WINTERVILLE — Officials with the Pitt Community College VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program are encouraging Pitt County public high school juniors to submit applications for membership.

Started in 2004 to help improve Pitt County’s high school dropout rate, VISIONS is the product of a partnership between the PCC Foundation, Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, and Pitt County Schools. Students accepted into the program receive the support and guidance they need in order to complete high school, enroll in higher education, and join the local workforce.

In the program’s 13-year history, nearly 100 percent of VISIONS participants – 703 of 706 between 2005 and 2017 – have graduated from high school, according to VISIONS Program Director Marianne Cox.

“VISIONS is truly a unique program, not only in the North Carolina Community College System but the state, in general, in terms of funding and support,” Cox says. “More than a decade after it began, the program continues to achieve its mission of reducing high school dropout rates and helping students make the transition from high school to college and/or work.”

To be considered for VISIONS, students must have a grade point average between 2.0 and 3.2. PCC VISIONS High School Technical Coordinator Jim Shallow says financial need, disciplinary records and career interests are also factors.

“We’re looking for students who may not have an opportunity to go to college after high school graduation without assistance from VISIONS,” Shallow said. “They may be first-generation college students or considered ‘at-risk,’ but ultimately they have the drive and desire to better themselves and become successful professionally and in the community.”

Currently, VISIONS serves 94 high school seniors from the class of 2018. Shallow says J.H. Rose and South Central have the highest representation with 20 students each, followed by Ayden-Grifton (19), D.H. Conley (14), North Pitt (13) and Farmville Central (eight).

Osiel Aguirre, a 2016 Ayden-Grifton High School graduate, is in his second year of the welding program at PCC. He says VISIONS helped him establish an educational path to become a welder.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to be in VISIONS was because of an inspirational speech and the excitement Jim Shallow showed me when he came to me and introduced himself,” Aguirre said. “[He said] VISIONS wasn't just going to help out financially but also help me transition from high school life to college life ….”

While in high school, VISIONS participants receive mentoring, tutoring, and academic and personal advising from PCC staff, who monitor students’ academic progress by visiting their schools and meeting with them one-on-one and in group settings. They also arrange seminars for students on important topics, like goal-setting, test-taking skills, and applying for federal financial aid.

VISIONS students who enroll at PCC after high school graduation receive personal and academic counseling at the college in addition to $1,000-scholarships ($500 per semester). The students can renew their scholarships for a second year as long as they maintain a 2.3 GPA or better throughout their first year of college.

Due to VISIONS’ success, Herman Simon, a key figure in the creation of the program, and the Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation have increased funding to allow more students to participate. To date, VISIONS has served 813 Pitt County students.

For additional information on the VISIONS application process, contact PCC VISIONS High School Coordinator Rebecca Warren at (252) 493-7501 or rwarren@email.pittcc.edu. Applications are available on the PCC website (www.pittcc.edu) and in career development coordinator/student services offices at each of Pitt County’s six public high schools.

College to pause CRC testing to prepare for changes by ACT, Inc.

PCC officials have announced that the college will temporarily suspend Career Readiness Certificate testing this month in order to prepare for changes ACT, Inc., has made to the workplace assessment.

According to PCC Business and Industry Director Jerry Jones, all testing at the PCC Greenville Center’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) Lab will be suspended Sept. 18-30. Normal operations, he said, will resume Oct. 2.

Based on the ACT WorkKeys system – a set of real-world workplace assessments – NCRC is a portable, nationally-recognized credential that can help individuals verify workplace skills and increase their employability. The test also gives employers the tools necessary to plan, screen, select, train and promote appropriate candidates.

NCRC results can be beneficial information for many groups and organizations, including public school systems, local and federal government organizations, employers and economic strategists.

Jones explained that ACT, Inc., has updated the core WorkKeys assessments that comprise the NCRC. The resulting NCRC 2.0, he said, will feature contemporary content and more engaging graphics, in addition to name changes that more accurately describe the skills each component assesses. “Reading for Information” will be known as “Workplace Documents,” “Applied Mathematics” will be shortened to “Applied Math,” and “Locating Information” will be called “Graphic Literacy.”

“The current version of the NCRC will sunset Oct. 1,” Jones said. “Thereafter, all online study material and assessments will be on the new platform and reflect the updated assessments. The older version will no longer be available.”

For additional information on the updated NCRC, contact Jones at 252-493-7216 or jerjones@email.pittcc.edu. PCC NCRC Coordinator Sonya Douglas (252-493-7549/sdouglas@email.pittcc.edu) and PCC NCRC Administrator Ann Tess (252-493-7592/atess@email.pittcc.edu) are also points of contact.