Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spelling it like it is

As the 2012 National Scripps Spelling Bee enters its final day of competition, Germanna's Dr. Ann Woolford recalls her surprise at the trepidation she encountered when she asked accomplished, successful adults to do what third-graders do. Why are we so afraid of spelling? She has a theory. Read about it and watch the video at

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Germanna is making a difference--by Prof. Lisa Murphy and Adjunct Prof. Russell Carter

In today's Free Lance-Star, Prof. Lisa Murphy and Adjunct Prof. Russell Carter explain how Germanna is making a difference for its students, their families, local businesses and our communities.

These programs train students, including many career-changers, for new jobs in growing fields such as health care and cyber security. This strengthens the local economy by helping to close the "skills gap." The Virginia Employment Commission recently reported that in our area 3,000 jobs were unfilled because companies could not find qualified employees. When a person gains the skills to do one of those jobs, that is a success for the worker, the employer, and the community--with or without a degree...

The dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators of Virginia's community colleges live in the communities we serve. We see our students not only in classes but at our places of worship, at our children's schools, and at the grocery store. They are our friends and neighbors. These relationships keep us motivated to improve our services to better meet their needs. You can't replace that with an online class from a for-profit corporation.

Lisa Murphy, a professor of mathematics, co-chairs the engineering department at Germanna Community College. Russell Carter, a retired businessman, is an adjunct professor of history and English at GCC.

Monday, May 28, 2012

During Memorial Day ceremony, Germanna VP Ann Woolford honors GCC vets and all who've given their lives for their country

The Rev. Lawrence A. Davies and Germanna Vice President for Academic Affairs and Students Services Ann Woolford place a wreath during 2012 Memorial Day ceremony at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

On Monday, the National Park Service sponsored a Memorial Day Program at the National Cemetery in Fredericksburg, honoring American military personnel who have given their lives for their country. The Rev. Lawrence A. Davies of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) delivered the keynote address and the Rev. Thomas Hughes of St. George’s Episcopal Church offered an invocation and benediction. The Rev. Davies and Dr. Ann Woolford, vice president for academic affairs and student services at Germanna Community College, placed a wreath at the foot of the Humphreys Monument.

--See Clint Schemmer's Past is Prologue blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

June 1 is the deadline to apply for Germanna Educational Foundation Scholarships. Applying is as easy as pushing a button.

June 1 is the deadline for applications for GCC Educational Foundation scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year.

Applying is as easy as clicking a button.

Go to the Germanna Community College home page and click on the “Educational Foundation” button, then “Scholarships” and click “Apply for Scholarships.” After completing the on-line application, students will be considered automatically for all of the GCC Educational Foundation’s scholarships.

Applicants do not need to apply separately for specific scholarships, although they can specify a preference if they wish. Scholarship award decisions will be announced beginning in early July. For more information about the GCC Educational Foundation’s scholarship program, call (540) 423-9060 or write

Each year more than 200 GCC students are awarded over $200,000 in scholarships by the GCC Educational Foundation. Applications and all supporting materials must be submitted to the Foundation by June 1.

Most, but not all of the scholarships are based on financial need and require that a FAFSA (financial aid form) be sent to the GCC Financial Aid Office.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homelessness, Hurricane Katrina, cancer can't stop Germanna student who wins national award for work done while undergoing therapy for lymphoma

He was homeless as a child, lost his job to Hurricane Katrina, then developed cancer.

But John W. Tyler won't be stopped by anything.

Tracy Bell, editor of The Stafford Sun, reports on a Germanna Community College student who won a national award for technological innovation while undergoing cancer therapy.

He says only thinking of his young daughter kept him going through exhaustion and depression related to the treatments.

Now doctors tell him he's beaten lymphoma.

And John Tyler has a lot to live for.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

New Science & Engineering Building and Information Commons a hit

Left to right, VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois, GCC Student Government Association President Morgen Jones, Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann L. Heidig, Germanna President David A. Sam, GCC College Board Chairwoman Jill Johnson and U.S. Rep Rob Wittman help Germanna President David A. Sam cut the ribbon today at the Grand Opening of the college's Science & Engineering Building and Information Commons. A crowd of 250 looked on, then toured the high-tech green building. story and photos on the event.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Class of 2012 told to take chances

Germanna Middle College graduate Ariya Suwannawong before Wednesday night's GCC Spring Commencement, which attracted a crowd estimated at 2,000.

