Belcher Named 2019 MECC Alumna of the Year

Alicia Belcher

Alicia Belcher

Big Stone Gap — Alicia Belcher, a resident of St. Paul and math teacher at Ridgeview High School, has been named MECC’s 2019 Alumna of the Year.

Belcher, a 2014 Summa Cum Laude graduate of MECC, earned an Associate’s Degree in Pre-Teacher Education. She began at MECC as a non-traditional college student, enrolling as a single mother in her thirties with only a high school education. After graduating from MECC, Belcher graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2015 from UVA-Wise, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a Concentration in Mathematics and Teaching Endorsements in PK-12, Special Education, Middle School Mathematics, and High School Mathematics.

In 2017, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Aurora University, earning a Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education. She is currently in the dissertation sequence at Northcentral University where she will earn her PhD in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Teaching in late 2019. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA in her graduate work.

Belcher currently teaches mathematics at Ridgeview High School in Dickenson County where she assists more than 40 at-risk youth earn high school diplomas. She is also an employee of UVA-Wise Upward Bound Program where she teaches at-risk youth in several mathematics classes and heads up several STEM projects.

Belcher formerly worked for nearly 12 years with local non-profit agencies serving at-risk youth, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and the local homeless population. Additionally, she is a GLOBE certified instructor in the areas of atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere.

Previous years outstanding Alumni of the Year winners include, Dr. Patricia Vanhook, Faculty, East Tennessee State University; Dr. Amanda Graham, Online Instructor, Kaplan University; and Rohini Sampooman Swaminathan, United Nations Institute for Training and Research. For more information, contact the MECC Foundation at 276.523.7466 or visit


Big prizes and golfing fun on tap at Auto World – MECC Golf Classic on May 17th to provide scholarships at MECC

Big Stone Gap – One lucky golfer will go home with a $500 prize, and other great prizes will be awarded, as well, at the Auto World – MECC Golf Classic on Friday, May 17, at Lonesome Pine Country Club to benefit scholarships at Mountain Empire Community College.

All players hitting a hole-in-one on Hole #10 will win a 2019 Jeep Renegade sponsored by Auto World of Big Stone Gap. There is also a prize of $1,000 for hitting to within 12 inches of the pin on Hole #10. If more than one player accomplishes this feat, the prize money will be divided among the winners.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m., with a shotgun start at 9:15 a.m. The tournament will be Captain’s Choice and will feature two flights and two places. There will be “most accurate drive” and “closest to the pin” prizes.

The entry fee of $100 per person includes a continental breakfast, golf shirt, cart and green fees, luncheon, goodie bag of snacks, most accurate drive and closest to the pin contests, and entrance into the drawing for the $500 cash prize to be given away at the end of the tournament. Golfers must be present to win the cash prize. Shirts for the tournament are sponsored by Glass Machinery & Excavation, Inc. of Jonesville, Virginia.

A delicious lunch will be served following the tournament. During that time, golfers may bid on unique and interesting items including art, sports memorabilia, and spa packages during the live auction. There will also be a silent auction which will begin during the continental breakfast and continue throughout the event.

Tournament Sponsorship is available at four levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum for financial support in the amounts of $500, $1,000, and $2,500, and $5,000 and above respectively. All tournament sponsors will receive a complimentary team(s) and will be recognized during the tournament welcome and in the printed materials for the tournament.

Other sponsorships are available. Please visit the MECC Foundation website at for more information, to become a sponsor, or to register a team.

Registrations may also be faxed to 276-523-7485, e-mailed to Jeri Bledsoe at, or completed by phone at 276-523-2400, extension 287.

Individuals or businesses who would like to sponsor the tournament, provide an item for the auction, or receive more information may contact Jeri Bledsoe, Tournament Coordinator, by telephone or e-mail as indicated in the previous paragraph.

-MECC Foundation-

MECC Foundation to Feature Ron Rash at John Fox Jr. Festival

Ron Rash

Ron Rash

Big Stone Gap, VA — The MECC Foundation, in partnership with the Lonesome Pine Regional Library and the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Project, is pleased to announce the 43rd annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, featuring a presentation by guest author Ron Rash, on Wednesday, March 6 at 10 a.m. in the Goodloe Center of Phillips-Taylor Hall.

