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VISIONS to Welcome Largest-Ever Class

VISIONS student Tu Taw and Marianne Cox, coordinator of the VISIONS High School program (Rob Goldberg Jr./Pitt Community College)

WINTERVILLE—The Pitt Community College VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program will welcome its largest class ever to campus this week, when 63 Pitt County high school juniors meet for orientation on Wednesday.

According to Marianne Cox, PCC VISIONS High School Coordinator, President G. Dennis Massey, will welcome students and their parents to the orientation session, which will take in the Craig F. Goess Student Center. She said the event would also feature testimonies from previous VISIONS participants and added that the newcomers will be asked to sign contracts to officially join the program.

Cox says PCC’s newest VISIONS class is comprised of students from each of Pitt County’s six public high schools. J.H. Rose has the highest representation with 18 students, followed by Ayden-Grifton (16), South Central (13), North Pitt (11), Farmville Central (three) and D.H. Conley (two).

Started in 2004 to help reduce Pitt County’s drop-out rate while increasing the number of county students attending college, VISIONS is a collaborative effort between the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, the PCC Foundation, Pitt County Schools and the Greater Greenville Foundation. Each year, the program provides a select group of Pitt County high school students with the direction and support they need in order to obtain their diplomas and move on to higher education.

In the eight years since VISIONS began, nearly 100 percent of participants have completed high school, Cox said. Those who enroll at PCC receive personal and academic counseling at the college in addition to $1,000-scholarships ($500 per semester), she said, adding that students can renew their scholarships for a second year if they maintain a 2.3 grade point average throughout their freshman year.

Due to the success of the first VISIONS class of 27 students, Eddie Smith, owner of Greenville’s Grady-White Boats and the program’s benefactor, increased funding over the years to allow more Pitt County students to participate.

Students are recommended for VISIONS by teachers and career development coordinators at their respective schools based on a variety of factors, including academic performance, financial need and career interest.

They must also be interested in attending PCC, Cox said, adding that nearly 100 students applied to the VISIONS program this year and went through an interview process with PCC VISIONS coordinators.

“We look for students who are eager to take advantage of the opportunity to earn a college degree at PCC and who may not have any other means to do so without assistance from the VISIONS program,” she said.

In addition to being the largest class, Cox said this year’s VISIONS group was selected earlier than any other in the program’s history. Previously, students were chosen toward the end of their junior year of high school, she said, adding that this year’s class was selected in October.

“We felt that the earlier we could begin working with these students, the better,” Cox said. “It gives the students assurance that if they follow through with what we ask of them through VISIONS, they will have a scholarship to attend college. It also gives us more time to explore career options with the students and to help them better prepare for college.”

Cox emphasized the importance of career exploration, saying that once students have an idea of what they want to do professionally, it is easier for them to see the educational pathways to those careers.

“If students identify career interests as high school juniors, they can plan to take courses as seniors that will give them a better idea of what the profession entails and decide if that is truly something they want to pursue,” she added.

Through her role with VISIONS, Cox monitors each high school participant’s academic progress by traveling to their schools and meeting with them one-on-one and in group settings. The students also receive mentoring, tutoring, and academic and personal advising from PCC staff, and Cox arranges seminars for them on important topics, such as goal-setting, establishing good credit, and applying for federal financial aid.

In the summer prior to the start of their senior year of high school, VISIONS students take part in a week-long program in which they tour the PCC campus and interact with instructors from each of the college’s five academic divisions. They also tour Smith’s Grady-White Boats.

With the addition of the latest VISIONS class, there are currently 113 Pitt County high school students taking part in the program.

Cox said the 50 VISIONS students from this year’s senior class continue to receive mentoring and advising services from PCC staff and will take part in an academic enrichment program this summer after graduation to ensure they are ready for college-level work when the fall semester begins in August.