“I don’t think I’ll ever quit being a student,” says Jessica Crabill, a 2009 graduate of Rappahannock Community College who has made her way around the world and found that the Northern Neck was where she belonged.
Crabill is a visual journalist and photographer whose yearn to learn brought her to the College after graduating from Christchurch School. Before entering RCC, she took a year off to travel to exotic places like El Salvador, Zambia and South Africa where she volunteered for medical clinics and orphanages through Christian mission trips. She returned to the United States with a greater appreciation for what many of us take for granted. After she got back, Crabill decided to attend RCC.
“RCC seemed like it was the most financially sound decision,” said Crabill. “I put myself through school and it made the most sense to me. I was able to work and save for university.”
Crabill was impressed with the support offered to her by the staff at RCC, particularly the counselors in Student Support Services.
“They really encouraged me to not limit my goals,” she says. When she graduated in 2009 with an associate degree in arts and sciences, she was able to transfer to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after taking the advice of the counseling department.
“I went to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 2009 and graduated in 2011,” says Crabill. “I was in the school of journalism and mass communication and I received my bachelor’s in photojournalism.”
Despite the gigantic shift in campus population, Crabill reports that her experience at UNC and RCC were not too far off when comparing the rigors of some of the classes.
“My professor for English at RCC was phenomenal,” says Crabill. “I love English and I love writing and literature. I also took literature courses at UNC and Mr. Rockson was on par, on the same plane of excellence that was there.”
From there she accepted an internship at the Winston-Salem Journal in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she continued to hone her photographic and video skills. But after a while of living in North Carolina, something made her turn north and head back to Virginia.
“I thought about living in North Carolina, but I ended coming back to the Northern Neck,” she says. “I love living here in a small town!” Crabill says of her current home in White Stone.
And perhaps due to her love of learning, Crabill works as a legal assistant at Lee Stephens Law in Irvington. Working for a law firm was not her intention originally, but she has grown to enjoy the specific law that they are involved in — conservation law.
“My job incorporates real estate, land use, and property rights, which I’ve had an interest in,” says Crabill. “As long as I have a job where I am appreciated and I feel like I am growing and my knowledge is expanding, I am happy.”
While her days are filled with legal work, Crabill is able to continue working as a photographer and videographer on a freelance basis. Crabill produced an educational and recruitment video for her high school alma mater, Christchurch School. She also has been able to indulge in architectural photography as well.
“I’ve done a lot of architectural [work] with firms in Alexandria,” says Crabill. “Some of my photos have been published in Home and Design Magazine and locally in House and Home Magazine.”
While she’s worked on a few projects here and there, Crabill thinks that there is a lot more that can be done from an artist’s standpoint in this region.
“I haven’t quite found my niche yet,” says Crabill. “I’m making pictures and producing films in a small town on a much smaller scale than what I would do for The Washington Post while living in the city, but the images are important and the stories are important.”
Now that she is back in the Northern Neck, she runs into young people who are close to graduating from high school, and she admits that she has given the same recommendation to them, many, many times.
“I know some high school age students, and I have always encouraged them to consider RCC as one of their best options,” she says. “I like that you get a lot of hands-on, one-on-one time with your professors and the staff in admissions and financial aid.
“I’m the first one in my family to graduate from college and it was very, very helpful to have those services,” says Crabill. “It was a great foundation that launched me into an amazing school … I can’t say enough great things about RCC.”