July 23, 2015
Forty-seven guests from Higher Achievement Richmond visited the area Wednesday and today for a tour of the Southern Virginia region.
The group consisted of eighth-graders called “scholars” who are exploring unique higher education options throughout the commonwealth.
Higher Achievement seeks to close the opportunity gap for students during the pivotal middle school years. By leveraging the power of communities, Higher Achievement provides a rigorous year-round learning environment, caring role models and a culture of high expectations, resulting in college-bound scholars with the character, confidence and skills to succeed.
The tour was organized through the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.’s Tourism Division as part of its Group Tour Program. The Tourism Division staff members, Higher Achievement officials and community partners have been planning the event for more than a year.
The scholars began their experience in Danville at Averett University. They had a college dining experience in the Student Center and tours of Averett’s School of Nursing which included interactions with virtual patients. The experience gave them a glimpse into the field of nursing and the new technologies used to train medical professionals.
The group then traveled to Martinsville and toured the New College Institute (NCI) and the FAB Lab.
At NCI, the scholars discussed the changing shape of manufacturing and were asked to share their perceptions of what a factory was like. They then were shown the Advanced Film Manufacturing Bay and learned how industry has evolved through use of technology.
“NCI’s Advanced Manufacturing High Bay represents technological advancements in both manufacturing and education. Modern manufacturing integrates high level skills in technology and math. With training available at NCI and Patrick Henry Community College, we hope to prepare the next generation for quality jobs in the field of advanced manufacturing,” said Autumn Morris, NCI’s director of marketing and communications.
In the FAB Lab, which is part of Patrick Henry Community College’s Dalton IDEA Center, the scholars learned about hi-tech devices that are revolutionizing manufacturing, including 3D printers, plasma cutters, CNC routers and more. The lab is the first of its kind in Virginia, and the tools there give businesses and inventors the opportunity to create prototype products easily and affordably.
Next, the group visited Martinsville Speedway where participants toured the facility, took a couple laps around the historic track on their motor coach and met representatives of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program.
NASCAR’s Director of Racing Operations, Brandon Thompson, pit crew member Ricky Rozier and driver Natalie Decker participated in a panel discussion and fielded questions from the scholars on the importance of working hard, good communication and doing their homework.
Decker said she enjoys connecting with youth and she likes “hearing their stories and telling them mine.”
“It is a great experience not just for them, but for me as well,” she added.
Following the presentation, the group was able to mingle with the racing team members, pose for photographs and collect autographs. A mean was catered by Checkered Pig BBQ.
The group rounded out the day with a trip to the Martinsville-Henry County YMCA for some leisure time at the pool and gym.
After an overnight stay at the Comfort Inn, Thursday morning began with continued exploration of motorsports in Martinsville-Henry County. The scholars learned about motorsports education at Patrick Henry Community College’s Racing College and engine production at Arrington Performance.
The group saw performance vehicles of all kinds in both facilities and learned the importance of science, math and engineering in this industry.
“This has been an invaluable experience showing three different pathways to careers,” said Chelsea Tinsley, with Higher Achievement.
Higher Achievement Richmond’s tour concluded with a visit to the Smith River Sports Complex. Scholars saw fields where the NJCAA’s Men’s Soccer National Championships will take place this fall and had a pizza lunch and time on the field before returning to Richmond.
“I’m appreciative for this opportunity for our scholars…giving them opportunities to shine (and) experience things they haven’t experienced before,” said Tyren Frazier, executive director for Higher Achievement Richmond.
Frazier added that the tour agenda “kept our scholars busy (and) engaged throughout the entire time.” He added that “it was truly amazing for our eighth graders to experience.”
According to Heather Hoffman, visitor services coordinator with EDC’s Tourism Division, “Developing group tour itineraries takes a great deal of planning and we are so appreciative of all of the community partners that helped make this tour a success.”
“Bringing overnight groups like this to the community showcases our area offerings while having a positive economic impact on the local hospitality and tourism industry,” she added.
For more information about group tour opportunities in the Martinsville-Henry County area, contact Hoffman at 403-5948 or HHoffman@YesMartinsville.com.
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