NCI honors recent grads at ceremony

December 15, 2009

By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Twenty-eight recent graduates who took classes at the New College Institute were honored Monday at the institute’s Winter 2009 graduate recognition ceremony.

NCI Executive Director Barry Dorsey said many students chose to attend the graduation ceremonies at the schools that awarded their degrees. However, he said, many students also attended NCI’s ceremony because that is where they took their classes.

NCI offers the second two years of bachelor’s degree programs and master’s degree programs through several colleges and universities. Students take their courses at NCI but earn degrees through the colleges or universities in which they are enrolled.

NCI offers 17 degree programs and certificates, and officials hope to add more, Dorsey said. Since NCI opened in the fall of 2006, 114 students have graduated, he said.

Melody Wood was one of the first students to earn a degree in social work through NCI’s partnership with Norfolk State University. Wood said the degree helped her gain confidence and a desire to help others.

“It was great to be able to work full time while meeting requirements for my studies,” she said.

Wood said she never realized how much the program would help her grow. Now, through her degree, she will be able help others in the community, she said.

Graduate April Haynes said earning a bachelor’s degree had been a personal goal.

“I’m proud to say I am the first-generation college student in my family,” she said.

After earning an associate degree from Patrick Henry Community College in 1994, Haynes said she continued to work toward a bachelor’s degree.

“Unfortunately, I could only afford to take one class at a time,” she said.

Eventually, Haynes learned about NCI’s student access grants, which are available to students enrolling in NCI for the first time. Along with other scholarships, she was able to enroll and pursue a degree in business administration through Averett University.

Haynes earned her degree in two years. During that time, she worked full time, gave birth to her second child and took classes, she said.

“In some ways the past two years have flown by,” she said, “but there were also times I wasn’t sure if it would ever end.”

Haynes said Averett’s program was designed for working professionals, and she was grateful to have the program available in Martinsville, where she works at the Martinsville Area Community Foundation.

“After work I could walk around the corner to class,” she said.

She took classes once a week from 6 to 10 p.m. and met with study groups on the weekends. A professor from Averett traveled to Martinsville to teach the classes, she said.

Haynes said both Averett and NCI faculty were helpful when she had her baby while pursuing her degree. However, she could not have completed the program without the help of her family, she said.

Dorsey reminded those at the ceremony to thank family members for their help.

“Many times,” he said “a graduation is a family achievement.”

The programs offered by NCI are designed to fill needs in the area, Dorsey said. Although graduates must take the best available jobs, he said he hopes some will stay in the area and use their new skills for the good of the community.

Dorsey said that NCI now uses 30,000 square feet in uptown Martinsville that otherwise likely would be vacant. On some nights, he said, every classroom is full.

That makes it hard to offer science classes that require labs, Dorsey said. NCI hopes to expand its campus as it continues to add new programs, he said.

For those who are contemplating entering an NCI program but are concerned about family and work commitments, Haynes had some advice.

“You can do it, but you have to be willing and have determination,” she said.


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