Jimmy Harrison: Faculty and Janitorial Staff Made RCC Experience Great

Jimmy Harrison, RCC Alum

Jimmy Harrison

“If it hadn’t been for the positive experience that I had at RCC, I might have given up on going back to school,” says Jimmy Harrison, marine habitat specialist for NOAA Fisheries in Huntington Beach, California. After Jimmy separated from the Air Force and returned to Virginia to finish his education, he wasn’t sure how he would fare. It had been nearly five years since he was in a traditional educational setting. He says the interesting, yet challenging, coursework and smaller class sizes at RCC kept him engaged.

Mr. Paden, Mrs. Pace, and Ms. McHale are a few of the faculty Jimmy says played significant roles in his success. “They were always there to help when I needed it, and consistently provided useful feedback and insight,” remarked Jimmy.

A Special Thanks to the Janitorial Staff at RCC

“And, although they were not directly involved in my education, the janitorial staff also made my experience at RCC even better. I always appreciated how dedicated they were to ensuring the school was a welcoming environment. The joy on my mom’s face at graduation when one member of the janitorial staff said he was going to miss seeing me around is something I’ll never forget.”

These days Jimmy says he is living, working, and loving life in Southern California and believes RCC played a tremendous role in getting him to where he is now. After graduating from RCC, Jimmy earned a Bachelor’s degree at Old Dominion University and then worked at VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences). “RCC was a critical step, for me, in transitioning back into civilian life and working towards my goal of studying marine science,” he added.

Avis Hackett-Fortune delivers RCC's 2019 Student Commencement Address, May 10, 2019

RCC’s Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivers Student Commencement Address

{In song} They said I won’t make it; said I won’t be here today; said I’d never amount to anything; but I’m glad to say I made my way … and I’m graduating here again today.

RCC's Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivering 2019 Student Commencement Address

RCC’s Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivering 2019 Student Commencement Address

Good evening graduates, families, friends and faculty.

I am very delighted to be here at my second graduation tonight.

My name is Avis Hackett-Fortune. I am greatly appreciative to the faculty for asking me to speak tonight and share just a bit of my educational journey in hopes of giving someone a little more encouragement.

Going to college was my ambition after high school but neither my parents nor I, as a single parent, could afford it. I did not want to put my parents through the struggle of paying for my education because I had a great fear of failing.

Tonight, I would like to touch on the concepts of failure, perseverance and achievement.

Failure inevitably happens but it does not have to be the final outcome. As my grandmother always told me “nothing beats a failure but a try.” Every day I wake up with an expectation to accomplish something valuable to me; even if it’s only learning a new word, taking another course, or helping someone else make a positive difference in their life.

From 1976 until today, I have had many life experiences, which have hindered my abilities/opportunities to continue my education. There were many starting and stopping points where others thought I should give up.  My friends, family and even co-workers would always tease me about being the oldest person to graduate and ask me “why and how long was I going to go to school?” However, no matter what anyone said to me or about me, I refused to give in to failure!  I persevered!

Regarding my perseverance: When I started taking classes as a part-time student in 1976, there were no technological advancements like there are today. There were no online classes, scientific calculators, laptops, or blackboard. I actually had to carry a book bag with study books, pencils, pens and paper. I was ecstatic when online courses were introduced in 2000.

From 1988 to 1991, I worked full-time in Washington, DC, and took night classes at RCC.

From 1991 to 2014, I worked full-time in Dahlgren, taking both night and online classes. From 1976 to 2014, I have worked and taken courses at RCC and while taking these courses, I have raised 4 children, 13 grandchildren, and have cared for multiple family members, but I persevered!

Additional challenges arose, as the major requirements would change resulting in me having to retake classes, take additional classes that I did not need before, or changing my major. I persevered!

Furthermore, in 2014, while taking my final courses, I was involved in a car accident, which affected my short-term memory. We all know how hard it is to study without any type of brain issue but I persevered!

In the last 40 years, at the age of 56, with 228 credit hours, and seven different majors in addition 32 years full time work, raising my children and grand-children, I received my Arts and Science degree in Business Administration with a Certificate in General Education.

In 2018, while working part-time at RCC and taking care of my sick father and terminally ill aunt, I persevered in the completion of my Certificate of Accounting and proudly becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

Education is the most powerful weapon we have. According to Webster’s Dictionary it is “the means of acquiring knowledge by learning.” To parallel education to breathing, breathing is a necessity to life. If you stop breathing, you die. If you stop learning, you will not succeed. Just like breathing, learning should be a fundamental instinct in life that we continuously practice and expand upon every day. Once you learn something no one can take it away. It’s essentially another means to surviving.  Every day I get up, I am breathing and I am learning. I am persevering!

You should always strive to educate yourself beyond the point of satisfaction in self-worth. If you are studying to be a nurse and you are graduating today as a CNA, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to study to become an LPN, RN or even a doctor.

If you are studying for, or have, a Business degree, rise to the next step of the ladder of success – become a business owner or the lender that can help others who are trying to succeed. If you studied the law to become a lawyer, maybe take the steps to become the next District or Supreme Court Judge. Don’t stop there, perhaps venture off into a different field.  Always take that extra step to greatness. Persevere!

People will always wonder about, discuss, have opinion about, and make suggestions on your life and your actions. I say be proud of who you are, don’t allow others’ perceptions of you effect your life decisions and choices. Get your education and be the best that you can be in whatever it is that you decide to do or become. Persevere!

