Hiker Encourages Students to Pursue Their Dreams

Dan Rogers Book2
(Left) Daniel Rogers signs copies of his book following his Tuesday visit to VHCC and (right) atop Mount Katahdin in Maine after completing a through walk of the Appalachian Trail in 1999.

Live your dreams.

Daniel Rogers shared those words of wisdom with Virginia Highlands Community College students on Tuesday, explaining that it is the most important thing he learned during more than 11,000 miles of backpacking across America.

“The cost of chasing your dreams is very high – it’s failure,” he said. “The reward is even higher. It’s life as opposed to mere existence.”

An Ohio native, Rogers began hiking while a young Boy Scout but got serious about the sport in 1999 when he took a six-month sabbatical from his job at Colgate Palmolive to hike the Appalachian Trail. Two years later, he resigned altogether and began a 3,400-mle journey across America that took him through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The walk took him just over a year to complete.

While walking Rogers experienced a level of freedom that most of us never realize in our daily lives, He had no boss, no alarm clock, and no where he had to be. This freedom allowed him to make a physical, mental and spiritual journey that has forever changed his perspective on life.

He took time to celebrate small accomplishments, he said, explaining that he “put down his backpack and danced with joy” when he had completed the first six miles of his cross-country walk. He learned to appreciate breathtaking views, the wonders of Mother Nature and the simple companionship of others he met along the trail. He experienced frozen hiking boots, thunderstorms, and rare moonbows only visible in a few places under special conditions. And, he said, he found time to think about the truly important things in life.

To explain, he shared a backpacking equation that helped him along the way.

“H is inversely proportional to PW and PW is directly proportional to F,” he said. “H is happiness and PW is pack weight. F stands for fear.”

Hikers are happier when their packs are lighter, and the analogy also works in real life. All people carry a backpack with them, he said, packed with anger, bitterness, childishness, jealousy and other emotions that bog them down. When they get rid of these things, their pack gets lighter and their happiness level goes up.

Similarly, fear causes hikers to load their packs down. If they are afraid of getting hungry or cold, they pack lots of food and clothing. Experience, however, allows them to accurately gauge their needs and travel lighter. In real life, employers recognize the value of experience and look for workers who are no longer afraid to accomplish great things.

In addition to his walk across American and along the Appalachian Trail, Rogers has completed 800 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail and numerous shorter hikes. He currently works as assistant scout executive for the Daniel Boone Council of Boy Scouts of America in Asheville, where he lives with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He has published a book about his cross-country hike entitled “America One Step at a Time.”


VHCC Students Visit Virginia Lawmakers

Group photo with Senator Chafin
VHCC students met with Senator Ben Chafin during a visit to Richmond that was organized by the Virginia Community College System to familiarize students with the legislative process and give lawmakers an opportunity to meet their community college constituents.

Four VHCC students traveled to Richmond in February to meet state lawmakers and explain how the College is helping them to achieve their educational goals.

The student group included two Patrick Henry High School and two Holston High School graduates who were chosen to participate in the annual VCCS initiative entitled Every Day is Community College Day. The goal of that program is to ensure community college students are in Richmond each day the Legislature is in session.  In addition to visiting legislators, students had the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and meet VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois


Carlie McCready : An affection for young children led Carlie McCready to pursue a career as a kindergarten teacher. So, after graduating from Patrick Henry High School in 2013, she enrolled in the Teacher Preparation program at VHCC. Because Carlie’s father is a tobacco farmer, she received a Virginia Tobacco Scholarship.  When she graduates with an associate’s degree in the spring, she plans to transfer to King University. Carlie said VHCC is the perfect learning environment for her because small class sizes have allowed her to excel academically.

025Frankie Coleman: A 2013 graduate of Patrick Henry High School, Frankie Coleman received a Virginia Tobacco Scholarship to attend VHCC because of her father’s past farming experience. She’s hard at work now on general education courses, but hopes to be accepted into the nursing program next year. Frankie said VHCC was a good choice for her because of the great reputation of the nursing program and the close proximity to home. She also likes the small class sizes and the opportunity to continue the next phase of her education with friends from high school.”My mother and aunt are both nurses, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

002Conrad Thacker: While enrolled at Holston High School, Conrad Thacker did a host of volunteer projects to earn a Washington County Community Scholarship. When he graduated in 2014, he decided to use that scholarship and his love of math to study engineering at VHCC. But it wasn’t just the promise of free tuition that brought him to VHCC, Conrad said, explaining that he was also intrigued by the small class sizes that have allowed him to develop personal relationships with his teachers. That one-on-one attention has allowed him to excel academically, he said, and is preparing him for the next step of his education. “My sister is in the engineering program at Virginia Tech now, and I’m planning to transfer there to finish my four-year degree,” he said. “It’s hard to pass up the chance to get two years of college at no cost, so this was a good place for me to start.”

004Devin Keith: While a student at Holston High School, Devin Keith spent a lot of afternoons helping elementary school teachers with classroom tasks and picking up trash around his high school. All that volunteer service earned him a Washington County Community Scholarship, which covers all of his tuition at VHCC for two years. Devin has always enjoyed helping people, so he enrolled in the VHCC nursing program. He is currently working on the prerequisites needed, then plans to earn an associate’s degree. After graduation, he’ll be eligible to take the test needed to come licensed as a registered nurse. “I’ve heard great things about the nursing program here, so I thought this would be a good place to get my RN degree,” he said. “After I work for a few years, I’d like to continue at King University and become a nurse anesthetist.”

