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ECC Division Partners with Regional Organization to Support Students

Edgecombe Community College’s College and Career Readiness (CCR) team recently partnered with the Rural Opportunity Institute to better understand and reduce barriers to education. From left are CCR staff Jerry Harper, Dr. LaShawnda Washington, Varnell Kinnin, and Desmond Sykes.

The Edgecombe Community College Division of College and Career Readiness is providing specialized support to students thanks to a partnership with the Rural Opportunity Institute.

College and Career Readiness assists adults who have not earned a high school credential by helping them prepare to take the high school equivalency exam and continue on to post-secondary education and/or enter the workforce.

Students work at their own pace. Classes are taught on ECC’s Tarboro and Rocky Mount campuses, and off-campus classes are located at various sites throughout Edgecombe County.

The Rural Opportunity Institute supports youth, organizations, and communities in Eastern North Carolina to interrupt the cycle of generational trauma and design innovative solutions for healing and resilience.

The organization reached out to Dr. LaShawnda Washington, director of College and Career Readiness, to ask if her division was facing any challenges that might benefit from their expertise.

“We partnered with the Rural Opportunity Institute to address the impact of trauma on student learning and to identify specific barriers to education,” says Dr. Washington. “We were excited to work with them to gather data-driven results.”

The most common traumas identified were related to adverse childhood experiences and poverty, she reports.

Desmond Sykes, College and Career Readiness instructor, explains the data collection process. “We collected data through holding conversations with both our internal and external stakeholders and used qualitative data pertaining to student challenges to determine which resources would benefit students the most.”

Additionally, the team focused on ways to build trust between the students and instructors by strengthening communication among students and staff.

Instructor Megan Boyd says, “This initiative was very rewarding because we can’t address what we don’t know, and we don’t know if students are having problems if they aren’t comfortable talking to us. We also learned that there are many different barriers. They come in different shapes and sizes and vary among students.”

The College and Career Readiness team completed Resilient Leaders Initiative training led by the Rural Opportunity Institute.

“Through the support of our president, Dr. Greg McLeod, and administration, as well as the resources provided by the Rural Opportunity Institute, we were able to provide weekly, teacher-led, peer mentoring groups to single-parent students and other students. We also provided specialized support to English language acquisition students,” says Dr. Washington.

“Our goal is to help strengthen students’ well-being and to reduce barriers to academic achievement and graduation,” she adds.