“We truly reflect the citizenship of our region,” President David Shockley of Surry Community College says in the accompanying video. “We are the most diverse higher education entity in the world.”
The students and their needs are so varied, Shockley says – they might be students who are academically prepared to go to a university, but aren’t quite ready to leave home. But 64 percent need remedial academic work to prepare.
“That’s … some of our most beautiful work,” says Shockley, the 2017 NC Community College President of the Year.1 “We take students wherever they are and try to propel them where they want to go.”
Community colleges provide training in specific skills that business and industry need for their workers, Shockley says. But not everyone realizes how many of the people who are critical to our lives were trained at community colleges.
“They don’t realize that we touch 12,000 students every year in continuing education…. When you have that EMT that shows up to your home or an accident scene and you’re so glad to see them … they’ve been trained right here at Surry Community College,” Shockley says. ”When you look at (local) nurses, they have usually been trained right here at Surry Community College.”
The instruction might be as simple – and fun – as a shag-dancing class on a Thursday night, he says.
Colleges must adapt their schedules to meet the needs of nontraditional students – some of them single mothers or fathers who also juggle the demands of a job and family.
“They’re struggling to make ends meet, but yet also trying to change their lives and change the lives of their children,” Shockley says.
“They know that once they go to college, the likelihood of their children following suit just increases dramatically. So we break a lot of cycles in life right here in our rural communities with community colleges and the services we provide our students.”