In coordination with the festival event, the MECC Foundation will host the 32nd Annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest and the 15th Annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest. The deadline for submitting entries is Wednesday, February 20 at 4:30 p.m. Entry categories include adult, high school (grades 9 through 12), and middle school (grades 5 through 8) categories.  Contest rules are available below. Winners of the contest will be announced during the Literary Festival Event.

 Ron Rash is a New York Times best-selling author, PEN/Faulkner finalist, two-time winner of the O. Henry Prize, and winner of the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. A son of Buncombe and Watauga County natives, Rash was raised in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and his family has lived in the southern Appalachian Mountains since the mid-1700s.

Rash’s love and deep appreciation for the southern Appalachians has launched him into a spectacular literary career. He wrote three collections of poetry and two collections of short stories before transitioning to writing a series of acclaimed and award-winning novels, including The Cove, Above the Waterfall, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Serena, Burning Bright and My Father Like a River.

Books will be available to purchase and for author signing.  The John Fox, Jr. Festival will be followed by a reservation-only luncheon with the featured speaker at the John Fox, Jr. Museum in Big Stone Gap.  Tickets for the luncheon are $23 per person and reservations can be made by calling the MECC Foundation office at 276.523.7466.

The NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Lonesome Pine Regional Library is pleased to bring a variety of NEA Big Read programming opportunities March 6-31, 2019. For a schedule of events, visit us at

For more information on the MECC Foundation, please visit our website at

2019 Contest Rules


Big Read Logo

MECC Foundation to Host Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers in Clintwood

Clintwood, VA — The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is pleased to host Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at Clintwood’s Jettie Baker Center.

Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased at the Clintwood Town Hall or the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood (cash or check purchases) as well as online at  All proceeds will benefit the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation’s Dickenson County Endowed Scholarship.

The Dickenson County Endowed Scholarship Committee is currently seeking sponsorships to support event costs. Sponsorships range from $250 to $1000 and include tickets, branding, and special recognition. For more information on becoming an event sponsor, visit

Larry Sparks

Larry Spark

Larry Sparks is a dedicated leader for bluegrass music and is among the most widely known and respected touring musicians in bluegrass and gospel music today. Larry began his career in the mid-1960s as a guitarist with the Stanley Brothers and later became lead vocalist for Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Larry went on to form his own band in 1969, The Lonesome Ramblers. He has recorded and toured with his band for nearly 50 years, releasing over 60 albums and delighting countless fans with his soulful vocals and unparalleled musicianship.

Larry’s hits include John Deere Tractor, A Face in the Crowd, Tennessee 1949, Blue Virginia Blues, I Just Want to Thank You Lord. Love of the Mountains, Goodbye Little Darlin, You Could Have Called, Tribute to Hank Williams, Green Pastures in the Sky and more. He has performed on such world famous venues as the Grand Ole Opry, Austin City Limits television show on PBS. Song of the Mountains on PBS. He has toured the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Larry has been recognized as the International Bluegrass Music Associations Male Vocalist of the Year. He was awarded Album of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year with his album Larry Sparks 40 featuring several artists such as Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Tom T. Hall and many more.

Larry has been inducted into The International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and the George D. Hays Hall of Fame, Founder of The Grand Ole Opry.

For more information on the MECC Foundation and the Dickenson County Scholarship, visit


-MECC Foundation-

MECC Announces New Vice President, Executive Director of Mountain Empire Community College Foundation

Amy Greear

Amy Greear, Executive Director

Big Stone Gap – Mountain Empire Community College is pleased to announce that Amy Greear has been appointed as Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation.

Ms. Greear has served as MECC’s Coordinator of Community Relations since 2012 and as the college’s Interim Director of the Foundation since January of 2018. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Communications from Clinch Valley College (UVA-Wise), a Master’s degree in Educational Communications and Technology from East Tennessee State University, and is a doctoral candidate in the Leadership and Learning program at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.

