DiaKeshia Brooks

RCC fulfills driving ambition for Northern Neck woman

DiaKeshia Brooks

DiaKeshia Brooks, a recent graduate of RCC’s truck-driving program, will soon have the job of driving a “big rig” like this one.

For DiaKeshia Brooks, a 2010 graduate of Rappahannock High School (Richmond County) and now a Westmoreland resident, Rappahannock Community College has allowed her to realize a dream that first captured her imagination when she was an eighth-grader. At that time, she had an opportunity to ride with a family friend who drove for MBI Trucking, a long-haul waste transporter firm; and, as she says, she “fell in love with the idea of driving trucks.”

Over a decade later, Brooks has just finished the tractor-trailer training course offered by CDS through RCC’s Workforce Development Office, and has succeeded in passing the DMV exam for a commercial driver’s license, Class A. This will allow her to drive a tractor-trailer, a truck and trailer combination, or a tractor-trailer bus, as well as all the vehicles covered under Classes B and C.

Brooks did not reach this goal without hitting a few bumps in the road. After graduating from high school, she had difficulty finding direction in her life, partly because she was hanging around with the wrong crowd. But four years ago, when she became a mother, her life turned around and her priorities changed. “I realigned my life,” she says, “doing whatever it took to take care of myself and my son.”

By a fortunate chance, Brooks was driving past the RCC campus one day when the electronic sign flashed a promo for the “Drive a Truck” program. Youth services case manager Frances Kenyear of RCC-Workforce’s Office of Career and Transitional Services helped her to work out the details of enrolling and taking the course. But due to many difficulties in her personal life, she found it a challenge to stay focused on the training and thought many times of quitting.

Both Kenyear and Brooks’s driving instructors believed in her, however. They were anxious for her to succeed and showed “tough love” by not letting her give up, motivating her to keep coming back and making the effort. “They encouraged me to stop saying I couldn’t, and instilled in me a belief that I could.”

CDS instructor George Hels considers it his job to get students to believe in themselves and stop being their own worst enemies. “My biggest challenge is not letting them talk themselves into quitting,” he says. Once he gets them past their initial fears, he can teach them what they need to know. He tries to keep the students relaxed and the classes fun so that they keep coming back; and his reward, he says, comes on the day his students show him the DMV licenses that prove they are truckers.

Brooks praises all her instructors — Hels, Joe Pugh, and Tommy Meade —f or their teaching, support, and continued belief in her. Now that she is so close to her dream, she wants to help other women to conquer their fears, take control of their lives, and move forward on their own. She shares her positive attitude through personal postings on Facebook, which have brought some very affirmative responses, and says that no matter what your situation, you can pursue your dream. “I want to be able to say ‘I did it’,” she says. “I want my son to be proud of me. I’m tired of being pushed around — I’m trying to be an independent woman.”

Prof. Ruth Greene

Prof. Ruth Greene: Making an Impact in Her Community

Prof. Ruth Greene

RCC’s professor Ruth Greene was honored for her contributions to Warsaw’s Northern Neck Regional Jail (NNRJ) — with the newly created “Ruth Greene Award for Service.”

Rappahannock Community College professor of information systems technology Ruth Greene recently received double recognition from Warsaw’s Northern Neck Regional Jail (NNRJ).

When the jail instituted a new award for community members who invested their time in its programs with no thought of return, Greene was not only the first person to receive it, but was also honored by having the award named after her.

The first “Ruth Greene Award for Service” credits Greene’s “ technological expertise” for developing a customized annual evaluation document for jail employees.

“This recognition is the greatest I have ever received,” she says.

Greene’s evaluation document has been identified as a “key strategic element” in enabling NNRJ to fulfill the triple mission of operating a safe, secure, and humane institution; doing so at no cost to the participating jurisdictions; and keeping all current employees on the payroll.

When Michelle Lewis, NNRJ’s director of finance and administration, asked for help on the project, Greene donated countless hours toward working out a document that would meet those goals. As she explained to Lewis, she found the idea of supporting NNRJ deeply satisfying.

Since her husband participated in the criminal justice system as a probation officer until his retirement, and she herself served as an adult educator at NNRJ before coming to RCC, she understands how difficult corrections work is, and was eager to do something significant to create real change.

“Serving my community through NNRJ’s efforts has truly been a life mission,” she says.

In presenting the award, Lewis told Greene, “You have been an artist on the team of builders tasked with securing the foundation upon which we will continue to add … an architect of NNRJ’s vision.”

NNRJ plans to continue selecting individuals to receive the Ruth Greene Award whose dedication “on their own time and dime” makes work at the jail “better, easier, and more fulfilling.”

