Jon Matthews, provost of Central Carolina Community College’s Harnett County Campus, uses a simple phrase to many times describe not only CCCC’s role, but the role of community colleges across North Carolina as simply, “in the community, of the community and for the community.”
And for CCCC’s Lillington campus, those words amply describe the coming months, according to Matthews.
One of the most visible of those ties has come in the Harnett County Promise Program. It’s where eligible students have the opportunity to complete an associates degree at CCCC without paying tuition.
“It’s gone Gangbusters, the grassroots level is up, we’ve had a lot of interest from day one,” Matthews said. “We have to give full credit to the Harnett Board of Commissioners for taking this opportunity and making it happen.”
Matthews said currently 227 students are confirmed participants in the program which is currently in it’s first year of full participation. The program has been ongoing in Lee and Chatham counties, which are also under the CCCC system.
“In fairness, Harnett County is the most populace of the three counties, so that shouldn’t be a big surprise,” Matthews said. “But it’s nice to know we have 227 full-time, credential-seeking students that will be starting this fall in Harnett County.”
Matthews also praised and promoted the efforts of the Harnett County Early College, which is a joint program between the college and Harnett County Schools. It gives students the chance to enroll and complete in college-level courses to seek an associates degree prior to graduating high school. The program is in it’s third year.
This year will see students enrolled in the program, not only taking courses at the high school, but they will also venture to the campus of CCCC. Matthews says it gives the students an opportunity to learn coursework and become exposed to the college on a personal level.
Students will find themselves on campus for full-time classes.
“One of the benefits of dual-enrollment as a participatory activity, is the term the education nerds call acculturation to college,” Matthews said. “It’s simply not about earning academic credit. It’s about the emotional material that goes along with being in a college environment.”
Matthews said it affords the students a chance to basically, live the college environment as well as participate in it.
“It’s not simply about earning academic credit, it’s about the emotional material that goes along with being in a college environment,” Matthews said. “It’s hard to get that from a computer lab in high school. You can get some of it, but you get it in its full compliment when a student shows up at a college campus, interacts and engages with college faculty, staff and most importantly, fellow traditional students.”
According to Matthews there will be about 30 students who take part in the program starting later this month.
“It’s kind of nice to know I don’t get to see them by simply going to our Dunn Center campus,” Matthews said. “I get to see some of them everyday, and these are the ones I’ve actually seen over the last two years.”
While the focus of those programs are high school students, Matthews pointed out the college also serves another group, those with the need or desire for continuing education. He said the college has made several moves to add to the continuing education programs offered through the Harnett County campus.
Matthews said the first step was to bring a new face to the program in the form of Pamela Fincher, who now oversees the CE program.
“I gave her the mission of expanding continuing education in a meaningful and robust way, in response to the constituents and employers of Harnett County,” he said. “She took it seriously.”
Over the last year, the campus has seen a growth in classes in welding, electronics, small engine repair and pilot ground school. Those are a slate of classes, according to Matthews, which are either new or have not been available in recent memory.
“These are things we’ve not done in that manner in a while, or we’ve never done in recent history,” he said. “They were fully enrolled and we’ve gotten good feedback.”
Matthews credits input received from various sources for the success of the expanded programs. The input received, he said, will also lead to additional programs being added soon. Fields of study added include machinery, heavy equipment operation, additional welding and biotech training.
Among the sparks for the biotech training was the announcement of and partnership with KriGen Pharmaceuticals. The India-based company will be opening their first North American production plant in Lillington, creating a need for such jobs, according to Matthews.
“Part of that ramp-up is their employees are going to need training,” Matthews said. “So we’re already at the table with them, and have been for several months, talking with them about some customized training for their employees.”
Matthews said he believes a partnership with KriGen will be one that is self-sustaining and prosperous. He said the possibilities of a continuing partnership into the future are very good.
“That’s a relationship I think will endure and it will sustain itself,” he said. “Because as that company grows and becomes a viable and robust industry within Harnett County, we’ll be there to provide the training needs for them.”