As for my achievement, my degree has brought me to the most satisfying position I have ever held in 40 years as a Fiscal Specialist here at our Rappahannock Community College, advancing my financial career, allowing me to start my bookkeeping and advance my catering businesses.

I once heard someone say, “Life’s toughest storms only prove how strong your anchor really is!”  Do not settle with being whom or what someone else expects you to be, be who you want to be. Continue to Persevere!

While today may be your last day as a student at RCC, it is the beginning of a new chapter in life; the beginning of accomplishing new goals whether it be more school or the beginning of your career. Remember, failure should not be the final outcome!  It’s okay to fall just make sure you get back up and keep moving forward.  “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning, said Rich Dad Company founder, Robert Kiyosaki.” Persevere!

I want to let you know I left my aunt/godmother’s viewing to come here this evening and she came with me. I always will remember her telling me to be all I could be and never stop doing what makes me a better person. Always Persevere!

I would like to thank my fellow students, faculty, friends, family and most of all God for supporting me as I pursued my goals.

I would like to leave you with my grandmothers’ quote, “Nothing beats a failure but a try!” and as Janet Daily would put it, “Someday is not a day of the week”! So start today! Put in your applications for jobs, education, scholarship, whatever it is you want to achieve.

Continue to strive ahead!

Persevere for the award of achievement and Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

frances clark

Frances Clark: RCC Led to a Great Nursing Career

Francis Clark at her Pinning Ceremony

Francis Clark at her Pinning Ceremony

Frances Clark grew up in a small town in South Carolina and went to the University of South Carolina to major in Art.

But then life happened. She fell in love, got married, and moved to Montross (Westmoreland County), Virginia, where she realized she needed skills in order to get a job.

Not really knowing what she wanted to do she took her mother’s advice to study nursing and was accepted into RCC’s nursing program. At RCC she met Catherine Courtney, founder of RCC’s nursing program, who encouraged and nurtured her through her journey to become an RN.

Practical Experience at RCC

“I liked the nursing program at RCC because they gave us practical experience, not a lot of writing papers,” says Clark about her days at RCC. “Once I got my RN I worked at Tappahannock and then Mary Washington hospitals with flexible shifts so I could take care of our children.”

“The last 12 years of my career I worked in Interventional Radiology. They worked us hard. It’s funny but I don’t remember the easy or light days. I remember those hard days. The days you didn’t think you could make it but the interactions with the patients made it worthwhile.

Simple things like washing someone’s hair, holding an elderly patient whose lungs and heart were failing, laughing and crying with them. These are the moments I recall most.”

These days Clark is on the other side as a patient herself. She’s grateful for the excellent team of nurses she has on her side but misses being a nurse.

“Mrs. Courtney would be proud of me. I turned out to be a great nurse. I had a great career as a nurse and never lost a patient unexpectedly,” says Clark.

Dr. Shannon Kennedy

Dr. Shannon L. Kennedy Hired to Become Next President of Rappahannock Community College 


Dr. Shannon Kennedy

Dr. Shannon Kennedy

RICHMOND – Glenn DuBois, the chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, announced today that Dr. Shannon L. Kennedy, currently of Shelby, North Carolina has been hired to become the next president of Rappahannock Community College. Today’s announcement caps off a national search that attracted 70 applicants.

“Shannon has more than two decades of higher education experience with a heavy emphasis in academic affairs and workforce development training,” said DuBois. “She also offers years of experience as a college’s chief financial officer, finding ways to ensure the college operates efficiently and prioritizes resources toward serving students. We are grateful to add Shannon, and her family, to RCC and the VCCS.”

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Shannon Kennedy to Rappahannock Community College and the communities and families that it serves,” said Ellen Matthews Davis, chair of the Rappahannock Community College local board. “Her wide-ranging experience and deep background in community colleges will serve us well. We look forward to many years of growth and success with Dr. Kennedy.”

Kennedy has nearly 25 years of higher education experience and is a former television journalist.

She began her career at Gardner-Webb University, in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in 1996 as a public relations assistant. She later worked at the college as an adjunct English professor and director of Foundation and Corporate Relations.

In 2000, Kennedy moved to Cleveland Community College, in Shelby, North Carolina to become the director of public relations and grants development. There, Kennedy has been promoted several times to positions including associate dean, dean, executive vice president of Instruction and Student Development, and to executive vice president – the position in which she currently works.

Further, she has served as an on-site reaffirmation committee member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) for eight institutions over the past seven years.  Kennedy earned a bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in Pennsylvania; a master’s degree from Appalachian State University; and a doctorate from North Carolina State University.

“I’m very honored and excited to work with the great faculty and staff at Rappahannock Community College,” said Kennedy. “RCC is respected throughout the service area and provides incredible opportunities for Virginians in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. The area is absolutely beautiful and my family and I are looking forward to relocating.”

Kennedy will succeed Dr. Sissy Crowther, the college’s third president, who announced last fall that she is retiring at the end of June 2019, after serving in that role for more than 15 years. Kennedy will assume RCC’s presidency at the beginning of July.

Rappahannock Community College has six distinct centers of learning, including two campuses, to serve the students in its service area, which includes the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck regions of Virginia. For more information, please visit https://www.rappahannock.edu.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges: 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 241,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.