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Richmond — Southwest Virginia Community College received the Gerald L. Baliles Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) Award from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) to help close the educational attainment gap between the Rural Horseshoe region and the state at large. Named for the 65th governor of Virginia, the award honors Baliles’ legacy of promoting educational accessibility. The primary goals of the RVHI program are to reduce the number of rural residents without a high school diploma and to increase the number of rural residents with an associate’s degree, diploma, or certificate.

“Rural Virginia needs a targeted investment to take care of its next generation so the entire Commonwealth can prosper,” said Stewart Roberson, VFCCE’s board chair.

Each of the eleven colleges that received this funding proposed unique strategies that align with the goals of the RVHI. RVHI programs will serve a diverse range of high school students and adults from underserved and underrepresented populations.

“The Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative funds have been vital to our efforts to partner with our area high schools to provide career coaching that helps students explore options and plan for college or training to enter the workforce after they graduate. We look forward to adding a part-time coaching position that focuses exclusively on the career and technical schools to ensure that we support all students in an equitable way,” said Dyan Lester, Dean of Student Success at Southwest Virginia Community College.

The RVHI Award with a match from the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation supports funding for Career Coaches at Lebanon and Castlewood High Schools, as well as a Part-time CTE Coach for Buchanan, Tazewell, and Russell Counties.

“Our interactions with the high school students and those who transition to college coaching services have shown to be critical to students’ success. The RVHI award allows us to continue our excellent work in this area,” said Dr. Tommy Wright, President of Southwest Virginia Community College.

The VCCS High School Career Coach program is essential to public high schools in the southwest Virginia area; whether it be assisting high school students with career exploration, career preparation, or college planning, the career coach’s main role is to prepare students for the next step after high school. Students see their career coach as a vital part of their educational journey, and one that will help them cross the threshold into a productive career or higher education.

By investing in rural education, the VFCCE is working with Virginia’s Community Colleges to promote opportunities to pursue higher education and a more equitable Commonwealth.

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About Southwest Virginia Community College: Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve approximately 241,000 students each year. For more information, please visit http://www.sw.edu.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS): Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 252,000 students each year. For more information, please visit https://www.vccs.edu/.

The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) is a supporting arm of Virginia’s 23 community colleges. It works to broaden educational access, promote student success, and provide innovative solutions to workforce needs. To ensure access to high quality, affordable education, the VFCCE provides statewide leadership in raising funds for community college education, supplementing the activities of the 23 individual colleges, and advocating for major system-wide initiatives that could not be undertaken by any single college. For more information, please visit https://vfcce.org/.