Check out Free Lance-Star coverage of Wednesday night's Germanna Community College commencement on


The Free Lance-Star

Beth Turner was one of the first students when Germanna Community College opened its doors in 1970. Now 70 and a licensed professional counselor, Turner said she could be “the poster child for the difference community colleges can make in a person’s life.”

Turner gave the commencement address at Germanna Community College’s spring graduation ceremony Wednesday night. Nearly 950 students completed associate degrees or academic certificates this semester, qualifying them to take part in Germanna’s 40th graduation.

Turner shared that she was a recently divorced mother of two young children and living in Culpeper when she began taking classes at the Locust Grove campus 42 years ago. MORE

GCC Nursing Prof. Karen Mittura pins graduate Vickie Finn.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teenage ordeal produces medical advocate

Chanelle Felder graduates from Germanna tomorrow, Wednesday, May 9. Spring Commencement is set for 7 p.m. at the Fredericksburg Expo Center. In this video she talks about her fight, beginning at age 16, to have her illness diagnosed.

In this video, Chanelle talks about Germanna and her career plans.


The Free Lance-Star

Chanelle Felder found her mission in life through the mysterious illness that left her mind in a fog, her body bloated and her high-energy lifestyle on hold. “I was directionless before,” the 22-year-old said. “Now I have a laserlike focus on what I want my legacy to be and what I want to get out of life.”

Felder, who graduates from Germanna Community College on Wednesday, was 16 when her slender 5-foot, 7-inch frame started expanding inexplicably.

She began having crying spells, waking in the middle of the night, and suffering numbness and pain in the feet that for years had carried her gracefully across dance floors. Clumps of hair started falling out, she became sluggish, and her normally sharp mind started going blank. Felder was a Mountain View High School junior, cheerleader and honors student when the symptoms began.

Chanelle Felder, 22, has turned things around dramatically at Germanna.

She found them shocking and frightening. Doctors offered possible diagnoses such as a thyroid disorder, but none fit until the North Stafford teen stumbled upon a program on the Discovery Health channel.

“My turning point was an episode of Mystery Diagnosis,” she said. MORE

GCC Student Chanelle Felder with one of her biggest supporters, Germanna Stafford Center coordinator and adviser Judi Johnson-Bartlett.

"The potential is always within us. I think we are good enough to get what we want in life."--GCC Middle College's Nathan Leon Guerrero

Student Nathan Leon Guerrero delivered a stirring speech, then he and 14 other Germanna Community College students received awards at Monday night's Middle College Reception & Awards Ceremony at GCC's Riverside Center.

Middle College is a free program that prepares students who didn't finish high school, often due to hardships, to earn their GEDs and enter degree programs. In the program's eight years of existence at Germanna, it has prepared 550 students to go on to get their GEDs and put them on the path.

Guerrero noted that some disparagingly call GEDs "Good Enough Degrees." "The potential is always within us," he said in his speech. "I think we are good enough to get what we want in life." He called Middle College "One key that opens the gates for everything."

GCC Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Services Ann Woolford congratulated the students and urged them to continue their educations. "We hope you continue the journey," she said. "This is just the beginning." Dr. Woolford recalled that when she was a student, some asked her when she would finish school and she was embarrassed to say she "had no idea." "Those same people spent their time watching 'I Love Lucy' reruns and going nowhere in life. We want you to have careers." Dr. Woolford noted that those who have college degrees earn twice as much as high school dropouts.

Middle College Director Carolyn Bynum noted that the August earthquake that damaged the Dickinson Building at GCC's Fredericksburg Area Campus and forced the Middle College program to move to Riverside posed a hardship for many Middle College students. The program shrunk from 40 students to 15. She praised those who endured changed schedules and had to find a way to get to Stafford County for classes.

"My sincerest congratulations to all my students for their accomplishments," in the face of the difficulties the move created, Bynum said.

Monday, May 7, 2012

We're going to need more skilled workers soon--and Germanna Community College is making quality education and training affordable

Orange County students in a Germanna Licensed Practical Nursing class at Eastern View High in Culpeper. By the time they graduate from high school, they are prepared to be an LPN. Health care is one field with great demand for skilled workers.