Kevin and Christine Austin

Business students find sweet spot with help from RCC family

Ask Kevin and Christine Austin about their RCC experience, and they may share a tale sprinkled with friends, advice, and gourmet cupcakes.

RCC Student Support Specialist Angela Steele-Sample

RCC-King George adds student support specialist

RCC Student Support Specialist Angela Steele-Sample

Angela Steele-Sample is a student support specialist at Rappahanock Community College’s King George site.

A wealth of experience makes Angela Steele-Sample an excellent choice for her new position as student support specialist at Rappahannock Community College’s off-campus site in King George. “My job allows me the opportunity to connect with diverse persons and assist them in various ways,” she says, adding that she strives “to ensure that RCC students have the tools they need to be successful and reach their goals.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in secondary education, and a master’s in business education, Steele-Sample started teaching high school computer and business education classes in the early nineties. In the years since then, she has served in multiple academic positions. Her accomplishments include writing a textbook called “Introduction to Typing” for elementary school students, and creating the first distance education program for the Gainesville campus of Fort Lauderdale’s City College.

Steele-Sample first became involved with RCC in 2009 as a dual enrollment instructor of several business courses, while she continued to teach at King George High School. She finds her present role to be very much in line with her own talents and inclinations: “It’s me being me.” She states, “I am here to engage with and assist our students during their matriculation at RCC, and I hope they will achieve the individual goals they have set for themselves.”

Describing herself as a “military brat,” Steele-Sample mentions growing up in Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, and Germany. Her residence in King George since July 2007 sets a record for the place she has lived longest. She is happily married to Nelson Sample, and “we are blessed with our son, Nathan. I embrace life!” she declares. “I enjoy laughing, reading, shopping, using technology, traveling, staying fit, watching movies, and spending time with my family and friends.” In addition, she is the holder of a second-degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.

Speaking of one of the events Steele-Sample has organized as part of her new responsibilities, RCC’s dean of dual enrollment, Canice Graziano, says, “I am very excited about the Health Fair event that Angela has planned for RCC’s King George Site. This is Angela’s first major event, and she has scheduled an impressive list of health representatives from the King George community, who will be available to talk to students and community members about how to incorporate healthy activities into their daily schedules.”

“Angela is a creative planner,” says King George site supervisor Karen Turner. “She has done an amazing job coordinating the Health, Fitness, and Safety Awareness Day. I applaud her commitment to the students and the King George community. Her dedication contributes to our success. Well done, Angela!”

RCC-King George celebrates health, fitness, safety

Rappahannock Community College site at KGHS

A Health, Fitness, and Safety Awareness Day will be held at RCC’s King George site on Tuesday, March 28.

On Tuesday, March 28, Rappahannock Community College’s off-campus site at King George High School will hold a Health, Fitness, and Safety Awareness Day. The purpose of this event, which will run from 5 to 7 p.m. in the school cafeteria, is to educate RCC students, their family and friends, and the public about the importance of maintaining a healthy and safe lifestyle.

Exercise and fitness demonstrations, as well as safety tips, will be provided. The King George and Dahlgren Police Departments will stage real-life safety scenarios. Other presentations will include tai chi, by King George Parks and Recreation; self-defense, by Muhammad’s Martial Arts; Moving to Heal, by Kiwi; and yoga, by Starr Fitness. A dance ensemble from The Studio will perform at 5:30.

The following community organizations will have booths at the event: the American Red Cross, the Dahlgren Child Youth Programs, King George’s Fire and Rescue Department as well as Parks and Recreation, Perfectly Posh (beauty products), Real Time Topical Pain Relief Products, The Studio, Wildtree (a certified clinical nutritionist), Tropical Smoothie, Starbucks, and Hibbett Sports. A donation by the King George Food Lion has helped provide free bottled water, coffee, popcorn, and healthy snacks for all attendees.

RCC’s Health and Wellness class will assist with the event, and the college mascot, Squall the Seagull, will also make an appearance.

Dr. Charles Bott

RCC to host talk about water sustainability

Dr. Charles Bott

HRSD’s Dr. Charles Bott samples a glass of the purified water produced in the SWIFT pilot project. Dr. Bott will speak about SWIFT at RCC on April 5.

On Wednesday, April 5, Rappahannock Community College’s Environmental Sustainability Committee and its Math and Science Club will co-sponsor a talk about SWIFT (Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow) from 12:25 to 1:25 p.m. in the lecture halls at the Glenns and Warsaw campuses. The speaker will be Dr. Charles B. Bott, director of water technology and research for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD).

