RCC hosts Virginia’s Secretary of Education for tour of Warsaw

Gabby Balderson and Secretary Qarni

Essex County resident and RCC student Gabby Balderson meets Secretary Qarni. They spent a few moments together chatting about Balderson’s transfer to George Mason University upon her graduation from RCC.

On May 2, Rappahannock Community College hosted Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, for a visit to the Warsaw Campus. This was one stop of many for Qarni, who made his way to RCC as part of a state-wide tour of schools and colleges.

“Our tour started about six weeks ago, and I have about 2-3 weeks more to go,” says Qarni. “After we’re done, my office will take many of these recommendations to the governor — saying this is what we learned.”

Dr. Donna Alexander, RCC’s Vice President of Instruction and Student Development, met Qarni at the main entrance and took him on a tour of campus, giving him a look at the classrooms, labs, and technology that allows the College to function.

Since Qarni visited during exam week, most RCC students were in classrooms working on tests and could not be disturbed. But he was able to interact with a group of students from the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, who attend classes at Warsaw Campus. Qarni chatted with them for some time and eventually took a group photo with many of the students in the room.

Qarni’s experience in education comes directly from the classroom, as he was an eighth-grade teacher in Prince William County when Governor Ralph Northam asked him to serve in the administration.

After the tour, Qarni met with RCC faculty and staff and fielded questions from them as well. He made it clear to those gathered that community college is a big part of the plan for education in Virginia, and he expects that role to grow in the coming years.

“We see community colleges as a great mechanism, especially with dual enrollment,” says Qarni. “Whether a student graduates high school and goes right into the workforce or whether they use the community college mechanism to build a career pathway.

Qarni said that in his travels, he’s observed that every community college, every school, and every region does something well. He said that he’d like to take what each does well and elevate that knowledge and expertise to the state level.

“Here [at RCC] I’m noticing that there’s a really good transition with the students coming in,” says Qarni. “They are taking the classes, and they are planning it well. It’s a great process to have to help make higher education more affordable.”

During the meeting with faculty and staff, Qarni spent some time talking with RCC student Gabby Balderson, who will soon graduate from the College and transfer to George Mason University, the same place where Qarni earned his master’s degree. Qarni gave Balderson a few pointers on what to expect at GMU, and he asked her a few questions about her RCC experience as well.