3 new grant awards you should know about (and how you can help)

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The grants office is excited to report a few projects that were funded over the summer. Congratulations to everyone who helped make these projects happen — grants are definitely a team sport. 

Below, I have included ways YOU can help students benefit from these programs as well. Don’t assume students know about them already … your guidance could make all the difference.

1. TRIO Student Support Services

TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), or TRIO Pathways, is supported by the federal Department of Education (DOE). After a very involved application process, we are thrilled to report our TRIO project has been awarded another $1.6 million grant over five years, starting this September. Each year, TRIO SSS offers 250 eligible students individualized academic advising and coaching; career advising and exploration; financial literacy and financial aid advising; transfer services; tutoring; and cultural enrichment trips and events. 

Who: The whole TRIO team should be commended for their continued support of students: TRIO Project Director Angela Hairston-Niblett; Academic Success Coaches Cheryl Hilton and Cathrin “Kitty” Walls; and Office Manager Rhonda Campbell-Kay. The program will now report to Lori Baker, Dean of Student Affairs. 

How you can help: You have the power to help (1) low-income students, (2) first-generation students, and (3) students with disabilities, be more successful by referring them to our TRIO SSS program. Note that under the TRIO definition, first-generation means neither parent has a bachelor’s degree. The TRIO academic success coaches can help students register for classes early and navigate the financial aid and transfer processes. Some loaner laptops are also available. Our support is more important than ever with COVID, as we know low-income, first-generation, and students from underrepresented groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of the crisis — and research is clear that students who stop or drop out are likely to never return. Find the program application and a helpful video overview at https://www.virginiawestern.edu/pathways/.


For the second year in a row, our colleagues in the School of Career and Corporate Training (CTT) have been awarded funding by the VCCS for our RSVP program (Road to Success in Virginia). The funding helps Virginia Western serve low-income families and TANF recipients, who can earn in-demand credentials for employment in healthcare, transportation and manufacturing. Project goals include (1) offering more virtual/hybrid options for healthcare courses; (2) expanding contextualized learning to machining courses; and (3) building stronger relationships with employers. This grant project really showcases the importance of collaborating with community partners, as we work closely with the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board and Roanoke Valley Alleghany Region 5 Adult Education to support our adult learners with childcare, transportation, and other wrap-around services.

Who: The RSVP team includes Project Director Amanda Decker, RSVP Coordinator Melissa Marcus, Career Readiness Specialist David Williams, and online curriculum developer Sally McQuinn

How you can help: Please spread the word about RSVP and our FastForward programs. CCT staff are available to help reduce tuition as much as possible for non-credit students. FastForward is a state-funded grant that covers 2/3 of the tuition for various programs. For example: Tuition for Medical Assisting is $3,210, but with FastForward funding, you only pay $1,070. FastForward recipients may qualify for additional assistance that can reduce or eliminate the remaining tuition cost, including our RSVP program and/or the new VA Ready initiative for anyone who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information is available at https://www.virginiawestern.edu/cct/career-training/.

3. Healthcare Pathways

In late May, VWCC’s Educational Foundation was awarded a $67,000 grant through the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, with support provided by Sentara Healthcare, Optima Health, and the ECMC Foundation. The award will accelerate our collaborative integration of the nursing career pathway (FastForward to RN), with the goal of serving at least 100 allied health pathways students by July 2021. The project will help bring the region’s first hybrid CNA program to scale and launch two new FastForward courses: Medication Aide and EKG Technician. Our efforts couldn’t be more timely, as COVID continues to amplify the critical need for CNAs across the Roanoke Valley. 

Who: Milan Hayward, Vice President of the School of Career and Corporate Training (CCT), is the project director. Staff in both CCT and Health Professions, including Carrie Speck, are working together to make it happen.

How you can help: VWCC is currently looking for qualified Nurse Aide instructors for this program, so please refer any candidates to Human Resources.

Also, Dr. Hayward challenges us to think about future collaborative pathways. He writes:

“The extent to which we are open as a college to the most complete fulfillment of our mission, is the extent to which we’ll eventually succeed in fulfilling the mission. Supportive efforts from non-academic units such as Facilities indirectly and directly supports our college mission of service to the community. The same is true of academic units. The example of the Nursing Collaborative – a transparent and collaborative pathway between CCT and the AASN program – is an example the rest of the college can follow. The Mechatronics on-ramp project with STEM is following a similar pattern. What other programs are faculty and staff willing to establish as more transparent pathways programs for students? CCT is wide open for collaboration with other college departments, particularly to address high-demand skills gaps in our region.” 

I like to think of the pandemic as a portal (credit: novelist Arundhati Roy) … an opportunity to think big, get creative, and imagine a better future. Grants can help us get there, project by project. 

More grant shout-outs go to Yvonne Campbell, Dean of the School of Business, Technology and Trades, for leading our annual Perkins award process, and Kathy Beard, Dual Enrollment Coordinator, for her dedicated work on the Claude Moore Scholars program for high school students. Both of these projects received funding over the summer.

If you are looking for more ways to support students, check out my post from pre-pandemic January: 20 Way to Be a Virginia Western Superhero

As always, I’d love to hear your ideas that may turn into a funded grant project. Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, September 2020

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!