Ms. Greear has served as an adjunct communication instructor at MECC for the last four years. She is a member of the college’s student success committee, SACS committee, and formerly served as the college liaison for the Virginia Community College System’s Professional Development Committee. She has directed the college’s international travel program, leading students to Costa Rica and Japan, with plans to lead a trip to Italy/Greece in 2019. She has served as a volunteer for multiple organizations and events on campus and in the community.

“Amy has a history of strong performance and service at MECC, serving students in multiple roles,” said MECC President Kristen Westover. “As a native of Southwest Virginia, Amy not only understands the unique strengths and challenges of our region, but she also constructs and implements creative strategies to move the Foundation, the College, and the region forward.  We are excited to be working with Amy in her new role.”

Prior to joining Mountain Empire Community College, Ms. Greear served as the Director of Community Impact for the United Way of Greater Kingsport and as the Director of Communications for Kingsport City Schools. She is a former journalist, having worked for the Kingsport-Times News, Bristol Herald Courier and the Coalfield Progress/Dickenson Star. A native of Appalachia, Ms. Greear and her husband Burke, reside in Kingsport with their daughter Maggie.

The MECC Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit organization that supports the mission of Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Foundation projects include scholarships, faculty and staff development and recognition programs, cultural programs and events, campus improvements, educational programs, and other projects.

The MECC Foundation holds the largest endowment of any community college in Virginia at $26.6M, distributing more than $300,000 in scholarships in 2018 as well as supporting the college’s career navigator, tutoring, and emergency assistance programs. For more information on the MECC Foundation, visit

-MECC Foundation-

Turner Establishes New Clinical Health Sciences Scholarship at MECC

Wiley Turner gift

MECC RN Instructor Deborah Wright, Wiley Turner, and Dean of Health Science Kim Dorton

Big Stone Gap – Wiley A. “Ike” Turner was so inspired by a relative’s personal struggles and triumphs in obtaining her Registered Nursing degree at Mountain Empire Community College that he decided to make a difference for future clinical healthcare students attending MECC.

Turner, of Castlewood, recently donated $50,000 to establish a scholarship fund honoring 2018 MECC Graduate Kara Kennedy along with his late wife, Dr. Lorraine C. Turner, the former Superintendent of the Russell County School System.

The Kara Kennedy/Dr. Lorraine C. Turner Endowed Scholarship will benefit students enrolled in clinical health science programs at Mountain Empire Community College. Turner said he wanted to do something that would assist students who will eventually go to work caring for the residents of this region. “The Lord has blessed me and I just want to pass it forward,” said Turner.

Turner’s cousin, Kara Kennedy, was a student in MECC’s Registered Nursing Program, when she was seriously injured in a hiking accident. Although Kennedy lost her leg, she recuperated and re-enrolled in the nursing program. Through the support of her family and friends, along with MECC students and staff, she graduated with her Registered Nursing degree in May 2018. Kennedy was one of two featured student speakers at the graduation ceremony. She currently works as an emergency room nurse at Norton Community Hospital.

Turner’s wife, Lorraine C. Turner, served as the Superintendent of Russell County Schools. She devoted her entire professional career to the Russell County School System as a teacher, supervisor and
superintendent. She worked tirelessly to promote the Special Olympics and expand educational opportunities for children and young adults in Southwest Virginia. Her love of teaching, faithfulness to God, and compassion for others was apparent in her church involvement and dedication to improving her community. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Clinch Valley College, a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Appalachian State University, and a Doctorate of Education from East Tennessee State University.

“We are grateful for Mr. Turner’s generosity and for his extraordinary commitment to our students and the community. The Kara Kennedy/Dr. Lorraine C. Turner Endowed Scholarship will benefit generations to come who will enter health care careers in Southwest Virginia, touching thousands of lives with their skills,” said MECC President Dr. Kristen Westover.

MECC’s offers a variety of clinical health science programs, including registered nursing, licensed practical nursing, respiratory therapy, emergency medical technician, physical therapy assistant, occupational therapy assistant, phlebotomy, radiography, and more. The college offers a state-of-the-art health care simulation laboratory, allowing clinical health science students to train for real-world situations in a controlled learning environment.