SWIFT is an innovative water purification project in eastern Virginia, which is designed to protect the region’s environment, enhance the sustainability of its long-term groundwater supply, and help address environmental issues such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, sea level rise, and saltwater intrusion. The project will take already-treated wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James, or York rivers and purify it through additional rounds of advanced water treatment to meet drinking-water standards. The purified water will then be added to the Potomac aquifer, the primary source of groundwater throughout eastern Virginia. According to swiftva.com, “HRSD is proactively turning Used into Useful to help the Bay, replenish and protect groundwater, fight sea level rise, and support Virginia’s economy.”

As well as managing technology innovation for HRSD’s 13 wastewater treatment plants and collection system, Dr. Bott is an adjunct professor in the departments of civil and environmental engineering at both Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University. He has held multiple leadership and committee roles within the Water Environment Federation, and has served on numerous project oversight subcommittees for the Water Environment Research Foundation. Bott’s other professional affiliations include the International Water Association and the Chesapeake Bay Program Executive Council, where he serves on the Science and Technical Advisory Committee. He has received numerous awards not only for his scientific work but also for teaching and research.

RCC Celebrates Black History Month

RCC marks Black History Month with speakers and soul food

RCC Celebrates Black History Month

Lorraine Justice, administrative officer of RCC’s Student Support Services program, with Dr. Colita Fairfax, who spoke at a Soul Food Luncheon at RCC’s Warsaw Campus on February 20; also, local poet and artist Dorothy Holmes, Justice, and the Rev. Ralph Hodge. Holmes and Hodge were the speakers at the Glenns Campus Soul Food Luncheon on February 22. The words on the rocks at the lower edge of the photo represent the character-building traits of trailblazing African-Americans.

A double celebration, at Rappahannock Community College’s Warsaw Campus on February 20 and the Glenns Campus on February 22, served up satisfying soul food and inspirational speakers to honor Black History Month. On both occasions, the speakers’ theme was “Hidden Figures,” the title of a recent movie that tells the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role at NASA during the early years of the United States space program.

Monday’s first speaker was the Rev. Ralph Hodge of Richmond, who talked about the contributions of his father, Ralph C. Hodge, to the NASA program. In 1968 the Astrophysical Journal published a paper about Hodge’s work at NASA — at the time, a huge accomplishment for an African-American. Also, in the early nineties, he was named Federal Employee of the Year for his work on salmonella bacteria at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Poet and artist Dorothy Holmes spoke after Hodge on Monday. She has written five books, the first having been published in 1978. At age 72, she began doing artwork; now, at 85, she continues to be an active and creative member of the community. Mrs. Holmes recited one of her poems, “Hard Times,” which talks about the struggles of African-Americans during segregation.

Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, an associate professor at Norfolk State University, was featured on Wednesday. She described her book, “Hampton, Virginia,” which speaks of the strong churches, institutions, and businesses, as well as a major university from which political and economic leaders have emerged, that Hampton’s African-American community has fashioned since the Civil War. She then shared stories about the real women behind the dramatized characters depicted in “Hidden Figures.”

Each day’s presentation concluded with a “Soul Food” tasting. Both events were jointly sponsored by RCC’s Student Activities and Student Support Services (SSS) Offices, the Richmond County Public Library, and the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Special thanks are due to Student Activities coordinator Charlene Jones for her valuable help in organizing the events.

For the 2016-17 academic year, RCC was awarded $302,452 to offer assistance to its students through the SSS program. The United States Department of Education established this program to help remove social, cultural, and economic barriers to higher education; it provides RCC students who meet its guidelines with individualized academic and personal counseling, tutoring, and cultural and social enrichment opportunities. The Department of Education makes these services available through the TRIO series of federal grant programs.

Ronnie Littman

Meet the genius among us — 12-year-old Ronnie Littman

Ronnie Littman

Ronnie Littman’s IQ is so high, that he has been tested by Johns Hopkins University, which reported that it was ‘off the charts.’

If you were to walk into RCC and see Dominick Littman walking around with his young son, Ronnie, you most likely would normally assume that the father was the student. However, in the case of Ronnie, normal has never been a self-descriptor.

At only 12-years-old, Ronnie is the youngest college student at Rappahannock Community College. From birth, Dominick says “he’s always been acutely aware that he’s different,” when it comes to academics. “His IQ is off the charts. John Hopkins tested him twice because they couldn’t believe the result the first time.”

Due to his incredible brain power, Ronnie’s parents decided if they “didn’t do something, [to enhance his education] it was going to be detrimental.” Although he was already attending Walsingham Academy, the family chose RCC for Ronnie to continue his education. While he took the entrance exam at 10-years-old, they waited two years before enrolling Ronnie in the college.

Before Ronnie’s entrance into the college, however, he was already making leaps because of his exceptional IQ.

