A May 27 talk from Congressman Rob Wittman (who represents Virginia’s 1st District) helped Rappahannock Community College students to zero in on the importance of additional education after high school.
This need not necessarily be a bachelor’s or master’s degree, Wittman stressed; of the many new jobs that are now becoming available, 60 percent, he said, do not ask applicants to have a four-year degree, but do require skills or knowledge beyond the high school level, such as an RCC associate degree or career studies certificate can provide. “You will not find a better institution of higher learning on the face of the earth!” he declared.
Several of Wittman’s family members have graduated from RCC, and he has himself taught for the college’s Adult Education program. He considers it of prime importance for the college to make higher education accessible to all area residents. In particular, those who could not otherwise afford the necessary money and time to pursue a curriculum must be guided through the financial aid process, and introduced to the many forms of help offered by the Student Support Services (SSS) program (which sponsored the May 27 event).
Wittman knows the needs of his district as few do. A native of the Northern Neck, he grew up in Westmoreland County, gaining hands-on experience of the “Three Fs” — farming, fishing, and forestry, the leading “industries” of the region. His college major of biology emphasized responsible management of these resources, and his first job, after he graduated was with his local health department. Later he earned a master’s degree in health policy and administration, and a doctorate in public policy and administration.
“We have to start earlier,” he said about introducing young people to the idea of an educational path that leads to a career. “High school is too late. We need to start having those conversations in middle or elementary school” — in order to ensure that each student has the necessary skills in place when the time comes to apply for a job.
After Wittman concluded his remarks, RCC’s administrative officer for the SSS program, Lorraine Justice, called upon several students who attended the event to tell the audience about their RCC experiences and their eventual goals. One spoke of completing the college’s nursing program, then going on to earn a BSN, an MSN, and perhaps a doctorate in health administration.
Another, a Marine Corps veteran, is working for an associate degree in Health-STEM, and hopes to study physical or occupational therapy for his bachelor’s degree. A Spring 2015 RCC graduate has enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s chemical engineering program: “I’ll be a woman engineer,” she announced. “Look out for me!”
“What inspiring stories!” said Wittman. “I can tell you will succeed if you stay on your paths and keep your aspirations.”