The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation supports the mission of Mountain Empire Community College by providing scholarships and funding for student success programs, professional development for faculty, and cultural programs for the community.

For more information regarding scholarships or to establish a scholarship, please contact the Mountain Empire Community College Foundation at 276.523.7466 or visit





MECC Foundation Raises More Than $50,000 during Scott County Endowed Scholarship Event

Hiltons, VA – The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation recently raised more than $50,000 at a special event to assist Scott County students attending MECC.

The Scott County Endowed Scholarship Event was held Saturday, August 25, at Crooked River Farm in Hiltons, Va. The event featured Grammy nominated bluegrass artists Blue Highway, with catering provided by North Fork Catering in Weber City. A silent auction was also held.

Major sponsors for the event included David & Annette Templeton, owners of Crooked River Farm, and Courtesy Chevrolet. Additional sponsors include Mark & Judy Musick, Humphreys Enterprises, Campus Drive-In, Jack & Martha Rhoton, New Peoples Bank, R-Mac Realty, Eastman Credit Union, Powell Valley National Bank, Komatsu, Scott County Telephone Cooperative, the Town of Nickelsville, Thermocopy, Otis Rhoton & Food City.

Silent auction items were provided by Belk, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bruno Bikes, David J. Clapp Photography, Made by Hands Floral, Meadowview Conference, Resort & Convention Center, Paul Mitchell Systems, Roberts & Jones, Jennifer Fletcher Meade & Danny Meade, TempurPedic and Quillin Hardware.

During the event, MECC Foundation Board Member and Scott County native Mark Musick announced a major gift to the college. Joyce Tallman, 91 of Atlanta, served as assistant to the president at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta for more than 30 years of her 50 years with the organization. She was born in Knoxville and was a former employee of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She was the longest serving member of the SREB staff.

Ms. Tallman named the MECC Foundation as a recipient of a $25,000 matching gift as part of the Joyce Cutshaw Tallman Trust. She passed away on Saturday, September 1.

“It’s inspiring to me that a person that has never been on the campus or in the community wants to help this region’s residents receive an education. She was quite a person,” said Musick, a longtime friend and co-worker of Ms. Tallman.

Amy Greear, MECC Vice President for Institutional Advancement at MECC and Executive Director of the MECC Foundation, stated that the August 25 event doubled the amount held in the Scott County Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“We are incredibly grateful that so many rallied around this cause,” said Greear. “This scholarship will benefit Scott County students now and in the years to come. Our single purpose is to remove any financial barrier for a student to attend MECC. We want all students to be able to reach their career and educational goals in order to live and work in our region. We are closer to doing that now thanks to the generosity of this community.”

For more information on the Scott County Endowed Scholarship or to donate to this fund, call the MECC Foundation office at 276.523.7480 or visit


MECC Foundation to Host “Diamonds and Denim” Event Supporting Scott County Scholarships

Blue Highway

Blue Highway

Crooked River Farm

Crooked River Farm

The Mountain Empire Community College Foundation is pleased to present “Diamonds and Denim,” an evening of elegance and entertainment featuring the music of Grammy-nominated artists, Blue Highway, at the beautiful Crooked River Farms in Hiltons, Va., Saturday, August 25.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Scott County Endowed Scholarship Fund, supporting Scott County students who wish to further their education and skill level at Mountain Empire Community College. MECC served more than 615 Scott County students in 2017-18 and awarded more than $502,000 in scholarships to Scott County residents. Continued financial support is needed to assist students with tuition, book, and attendance costs.

The reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. and includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, refreshments, wine & beer, a silent auction, concert entertainment and guest photography. Guests are encouraged to wear their diamonds and denim for this relaxed, semi-formal evening event. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets for the event are $65 or $125 per couple and may be purchased online at or at the Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance located at 1378 W. Jackson Street, Gate City.