“He started to read and write at an incredibly young age,” says Dominick. “Like even in preschool, his preschool teacher would have him read to the other students.” His passion for reading continues now, as he says, “I like nonfiction books that are modern, but I like to read fiction from a long time ago, because they have words that aren’t commonly used anymore, and I like to learn as much as I can.”

Outside of academics, Ronnie excels in most anything he puts his mind to. “Ronnie’s got a million interests, and he’s really good at all of them,” reports his parents. “He’s done all kinds of plays where he got lead roles,” they continue. “He’s great at singing … he’s gotten every award a Cub Scout can win, he was an altar boy, and he plays soccer.”

Amidst his extracurricular and ‘generic kid’ activities, Enrolled at Walsingham Academy, Ronnie continued to outgrow his academic atmosphere as well, causing teachers to “run out of the ability to keep up with him.” After waiting a few years, his parents finally decided upon enrolling Ronnie at RCC.

In his first semester at the college, Ronnie is taking “College Composition,” “Student Success Skills,” and “Math.” Even though a jump from a grade school to a college can be a large transition, but Ronnie says, “I like challenges, and that’s what I’m getting here.” As he says, “it’s not really the quality of the work, as much as the quantity.” And being here, “actually working,” is what makes him content.

Because a 12-year-old in a college atmosphere isn’t a customary childhood, Ronnie’s parents try to “give him as normal a childhood as we possibly can.” They say, “We’re aware of the fact he’s not spending as much time with kids his own age, whatever we did there were upsides and downsides to it.” Eventually, though, the academic side won out and a college atmosphere was chosen as the best prospect.

After Ronnie’s time at RCC, he’s already planning on “transferring to a 4-year school” and possibly entering a field of science. He is interested in physics because, as he says, “it’s just fascinating the way the world works. We know almost nothing about it, and what we do know, most of it isn’t even definite. We’re here on the Earth and we’re figuring out how we ourselves work and everything else works.”

Ronnie’s parents are very supportive of their son’s academic choices. “He’s one of the few people that doesn’t have limitations if he actually applies himself,” his father says. “Right now he’s very, very interested in science. If I had to guess, I’d say he’d go into something like research.”

“Sometimes, I just want to fit in,” Ronnie says, “but it doesn’t seem like something that would normally happen. I mean, I’m 12, on a college campus.”

“As people get over the newness of him and the novelty of him, he’ll be fine,” Dominick says.

Even though it may feel strange now, Ronnie is still hopeful of the positive experience RCC can give him. “It feels different, but I know that I’m pretty much the same as everyone else inside.” — Mary Cline

Rappahannock Community College was recently ranked as the #2 best Nursing Program in the State of Virginia.

RCC Nursing Program ranks first among Community Colleges

Rappahannock Community College was recently ranked as the #2 best Nursing Program in the State of Virginia.

Rappahannock Community College was recently ranked as the #2 best Nursing Program in the State of Virginia.

Rappahannock Community College’s associate-degree nursing program has recently been acclaimed as the most successful such program at any of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s 23 community colleges, according to the web site registerednursing.org. In addition, it has very nearly achieved the same standing among all 49 of the state’s associate and bachelor degree nursing programs.

RCC ranks second in this group, falling behind only the Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, but ahead of Radford, JMU, Liberty, VCU, and several other four-year universities.

Standings are based on the percentage of graduates of each program who go on to pass the state licensure exam (NCLEX-RN); this exam is required for qualification to become a registered nurse. A number of factors are taken into consideration when calculating scores for each institution, with current statistics carrying more weight than historical data. RCC’s score was 96.85 out of 100.

Registerednursing.org is made up of registered nurses who “care deeply about the profession” and try to “promote excellence in nursing through enabling future nurses with the tools they need to succeed.” One of these tools is information that will allow future nurses to select the best nursing program available. The organization feels that a program’s NCLEX pass rate is one of the best ways of determining how well it prepares its students for a career in nursing.

One of these tools is information that will allow future nurses to select the best nursing program available. The organization feels that a program’s NCLEX pass rate is one of the best ways of determining how well it prepares its students for a career in nursing.

RCC program head Ellen Koehler states, however, “This ranking is a moving target, because there are many other ways to evaluate our program, not just numbers and pass rates. It’s how we meet our students’ needs. How we serve our community. That number may not stay forever. At this point in time, we know that we’re doing our very, very best. That shows over several years of analysis in this one particular area.”

She adds, “Every school wants to be successful. Every school is trying to do their best … and they chase these licensure pass rate numbers all the time. But what we do that’s a little bit different, in my experience, is that we do it with a lot of heart. We really have heart in what we are doing. It’s precious to all of us for that reason because we live in the community that we serve.”