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Rappahannock Community College Student Wins Literature Prize

W.W. Norton & Company, a New York City book publisher, recently announced winners of its 2021 Norton Writer’s Prize. Rappahannock Community College (RCC) student Mary Margaret Fanning of Westmoreland County won the $1,000 prize for a student attending a 2-year college or university.

“Dr. (Gena) McKinley, my ethics professor at RCC, nominated me for the award. Frankly, I’m over the moon to have won,” said Fanning. “Dr. McKinley’s course challenged me to think deeper about what I believe and helped me better understand the beliefs of others. She’s also been incredibly supportive of me, both in and out of the classroom, and has been a wonderful influence on my academic career. I’m very thankful for all the support and advice she has given me, as well as for her presence in my life.”

Fanning’s essay, Many of Those Trees Were My Friends: An Apologia for the Land Ethic, impressed the judges who commented, “The author of this essay compares and contrasts different approaches to the environment, assessing each philosophical stance and seeking to understand the consequences of human behavior in relation to the environment.” They continued by saying, “Combining analysis and personal experience, the author follows Aldo Leopold in emphasizing the need for humans to see themselves as part of an interconnected community and to show respect for nonhuman members.”

“This award means a lot to me. I plan to graduate from RCC in May with an Associate degree in Arts & Sciences and might take some elective courses in the summer before I transfer to a 4-year institution to get my Bachelor’s degree,” said Fanning. “The professors and staff at RCC have been very supportive and really care about having students thrive. I’m paying for my own education so this award, and the scholarship I received at RCC, has given me great peace of mind.”

Each year, The Norton Writer’s Prize contest recognizes “outstanding original nonfiction by undergraduates. Three cash prizes are awarded for coursework submitted during the academic year to a first-year student in a 2- or 4-year college or university; a student in a 2-year college or university; and a student in a 4-year college or university,” according to W.W. Norton’s website.

“Mary Margaret was a stand-out student in Philosophy 220 (Ethics) from the beginning of the semester, and this essay represents the culmination of her hard work in the course,” said McKinley. “When I read the essay, I thought about the Norton Writer’s Prize because it recognizes the many qualities of great writing, including creativity and originality. Mary Margaret’s essay checked all of the boxes!”



RCC Alumni Damarius Pollard Receives Patent for Trailer Floor Protector

The elders in Damarius Pollard’s life saw a young man with immense potential, who only needed some mentoring and guidance to get him moving ahead. His grandfather, Thomas Pollard, knew that neighbor and family friend Frances Kenyear would lead Damarius in the right direction at Rappahannock Community College. Ms. Kenyear, a long-time RCC recruiter, recalls, “Damarius’ grandfather knew RCC offers many different classes and opportunities and that I could help him enroll in ones that were best for his grandson.”

In true fashion, Ms. Kenyear took Damarius under her wing and helped him enroll in RCC’s welding program. Damarius had a real skill and passion for welding and successfully passed SMAW, GMAW, FCAW, GTAW, and earned credentials in SMAW at RCC. He says, “These classes helped me refine my skills and focus on how I could use them outside of the classroom.”

Damarius was only 28 years old when he took over his grandfather’s business, Pollard Earthmoving, and soon expanded his clientele, fleet of hauling trucks, and services. “As a tractor-trailer driver I noticed some truckers earn more money carrying riprap rock and pulling demolition trailers. This inspired me to develop a means to cover and protect the floor of my aluminum-body trailer.”

Using the knowledge gained in RCC’s welding program, Damarius devised an ingenious temperature resistant, shock absorbing and portable cargo liner that can be used in cargo trailers and vehicles of varying sizes. The cargo liner protects the truck beds from damage and expensive repairs, increases hauling capabilities, extends the life of the trailer or vehicle, and enables drivers to haul asphalt. Damarius knew his invention could help other truck hauling companies and hired a patent attorney to get his cargo liner patented and manufactured.

Patent Number 11396169 was approved on July 26, 2022, and inventor Damarius Pollard’s cargo liner has already gotten the attention of three manufacturers who will be producing the product. Mentor Frances Kenyear and RCC President Shannon Kennedy could not be prouder of Damarius and his accomplishments. “This is what RCC is all about” remarked Kennedy. “Our faculty and staff like Ms. Kenyear are passionate mentors to our students. I see so much home-grown talent in our region and am thrilled about this invention and that Damarius is growing his Essex County-based business.”

Now 33 years old, Damarius Pollard has years ahead of him to develop other inventions, expand his company, and contribute even more to the local workforce. His advice to other young entrepreneurs, “Give yourself time to make mistakes and improve.” 

At a recent photo shoot at RCC, Damarius took the hand of his mentor Frances Kenyear and together they walked into the Warsaw campus building after sharing this incredible story with faculty and staff.