John Fox, Jr. Festival
On March 18, 2015, Mountain Empire Community College conducted the 39th annual John Fox, Jr. Festival. Featured authors were storyteller and author, Donald Davis, as well as poet and Germanna Community College President, Dr. David Sam. Poetry and short story contests were also conducted in conjunction with the festival, with prizes being awarded to winners in the adult, high school, and middle school categories.
The John Fox, Jr. Festival is organized and funded each spring by the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation to encourage creative writing and to bring free public literary programming to the MECC campus.
Home Craft Days
The first celebration of mountain culture in the region was realized with the establishment of Home Craft Days in 1972. Since that time, the festival has served as an integral part of Mountain Empire Community College’s longstanding commitment to promoting and preserving the rich musical and cultural heritage of Southwest Virginia.
For more than 40 years, MECC’s Home Craft Days has featured musicians and artisans from throughout Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky. Demonstrations of weaving, pottery making, grist milling, wood crafting, basket weaving, broom making, quilting, tatting and much more are offered, along with musical performances throughout the three-day event. Thousands of visitors come to the MECC campus to enjoy the annual celebration.
The MECC Foundation provides financial support for music performances during the annual festival.
Mountain Music School
The southwest Virginia region is investing heavily in the development of cultural tourism. One of the region’s cultural tourism assets is its music. Mountain Empire Community College’s Mountain Music School is a week-long event dedicated to the preservation and continuation of Appalachian music and culture. The school provides opportunities for students age 10 and up to experience traditional old-time music with fun and supportive instruction. Students may select an instrument and skill level of their choice, including beginning and advanced “old-time” fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, autoharp, and dog house bass.
The MECC Foundation provides financial support for instruments and scholarships to enable youth that have financial need to participate in the program.
MECC is one of 14 rural community colleges in Virginia participating in the statewide Rural Horseshoe Initative, which has the goal of reducing educational disparities by placing career coaches in high schools across rural Virginia; by sustaining and expanding the availability of coaches, scholarships and mentoring opportunities for foster youth through the Great Expectations program; and by providing incentives to continue education and workforce preparation for GED recipients.
The goals of the program are to:
- Cut in half the number of residents living within the Rural Horseshoe who lack a high school diploma or GED, from nearly 20 percent to 10 percent.
- Double the percentage of rural residents who earn an associate degree or other college credential from 26 percent to 52 percent.
- Double the number of participants in the Great Expectations program for foster youth, as well as the number of foster youth who graduate with an associate degree or a workforce credential.
The MECC Foundation is a partner with the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) in achieving these goals in the counties of Lee, Wise, Scott, Dickenson, and the City of Norton. Gifts to MECC’s Rural Horseshoe programs will be matched by VFCCE funds.
The region depends on MECC to train workers on the latest technologies. Gifts and grants provide the primary source of support for the development of new, state-of-the-art programs, including new curricula, equipment, supplies, and faculty training.
Your gifts to the Technology Fund, along with state, federal, and private grants, make possible the development of new educational opportunities in southwest Virginia.
Health Care Simulation Laboratory
A current project of the MECC Foundation is to secure funds for building renovations, equipment and supplies for a new health care simulation laboratory. Simulation-based learning is now the standard of practice in the field of healthcare training. It provides students an opportunity to practice delicate procedures and exercise critical thinking skills without the risk that accompanies working with a live patient in a clinical setting. It also provides students in rural areas, who do not have access to the same diversity of clinical experiences as students in larger urban areas, with opportunities to experience situations and specialized procedures that are not available in small, rural hospitals. This is especially true in specialty areas of patient care, such as obstetrics and mental health. Simulation allows rural healthcare education programs to address these deficiencies in academic and clinical preparation, and ensure that graduates are well equipped to be successful in the workplace.
The Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission recently awarded the MECC Foundation a $370,000 grant to renovate classroom space and purchase equipment and supplies needed for the laboratory, which is expected to be available for student use in late 2016 or early 2017.
Students and faculty described the benefits of the new facility in this June 18, 2015 article. (Article posted with permission from Glenn Gannaway, News Editor of The Post.)
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Course Development and Training
Wise County is becoming a hub for demonstrations of UAS technology. With FAA approval, on July 17, 2015, Wise County was the first community in the country to use an UAS (drone) for a humanitarian package delivery of medicine to the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic at the Wise Fairground. There was a great deal of national news attention to this “Kitty Hawk moment”, as the flight was described by project promoter, Wise County Circuit Court Clerk, J. Jack Kennedy.
Mountain Empire Community College developed and delivered the first UAS course in summer 2015 to provide course participants experience in assembling and operating an UAS, and to give them knowledge of FAA regulations governing UAS use. The purpose of the class has been to interest the wider community in UAS, and to begin preparing residents for future employment opportunities when the vision of being a host site for commercial UAS demonstrations and UAS manufacturing become a reality for Wise County. The college is seeking funds to develop a certificate that will further grow the college’s instructional offerings in UAS.
Media coverage of Southwest Virginia drone technology & MECC course:
The MECC Foundation works with many other regional organizations to address educational needs, but it has a special relationship with the Coalfield Water Development Fund in addressing southwest Virginia’s needs for safe drinking water.
Through leadership from Mountain Empire Community College and local and state legislators, and with financial support from the Ford Foundation, EPA , and Virginia Department of Health, the Coalfield Water Development Fund (CWDF) was established in 1996 as an 501(c) organization to provide grants to help finance safe drinking water systems in the counties of Lee, Scott, Wise, Dickenson, Russell, Buchanan, Tazewell, and the City of Norton. The CWDF is governed by an independent Board of Directors, but the MECC Foundation has an administrative contract to provide accounting, reporting, fund-raising, and clerical assistance to the organization. The administrative collaboration has benefitted both organizations through a sharing of staff costs.
Over the 20 years since the inception of the CWDF, $6,554,737.36 in cumulative grant awards have been made to southwest Virginia communities. These grants have leveraged $71,018,824 in other funding to benefit needed drinking water projects that have made southwest Virginia a better place to live.