

“The strengths of our child care center are the level of commitment the teachers demonstrate every day, the support from Vance-Granville Community College faculty and staff, and the support from the community, students and the families we serve,” Perry said. She also had high praise for the center’s staff. “The dedication of Hilda Cordell, Pam Harris, Kathy Hughes, Deborah Harris, Rhonda Pegram and Lizzie Nelms made our success possible,” Perry said. “They all are eager to come here every day and be the best! They are awesome, and I am blessed to have such an amazing group of teachers. I am grateful I was chosen one year ago to become a part of this family.”

Perry pointed out that not only does the center provide outstanding child care, but it also affords an excellent environment for students in Vance-Granville’s Early Childhood Education program to gain practical training. The VGCC Child Care Center is licensed to accommodate 38 children, toddler to four years old. For more information, parents can call Bridget Perry at (252) 738-3220.


VGCC Trustees endorse Connect NC Bond

The Vance-Granville Community College Board of Trustees has voiced its support of the Connect NC Bond on the ballot for voters in the primary on March 15.

In a unanimous vote on Monday night, Feb. 8, at the trustees’ regular bimonthly meeting, the board adopted a resolution of support for the $2 billion bond package.

“The Connect NC Bond … will enable North Carolina’s systems of higher education to educate and train a highly qualified workforce for the 21st century and will support our state’s parks, National Guard, community infrastructure, and agricultural resources,” the resolution states.

If approved by the state’s voters, $7.6 million of the bond package “will pay for ongoing, necessary improvements for VGCC and provide a substantial savings to the people of Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties,” the resolution states.

“This is the first statewide bond we’ve had since the year 2000,” VGCC President Dr. Stelfanie Williams told the board. “The state of North Carolina has actually grown by 2 million people since then. We have a lot of new people in our state.

“This will very much benefit our region. Not only will the community college receive funding but also the state parks. Kerr Lake is set to receive $3,750,000. Municipalities can apply for water and sewer infrastructure,” Dr. Williams said.

The college can use its allocation for new construction, renovations and repairs across its four campuses, Dr. Williams added.

VGCC’s proposed allocation is the eighth largest among the state’s community colleges. “The nice thing about this bond for Vance-Granville is that the formula for determining allocations incorporated county wealth and the age of buildings, so we fared well with $7.6 million,” Dr. Williams said.

Steve Graham, VGCC’s vice president of finance and operations, said the college has many needs for retrofitting and enhancing instructional program spaces and addressing critical repair and renovation needs with the bond proceeds, if approved.

Graham noted as examples that partnerships with area industry are resulting in higher enrollments in programs such as the new Mechatronics Engineering Technology academic program. Additional space is needed for lecture areas and for housing new equipment.

Some buildings on VGCC’s main campus have air handling units that are over 30 years old, and there are older model fire alarm systems that need to be replaced, Graham added. In some curriculum areas, such as Cosmetology, electrical and ventilation upgrades are needed.

Dr. Williams added that the public school students will also benefit from the bonds in the four-county area, because there are approximately 800 enrolled in the early college high schools on VGCC’s four campuses.

On the ballot, the Connect NC Bond will be labeled the “Connect NC Public Improvement Bond.” Early voting is scheduled for March 3-12, Dr. Williams said.

The board voted to contribute $7,000 of non-state funds to support the Connect NC Bond Committee.

In other action:

  • Mid-Year Amendments to the 2015-2016 Budget Resolution were approved. Trustee Danny Wright, chair of the board’s Budget Committee, said the adjustments were necessary to account for $2,074,022 in carryover funds from the previous year and grant funding.
  • The board voted to close the Industrial Systems academic program, effective in the fall of 2016, upon recommendation of the Curriculum Committee, chaired by Trustee Barbara Cates Harris. More students are gravitating to the Mechatronics program, contributing to low enrollment in Industrial Systems.
  • Under a new sales tax redistribution plan, the state and local sales tax base will be expanded to include repair, maintenance and installation services, Graham reported. A portion of local sales tax revenue will be placed in a statewide pool and allocated under a new statutory method with the proceeds used for expenditures related to economic development, public schools or community colleges. By county, the estimated annual distribution is: Vance, $241,000; Granville, $1,157,000; Franklin, $1,903,000; and Warren, $778,000.
  • Following a report by Trustee Sara Wester, chair of the Personnel Committee, the trustees approved resolutions to adopt two additional Supplemental Retirement Plans established by the State for the benefit of VGCC employees with no cost to the college. All qualified employees are eligible immediately for the NC 403 (b) and NC 457 plans.
  • The Investment Committee, co-chaired by Trustees Opie Frazier and Donald Seifert, reported on a joint meeting held with members of the VGCC Endowment Fund Board of Directors in January. Seifert said the two boards are currently updating the college’s investment policies.
  • In an update for the Building Committee, Graham reported that work began on the Building 10 renovations in January with an expected completion date of June 23.
  • The board approved a course offering at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner and Warren Correctional Institution in Manson. All courses offered at the state’s prisons must go before trustees for approval.
  • Student Government Association President Aleria Perry, who serves as Student Trustee, announced upcoming events at the college, including Fun Friday for Valentine’s Day on Feb. 12, Spirit Week starting Feb. 29, and a Talent Show for students on March 4.
  • In Dr. Williams’ report to the board, the trustees were updated on activities since the board last met in November, including the recent announcement of a former VGCC president, Dr. Ben Currin, winning the community college system’s top award, the I.E. Ready Award, and plans for VGCC’s new online learning initiative, VOLT (Vanguard Online Learning through Technology), to offer online College Transfer degrees starting in the fall. She also announced the dates of an Arts & Sciences Lecture Series that will feature Bill Barker of Colonial Williamsburg, Va., as Thomas Jefferson; lectures are set for Feb. 18, March 17, and April 21, at 11 a.m. each day in the Auditorium in Building 2. The college’s Fourth Annual Dinner Theater will be held April 28-30. The annual VGCC Endowment Fund Golf Tournament is set for Tuesday, May 3.

The Monday night meeting was moved to Feb. 8 because of inclement weather on the original meeting date of Jan. 25. The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is set for Monday, March 21, on the Main Campus.