The Free Lance-Star

It might not look like it now, with unemployment over 8 percent, but by the end of the decade, a major issue facing the United States could be a scarcity of qualified workers. Higher education in general and community colleges in particular can play a big role in reversing that trend.

That was the message sent recently by the Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan business group, in a teleconference and accompanying policy statement.

“One of the most important needs the country has,” said CED president Charles Kolb, “is to enhance the performance of the post-secondary education sector.”

The CED is encouraging businesses and colleges to work together to ensure that students are getting to colleges and that colleges are providing what they need to compete in a global market.

“We want to make sure that post-secondary education is ready for them,” said Marilyn Reznick, executive director of education leadership for AT&T. She said the CED is calling on “business, educational and policy leaders to be ready for lower-income, first-generation and non-traditional students.”

The CED wants to focus mostly on “broad-access” institutions—the less-selective and less-expensive public and private colleges and universities, the community and technical colleges and for-profit colleges.

Those, the CED believes, “are the only realistic options to expand capacity sufficiently to educate the large numbers of people who need skills for success in the workforce of the future.”

A message board is set to welcome students to Germanna's new Science & Engineering Building, set to open this month, with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 11 at the Fredericksburg Area Campus in Massaponax. The high-tech building itself will be a teaching tool to prepare them for careers in those fields..


Virginia’s higher education system was highlighted in the report as a leader in trying to reach those goals.

The state’s Achieve 2015 program was one of the efforts that drew attention. It is a six-year strategic plan for the state’s community colleges that aims for a 50 percent increase in students either completing a degree, transferring to a four-year school or earning a workforce credential by 2015, with a target of 75 percent for traditionally underrepresented students.

To meet the Achieve 15 goals, Germanna Community College President David A. Sam says GCC has “established a number of initiatives.

“One is to focus like a laser on what helps students learn and succeed, and continuously improve teaching and support services. Another is to better reach out to those who are in danger of being left behind, offering programs and services that fulfill the promise of affordable access to post-secondary education and training. We are also developing partnerships and alternative resources to better enable the college to achieve its mission.”

After being unable to complete high school, Terra Painter of Madison entered GCC's Middle College, which prepares students to pass the GED and be prepared to enter a degree program at a community college or four-year school.


One of the largest issues the CED is seeking to address is college costs. Between 1982 and 2011, while the consumer price index went up 125 percent, college tuition and fees rose 570 percent. Between 1999–2000 and 2007–08, college costs as a percentage of median family income soared. In the middle income quintile, it rose from 18 percent to 25 percent. For the poorest one-fifth, it went from 39 percent to 55 percent. Total college loan debt is now over $1 trillion.

(One goal of Virginia’s Achieve 2015 plan is to keep tuition and fees at less than half the cost of attending the state’s public four-year schools, and to increase the number of students receiving financial assistance and scholarships by 36,000.)

The rising cost helps explain why younger Americans are falling behind the rest of the world in education.

In the last half of the 20th century, the United States led the world in proportion of its working-age population getting education beyond the high school level.

The U.S. is still near the top when you include all workers 25–64. When only younger adults are counted, though, it’s another story. In 2009, we ranked 15th in the world in percentage of workers 25–34 achieving an associate degree or higher.

Combine that fact with the baby boomer retirement tsunami that’s just beginning, and you get back to that anticipated shortage of workers in the near future. It’s estimated that we will have a 1.3 million deficit in college graduates by 2020, even if all states step up their games to the level of the highest-performing states.

Rocio Fernandez says Germanna's affordability made it possible for her to study engineering, a field in which America needs more graduates to stay competitive with emerging economic powers including China and India.

The CED is urging businesspeople to get more involved in their states’ college educational systems, to ensure that useful education is made available to as many as possible and as affordably as possible. The United States, the policy statement notes, “needs a well-educated workforce to innovate and move the economy forward.”

Dr. Sam at GCC agrees:

“Germanna and other community colleges must play a key role in Virginia’s—and America’s—competitiveness by pivoting quickly to educate and train people as the economy changes.”