Geospatial Technology Being Used in Biology Courses

Biology students at Virginia Highlands Community College are using geospatial technology to map tree species on campus and to document reptile and VHCC Assistant Professor Kevin Hamed recently participated in an extensive one-week Regional Geospatial Institute that provided training using geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing. He is now incorporating the technology into his biology courses.

Students enrolled in Plant Life of Virginia this fall are using GPS technology to map all the trees on the VHCC campus that are native species. The exercise is giving students experience using technology and identifying species, Hamed said, adding that the finished product will be a valuable tool for updating the VHCC Master Landscape Plan.

The new technology will also be used by General Biology students next spring to create a mobile app that will track reptile and amphibian life throughout the region, Hamed said. Community members can download the app on their smartphones and use it to take photos of turtles, snakes, frogs, lizards and salamanders they see. The app will record the exact location the animal was spotted and, once the information is compiled, students will have a valuable database of reptile and amphibian life in our region.

Hamed said he also plans to use the technology in March when Coastal Ecology students travel to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory for a one-week study of marine life.

Nineteen community college faculty and three high school teachers participated in the training provided through the Expanding Geospatial Technician Education(GeoTEd) project. GeoTEd is coordinated by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Virginia Western Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. The National Science Foundation provided funding through its Advanced Technological Education program.

VHCC to Honor American Veterans

veteransMembers of the campus community are encouraged to celebrate American heroes this Veterans Day by submitting the story of their own military service or sharing the story of a friend or family member who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The effort is being sponsored by the VHCC Student Veterans Association and all information and images submitted will be displayed in the VHCC Wolves’ Den. Multiple stories can be submitted.

A basic outline to help compile the information is available online at here. Participants may complete the sheet and submit it using the online form or submit your stories and pictures to Debbie Barrett or Jessica Seymour in the Admissions Office, ISC 133. Those who do not have access to a scanner, may bring their photos to Debbie or Jessica.  Forms will also be available in the Wolves’ Den.

Please help us honor those who have served or are currently serving in the military.  Land of the free because of the brave!

For additional information, please contact Debbie Barrett at (276) 739-2460.

Tobacco Commission Approves Grants for VHCC

Submitted by Heather Musick

VATIC(1)Virginia Highlands recently received $637,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission to assist students.

• $420,000 was awarded for the 2014-2015 VHCC academic year for the AIMS and Tobacco Scholarships. If you are interested in more information on these scholarships, please contact Lindsey Holman at 739-2555. We will begin taking applications for 2014-2015 scholarships in the spring.
• $50,000 will be used to provide scholarships for GED graduates that are interested in taking non-credit courses. These programs could include but are not limited to Nurse Aide, Phlebotomy, and Pharmacy Tech. More information on this opportunity will be forthcoming as the scholarship application process is finalized.
• $167,000 will be used to purchase equipment for the Industrial Maintenance program. VHCC will also be matching these funds in the amount of $167,000, making $334,000 available for updating equipment used by the Industrial Maintenance, Electricity, and Energy programs.

Plant Life of Virginia Students Travel to Botanical Gardens

plantlifeStudents enrolled in the new Plant Life of Virginia course, BIO-215 taught by Associate Professor Kevin Hamed, visited the University of North Carolina-Asheville Botanical Gardens on Friday.

The gardens house over 650 species of plants and the majority are native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Students were able to practice their identification skills and see many plants that would normally require visiting numerous sites throughout the area.

Students also had the opportunity to visit Carolina Natives Nursery where the owner, Bill Jones, provided a tour. Bill stressed the value of a community college education and suggested that students take as many classes outside of biology and horticulture as possible. He highly recommended accounting and business courses. His business is the largest producer of native, captive grown azaleas in the Southern Appalachians.

To learn more about the course and when it will be offered again, contact khamed@vhcc.edu or (276) 739-2431.

Volunteers Donate Time During National Day of Service

By Samantha Gunn
SGA Student Activity Officer

Members of the VHCC community came together with the rest of the country to “pay forward” their time as a way of recognizing those who lost their lives, the survivors, and emergency workers who responded after the attacks of September 11, 2001.The event was organized by the VHCC Student Government Association.

Students sort food at Feeding America

At Feeding America, VHCC volunteers sorted various items (food, baby products, pet supplies) into boxes so that they could be repackaged to send out to food banks and area families. Duane Holliday, SGA Vice-president, said that volunteers enjoyed working with the Feeding America staff and once volunteers had a rhythm down, the work was easy. This organization welcomes volunteers all year. Those interested in volunteering should contact Robert at (540) 342-3011, extension 7016.

Students work on Panicello Walking and Nature Trail.

Those who volunteered at Appalachian Sustainable Development helped to build a new fitness path by spreading gravel and planting flowers in the garden area. The path is designed to bridge the gap between fitness and the nature, and to educate the public on the Abingdon area ecosystems, history, and native plant species.  This is an ongoing project and additional volunteers are needed. For more information, please go to  http://asdevelop.org/get-involved/