The Scott County Endowed Scholarship Committee is currently seeking sponsorships to support event costs. Sponsorships range from $500 to $5000 and include tickets, branding, and special recognition. For more information on becoming an event sponsor, visit

Blue Highway has earned 27 collective IBMA Awards, 6 SPBGMA Awards, one Dove Award, and three Grammy nominations as a band, plus two Grammy Awards among its current members. Blue Highway’s #1 album “Original Traditional” was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album. The band was voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time by the readers of Bluegrass Today in April 2016. The newest album “Original Traditional” was released Sept 2016 and to date has topped multiple National Charts at # 1.

Crooked River Farm is a 200-acre estate along the Holston River close to Seven Shoals in Hiltons, Virginia. This enchanted estate includes rolling hay fields, over a mile of river frontage, oak forests and open glades.  The view is spectacular down an open valley with Clinch Mountain on one side, rocky cliffs along the river on the other side and beautiful meadows and hay fields between. A restored 1823 timber frame lodge towers above the valley below. The power and magnetism of the river delight the eye and pull you in while the forest and glades make the outside world fall away. The heart of Crooked River is the circa-1823 Ohio Grist Mill that serves as the concert venue, featuring 12×12 oak beams and majestic lighting.

For more information, call the MECC Foundation Office at 276.523.7466.

2018 John Fox Jr. Festival Contest Winners Announced

Big Stone Gap — The MECC Foundation conducted its 42nd annual John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival on Monday, April 16, featuring a presentation by author Sharyn McCrumb. The winners of the annual writing contests were also announced and recognized at the event.

Short Story winners (L to R) Noah Smith, Reece Mullins, Ben Adams, Benjamin Vicars, Amanda Bailey, Chloe Collins, McKenzie Templeton, Anthony Swindall

The 31st annual Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest winners middle school category winners include third place, Benjamin Vicars, who attends L.F. Addington Middle School; second place, Reece Mullins, who attends Coeburn Middle School; and first place, Noah Smith, who attends Smith Homeschool Academy. Winners in the high school category included third place, Ben Adams, who attends Central High School; second place, McKenzie Templeton, who attends Gate City High School; and first place, Chloe Collins, who attends Central High School. Winners in the adult category included third place, Anthony Swindall of Ben Hur, VA; second place, Jennifer Mullins of Big Stone Gap; and first place, Amanda Bailey of Mount Carmel, TN. Cash prizes awarded to the winners of the short story contest were sponsored by Lonesome Pine Arts and Crafts.

poetry winners

Poetry winners (L to R) Brittany Gentry, Morgan Graham, Kiarah Hamilton, Lauren McCoy and Alex Lon

The 14th annual Lonesome Pine Poetry Contest middle school category winners are third place, Kirsten Dixon, who attends Union Middle School; second place, Morgan Graham, who attends Flatwoods Elementary School; and first place, Kiarah Hamilton, who is a homeschool student in Big Stone Gap. Winners in the high school category included third place, Kayla Boyd, who attends A. Linwood Holton Governor’s School; second place, Lauren McCoy, who attends A. Linwood Holton Governor’s School and first place, Brittany Gentry, who attends Central High School. Winners in the adult category included third place, Stephanie Cassell of Norton, VA; second place, Donita Ratliff Kennedy of Kingsport, TN; and first place, Alexander Long of Pennington Gap, VA. Cash prizes awarded to the winners of the poetry contest were sponsored by the MECC Foundation.

To obtain information about the next John Fox, Jr. Festival and writing contests, to be held in the spring of 2019, contact the MECC Foundation at 276.523.7493.  

Caption for Pictures of contest winners (from left to right): Short Story winners (L to R) Noah Smith, Reece Mullins, Ben Adams, Benjamin Vicars, Amanda Bailey, Chloe Collins, McKenzie Templeton, Anthony Swindall

Poetry winners (L to R) Brittany Gentry, Morgan Graham, Kiarah Hamilton, Lauren McCoy and Alex Long

-MECC Foundation-

John Fox Jr. Rescheduled For Monday, April 16

The John Fox Jr. Festival, originally scheduled for March 21 at MECC, has been rescheduled for Monday, April 16 at 10 a.m. Those with luncheon tickets should contact 276.523.7466 if they cannot attend the rescheduled luncheon.