david comerford, learned cdl at rappahannock community college in virginia

David Comerford: The Drive to Succeed

david comerford, learned cdl at rappahannock community college in virginiaThis year marks the 50th Anniversary of Rappahannock Community College. RCC graduates form the backbone of our local economy—our healthcare providers, bankers, lawyers, small business owners and trades-people. It’s hard to go through your day without being served by an RCC alum is some way. RCC’s Faces of 50 spotlights our alum, like David Comerford.

After graduating from Washington and Lee High School (Montross, Virginia), David Comerford wanted to further his education but wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. Preferring to stay in the area and save money led him to Rappahannock Community College.

“RCC is inexpensive and has a convenient location in Warsaw. It’s a good starting point for someone like me, who is not sure about what they want to do,” says Comerford. “I knew I wanted to get an Associate’s degree and then look into workforce programs to add onto the degree.”

While taking the required courses for his degree, Comerford encountered instructors who had a positive impact on him. From history to math, English to sociology, he says his professors wanted him, and his classmates, to succeed.

David Comerford has the Drive to Succeed

Comerford earned his Associate’s degree and returned to his job as a park ranger at Westmoreland State Park. But his relationship with RCC didn’t stop there. His dream was to drive big trucks so he enrolled in the Class A CDL program through RCC. He says, “The time I spent on the [Tappahannock] airfield getting my CDL with the experienced team of instructors was great. I now have my dream career driving a beautiful, big Western Star dump truck for Walker Sand and Stone in King George.”

“I feel the workforce programs are just as important as the traditional college courses. Get your degree so you have some college but then pursue a trade,” offers Comerford. “America needs more people working in trades.”

Rappahannock Community College is celebrating 50 years of breaking down barriers to education in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. Associates degrees and CDL certification are just two of the five degrees, six certificates, and 26 career and workforce studies programs offered through RCC, in addition to nearly 40 guaranteed admissions agreements with colleges and universities across the state and region.

Learn more about RCC and the career paths you can follow yourself.


shawn talley works as a machinist making face masks to help combat covid-19

Shawn Talley: A Machinist Working to Help Combat COVID-19

shawn talley works as a machinist making face masks to help combat covid-19

Shawn Talley took the CNC Machinist course at RCC’s Workforce Development and now works as a machinist making face masks to help combat COVID-19.


by Jennifer Rose Bryant

After graduating from Lancaster High School (Lancaster, Virginia) in 2013, Shawn Talley began attending Virginia Tech in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree. As a freshman, Shawn realized it was all a bit too much, too soon. He returned home and began looking at the options available in his familiar environment.

Undecided about whether to take academic courses at Rappahannock Community College or pursue a trade, Talley signed up for a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) Machinist Operator course through RCC’s Workforce and Community Development Center. A CNC machinist operator cuts, grinds and drills into metals, plastics and other materials with precision. The technical nature — combined with the design aspect of this type of work — appealed to Talley and he was eager to get to work in the field.   

Talley says, “RCC Workforce is a good way to get an idea of what jobs are available in the area.” Marjorie Lampkin, career and transition services coordinator, assisted Talley with each step of the process. The cost-effective and comprehensive course, offered in partnership with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, prepared Talley to embark on an in-demand career as a machinist in about two months.

Immediately after completing the course, Talley was offered a position with Seigler Reels (formerly Truth Reels) where he received hands-on training and became an employee in 2015 as a level 1 CNC Milling and Turning Operator. Working under a seasoned machinist, Talley became a certified CNC Machinist. With several years of practical machinist experience, Talley was hired by Turn Dynamics, a machining manufacturer in Kilmarnock where he’s employed. Some of the interesting items he’s had a hand in making include Seigler fishing reel parts, pressure valves for dental equipment, and a part called a “stand-off” for bulletproof glass in military vehicles.

Making Masks to Help Fight COVID-19

This year, a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is affecting the entire world. Many businesses have reconfigured their production lines to make much needed supplies, and Turn Dynamics is one of them. Talley and the Turn Dynamics crew began making face shields and ear guards to meet local demand for places such as Rappahannock General Hospital, Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury and The Orchard. Talley says they are still producing some of the more typical items, but that much of their production is currently dedicated to PPE. Shawn says they can make about six face shields and 22 ear straps per day.

Talley says, “It feels good to know that the skills I’ve learned have made it possible for me to give aid to those in need during these troubled times.”

Thank you, Shawn!

Find out more about Workforce Development and explore rewarding and in-demand career paths like Shawn did.

Click here to contact us.

Glenns: 804-758-6750

Kilmarnock: 804-435-8970

Warsaw: 804-333-6828

gates photo

Dr. Robert and Mrs. Beverly Gates honored

Dr. Robert and Mrs. Beverly Gates honored as recipients of the 2020 Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy

gates photo

Dr. Robert and Mrs. Beverly Gates

Rappahannock Community College is pleased to announce that Dr. Robert and Mrs. Beverly Gates are the 2020 recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy. This award, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, honors leading philanthropists from each of the Commonwealth’s 23 community colleges.

Dr. Gates has provided leadership to RCC for 16 years, first as a member and then Chair of the College Local Board and then as a member of the RCC Educational Foundation Board. Dr. and Mrs. Gates endowed the Gates-Rex Scholarship at RCC in 2007. 

‘Road Warriors’

RCC President, Dr. Shannon L. Kennedy stated, “Rob and Beverly Gates share a passion for education. Their endowed scholarship fund, which honors the lives of Beverly’s parents, Walter and Florence Rex, provides tuition assistance to RCC students studying business management. We consider Rob and Beverly our philanthropic ‘road warriors,’ traveling across our expansive service region spreading the word about the College’s good work!”

Dr. Gates had a 40-year career as an engineer and technical director at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in the Indian Head and Dahlgren divisions and currently serves as the Chair of the RCC Educational Foundation.

RCC Senior Spotlight: Ashley Fowlkes

Ashley Fowlkes, an LPN nursing student at RCC, will graduate on May 8. She has attended classes since the summer 2019 when she enrolled in the LPN-to-RN bridge program. Ashley shared with us her experience at RCC and her pride in the medical community during this unprecedented time.

An LPN at Work

Ashley Fowlkes has worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in Richmond home health services for five years, and has been licensed for seven years. “I immediately loved home health,” Ashley said fondly. “Working in a facility can be challenging because you have so many patients at once. Working in home health allows me to care for one patient at a time.” Ashley specializes in educating patients on their long-term care options. “Home health has been incredibly enriching – I work by myself, so it’s helped me become more independent and more confident in my own nursing judgment.”

Professors That Inspire

 “The time I had in the classroom was such a valuable learning experience,” Ashley said. “I felt like my instructors took every opportunity to make the most of my class.” Throughout her nursing education at RCC, Ashley noted many professors who she was especially grateful for. ”Leslie Lantz and Carrie Lewis were particularly relatable to me,” she said. “They helped me feel confident that I could still graduate in my thirties! They were my role models.”

Ashley admitted that the transition to online learning was initially challenging, but that her professors were with her every step of the way. “My professors adapted quickly and made the learning experience worthwhile. Even though we weren’t together, I knew that they were always available to help.”

A Profession and a Calling

The Coronavirus has brought attention to millions of medical workers around the world in their efforts to combat the pandemic. Ashley said she has been inspired by the efforts and is proud to be in the profession. “This confirms to me that nursing isn’t just a profession, it’s a calling and a way of life. We feel the need to help and we have the ability to act. To see nurses come together and work together… it gives me hope for the future.”