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Rockingham Promise brings RCC courses to high school students

May 22, 2019

WENTWORTH – Local high school students have an opportunity to take college courses on their own campus, and can then qualify for tuition-free scholarships at Rockingham Community College.

Rockingham Promise is a collaboration between RCC and Rockingham County Schools, and is an innovative and progressive plan to increase access to college courses, create opportunities for students to pursue certificate programs at RCC, and to enable them to obtain higher education and other skills to better prepare for career and college opportunities.

And thanks to a $1,077,271 grant from the Reidsville Area Foundation – plus a combined commitment of $1,044,000 from RCC and RCS – the collaboration has become a reality for its first four years. Enrollment and funds sought from the RCC Foundation and local businesses and industry will sustain the program in its fifth year and beyond.

Rockingham Promise is a comprehensive program of career coaching, dual enrollment courses taught by RCC faculty on high school campuses, transportation for Reidsville High School and Rockingham County High Schools to the RCC campus, assistance with textbooks, and, over the next four years, 240 tuition-free scholarships to RCC for local students.

“We’re expanding opportunities for students to take college courses, we’re breaking down barriers that have existed for a long time by taking our classes out to the public schools and teaching courses on site,” said Dr. Mark Kinlaw, RCC president.

He said the college can renovate and build facilities, but that doesn’t mean students will enroll; however, Rockingham Promise is a big incentive to “attract students and open doors for them to come to college, get trained, and hopefully enter the workforce.”

Kinlaw acknowledged that some students will use the college credits they earn during high school to enroll in four-year colleges or universities.

“That’s okay too, because what we’re doing is making them more competitive, so they can go out and pursue their dreams,” he said.

Initial courses being offered include mathematics, Spanish, music appreciation, public speaking, and computer science. Additional courses will be offered and determined according to demand and faculty availability. Phlebotomy will be offered on the RCC campus in the third and fourth years of the project.

To be eligible to enroll in Rockingham Promise courses, a high school student must have an unweighted GPA of 2.8 or above, or obtain an appropriate assessment score on a placement test such as PSAT, SAT, Pre-ACT, ACT, NC DAP or RISE.

To be eligible for a college scholarship to RCC, a student must maintain that same GPA; meet RCC’s entrance requirements; and take a minimum of three College and Career Promise (CCP) courses in high school on which they make a grade of C or higher. Once at RCC, tuition-free assistance may continue as long as the student stays in good academic standing and maintains a 2.0 GPA. Scholarship amounts are awarded for the cost of tuition and mandatory fees that are not met by financial aid and other scholarships.

In addition to providing instruction, RCC will fund a career coach who will spend one day per week at each high school.

Rockingham County Schools is providing transportation for RHS and RCHS to the college.

In January 2012, RCC began offering CCP, a program that gives qualified students the opportunity to pursue transfer and career technical education pathways, tuition-free, while they are in high school. However, barriers existed due to the high school students not having transportation to RCC, and not being able to afford the textbooks. Now, Rockingham Promise has removed those barriers, and puts the CCP opportunity in front of the students in a more visible manner, creating a pipeline for students to transition from high school to college.

“Any time that we can expose children to opportunities that are beyond high school, it really gets them thinking beyond their sphere of influence they have right now,” said Dr. Rodney Shotwell, superintendent of Rockingham County Schools.

“When we come back seven years from now, and we look at the progress that we’ve made, the impact that we’ve made on families in Rockingham County, that’s something you can’t lay a finger on. It’s going to be so huge, the impact so great.”

In its first year, courses will be offered at Reidsville High School – starting this fall. Initial courses being include mathematics, Spanish, music appreciation, public speaking, and computer science. Additional courses will be offered and determined according to demand and faculty availability. Phlebotomy will be offered on the RCC campus in the third and fourth years of the project.

RCC is prepared to support the existing academy structure at each high school through Rockingham Promise:

• Reidsville High: As a World International Baccalaureate School, RCC courses at RHS will supplement the IB Program where feasible.

• Rockingham County High: With a Public Safety Academy at the RCHS, RCC will offer criminal justice courses on the college campus, which will lead to an associate’s degree in criminal justice technology.

• McMichael High: DMHS’s STEM Academy leads RCC to offer courses leading to a certificate in web technologies, such as web programming, web design, and internet marketing and analytics. The courses will lead to an associate’s degree in information technology.

• Morehead High: With a Health Science Academy a MHS, RCC plans to teach human anatomy and physiology, and introduction to chemistry.

While the Reidsville Area Foundation grant helps with program costs for the first four years, Rockingham Promise will continue beyond that. RCC will cover faculty costs through revenue generated by enrollment. The college will seek funding assistance from the RCC Foundation, and local businesses and industries.

Joy Toms, lead high school counselor for Rockingham County Schools, said Rockingham Promise offers students the opportunity to even the playing field.

“We’ve talked about it for the last several years, some of the obstacles … what are some of the things in the way of our students being able to fully succeed, fully reach their potential,” she said. “We are answering those questions today, with action. … We are hoping this will be really life-changing for many of our students. What’s happening in our schools impacts everything around us in our community.”

Jen Nixon, executive director of the Reidsville Area Foundation, said her organization is committed to looking at disparities in the community, and addressing them.

“We’re thrilled to be funding partners on this project, which will increase the number of high school students taking college courses, increase the number of first-time enrollments, and open up new avenues for our students who are ready to enter adulthood equipped for success,” she said. “We will all benefit from this initiative, as individuals, as students, as institutions, and as a community.”


Gerri Hunt is director of public information at Rockingham Community College. She can be reached at 336-342-4261 ext. 2170 or huntg0780@rockinghamcc.edu.


Rockingham Community College
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Wentworth, NC 27375


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