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CCAP: Building tomorrow’s leaders

In Spring 2017, Cassidy Peters graduated from Virginia Western with an associate in science degree, Phi Theta Kappa honors and dreams of becoming a health care administrator in the mold of Lisa Cuddy on Fox TV’s “House, M.D.”

What brought you to Virginia Western?

I am a first-generation college student. I live in Ferrum, my family is not super-wealthy. I had no idea how to really do the college thing.

But a Virginia Western advisor approached me in high school and told me about CCAP, how I could go tuition-free if I met all of the requirements. A Franklin County High School teacher also told me about my options with the transfer program.

It seemed like an easy decision to me. I was good for two years and I had all the advising help I needed. To me, I knew this was the best option because — while I’ve never held $20,000 in my hands — I know I don’t want to pay it a year.

What would you have done without CCAP?

My first semester here was a little shaky. I don’t think high school students know how to study. It’s a difficult transition, to try to teach yourself a lot. If I’d gone to a four-year school, my GPA would not be as good as it is and I’d have student loans. And I think I wouldn’t have been as grown up – I really grew up here. I really know what I want now.

What are your plans after Virginia Western?

I am transferring to Jefferson College of Health Sciences to get a bachelor’s in health sciences and then hope to become a physician’s assistant. But my ultimate goal is to get a master’s in healthcare administration. I want to be Cuddy and help run a hospital. I very much crave leadership – a good leader can bring out the best in people.  And I like the idea of saving lives and making that as efficient as possible.

What role did the advisors at Virginia Western play in that decision?

It was my business advisor here who told me, “Hey, you can get your MBA but also have a strong health tie.’ I had no idea that even existed.

What I noticed is when you talk to advisors at four-year schools, the only thing they market to you is their school. Here, the difference is their goal is to get you to your end goal – not just to this school. You guys were looking more at the big picture instead of just selling me on the school.

How important is CCAP in Franklin County?

CCAP really does mean the difference between a kid having to take years off to earn money for school or not. It really is a door for a lot of kids. Because without it, they couldn’t afford it. Like me — I never had parents who went to college. They didn’t know how to take out a student loan or what a FAFSA was. I really had to figure it out by myself. I’m grateful I had two years here to grow up and figure that out myself.

What has CCAP meant to you?

Roy Dwyer is all about “paying it forward.” He is contributing to his great-niece’s college fund because his parents helped contribute to his two daughters’ college funds. He also donated to Virginia Western’s Community College Access Program immediately after his youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, graduated in May 2017. Because of her participation in CCAP, Kaitlyn was able to transfer to the University of Mary Washington in Fall 2017 with no college debt.

CCAP is “a great opportunity for parents,” Dwyer said. “You’re able to save money and also get your child a good education.”

Dwyer encourages other parents to not only contribute to CCAP but to explore if their employer offers a matching gifts program. Allstate, where Dwyer works as a claim representative in the Salem office, offers such a program. For every dollar he contributes to CCAP, Allstate matches it 100 percent.

“It’s so important that you can double your money – more people need to take advantage of this,” he said.

Dwyer said Virginia Western was the perfect bridge experience for his daughter, whom he describes as a homebody who wasn’t ready for a four-year school after graduating from Cave Spring High School. Kaitlyn flourished at Virginia Western, graduating summa cum laude and gaining new confidence in herself. The College “gave her a direction she didn’t know she was aware of,” he said. At Mary Washington, Kaitlyn hopes to further her literary interests by majoring in creative writing.

Dwyer said he was moved to donate to ensure that others can benefit from CCAP as his own family did. “Why not give back?” he said. “It’s especially important to give so that others can benefit, especially those who really need the help.”

YOU are helping #MakeCollegePossible

MaLora Bush.
Yadav Sapkota.
Cody Gump.
Alexie Jean-Jacques.

Recognize the names of these current or former Virginia Western students? Did you help them take a step further in overcoming life obstacles and achieving their academic goals?

Each of these students is deeply thankful for the support they received from the Virginia Western community. We helped them #MakeCollegePossible — which is the theme of the Educational Foundation’s new fundraising campaign to benefit the Community College Access Program (CCAP) and general scholarship needs.

Beginning Nov. 28, on #GivingTuesday, you’ll see video stories featuring MaLora, Yadav, Cody and Alexie popping up on the College’s Facebook page. You’ll hear them express — in their words — the significant impact that Virginia Western has made on their lives.

We hope you’ll share these videos and help the Educational Foundation spread the word about #MakeCollegePossible.

Not on Facebook? You can watch a 10-minute compilation of these stories here: http://virginiawestern.edu/makecollegepossible

We all know that this busy time of year it’s especially easy to lose sight of the community college’s mission. We hope these videos help recharge your focus, and affirm that Virginia Western is a big part of what makes the Roanoke Valley a beautiful community.

With sincere thanks,

The Educational Foundation staff (Amanda, Carole, Carolyn, Wanda and Jill)