GCC President Sam said: “In some cases, we must prepare people for jobs that didn’t even exist a few years ago or for occupations yet to be invented. To accomplish this, Germanna seeks to understand and even anticipate local business needs, and thus help close the ’skills gap,’ where jobs go unfilled because people aren’t trained to do them." MORE

GCC student John W. Tyler won a national science innovation award last year while undergoing treatment for Lymphoma. Doctors have told him he's beaten the disease.

New Germanna building teaches, too. Ribbon cutting and tours set for 1 p.m., Friday, May 11 are open to the public, free of charge


The Free Lance-Star

Germanna Community College’s newest building is packed with “green” features, but it is unlike other environment-friendly structures in the area in one big way.

The building itself will help teach budding engineers and architects, other students, faculty and visitors about environmental technology, energy efficiency and sustainability.

The Science and Engineering Building and Information Commons at Germanna’s Fredericksburg Area Campus was finished last month; it is being furnished and equipped for the start of summer classes. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 1 p.m., May 11. All new, state-funded buildings must be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, said David A. Sam, the college president. During the planning phase, “We went to the faculty, staff and representatives of student government and asked them what they wanted,” he said in a recent interview. “One of the broad principles was to make it a better place for students to learn.” College officials talked with the architect, Clark Nexsen, and the builder, Donley’s Construction, about incorporating “teachable areas” into the structure, which sits behind the earthquake-damaged V. Earl Dickinson Building on GCC’s Fredericksburg campus off U.S. 17 in Spotsylvania County. MORE

Rhonda Simmons of The Culpeper Star-Exponent writes that the new building will help train local students to be engineers with the skills to build green homes and office buildings here in our area, where 75 percent of Germanna students remain after receiving degrees and certificates. MORE

Students are being prepared to give ongoing free tours of the building intended to raise awareness about new technology.

Scholarship Monte Carlo casino night raises record sum for students

GCC faculty member Araceli Palomino deals cards during the college Educational Foundation’s Scholarship Monte Carlo casino night fundraiser.

Germanna Community College’s Educational Foundation raised a record $120,000 as a crowd of 300 people attended the college’s 18th Annual Scholarship Monte Carlo event April 21 at GCC's Daniel Center in Culpeper.

Event chair Clarissa Berry called it “One of our biggest crowds.” MORE

GCC student's humanity shines: from Fredericksburg to Cameroon, Jonathan Hollingworth puts others before himself

Jonathan Hollingsworth receives a 2012 Germanna Student Academic Award from English teacher Voytek Dolinski, who wrote: “He is one of the most mature and insightful writers I have had at Germanna. "Perhaps the best way to understand Jonathan is through his own words:"

"There is a great lack, I believe, in the way we see worth in others. Even our terminology is skewed. We use monetary metaphors like 'value,' and 'worth,' as though people are goods to be bought and sold. If we could look into someone else’s eyes and understand how important they are, more than our possessions, more than our pride, more than our pleasure, then perhaps we would not just value them, or find them to have worth, but we would love them."

Helping humanity trumps textbooks




Jonathan Hollingsworth was eating dinner in Fredericksburg, at one of Aladin Restaurant’s outdoor tables, when he spotted a homeless man asking for change.

“We can do him one better than that,” he told his friends before inviting the man to join them for a meal.

“He was quiet at the beginning. By the end of the night, he was making the whole table laugh,” said Hollingsworth, 20. “He told me, ‘I actually haven’t had a real conversation in three months.’ I couldn’t believe that. I probably don’t go three hours without talking to someone.”

The encounter last summer was life-changing for Hollingsworth, who lives in Spotsylvania County.

He recalled times when he’d avoided eye contact with the less fortunate, because of guilt or shame or discomfort, and he vowed never to do it again.

All human beings have worth, said Hollingsworth, and the very least we can do is acknowledge that with a look, a smile, a handshake or something even more meaningful.

To put his beliefs into practice, Hollingsworth will spend the next year in Cameroon in West Central Africa serving some of the country’s poorest residents


Friday, May 4, 2012

GCC's Mittura named VCCS Faculty Fellow

Congratulations to Germanna Community College Professor of Nursing Karen Mittura for being selected a Virginia Community College System Chancellor's Faculty Fellow for 2012-13. Prof. Mittura is one of three faculty members in the VCCS to receive this award. In addition to being recognized for her outstanding work as a faculty member, Prof. Mittura has been awarded a one-year fellowship to continue her studies. She will pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership at Case Western University