Creating Successful Learners program wins national award

David Broyles Staff Reporter

September 18, 2013

Mount Airy City Schools and Surry Community College received national honors Tuesday night at the regular city board of education meeting for their “Creating Successful Learners” vocational program.

Athea Hairston of the Northwest Piedmont Development Board made the presentation. She explained the Piedmont Triad Regional Council received the 2013 Innovation Award from the national Association of Development Organizations (NADO). The regional council is based in Winston-Salem and funds the eLink program coordinator, Polly Long. NADO is a Washington, D.C.-based association which promoted programs and policies to strengthen local governments, communities and economies through regional cooperation.

“This is a fantastic example of when people cooperate and don’t care who gets the credit,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little. “It is the very epitome of giving back for an under served group in Mount Airy. They are the most dedicated group of people. It’s unbelievable to see them working so hard every day.”

Hairston presented plaques to both Long and Successful Learners instructors, Surry Community College President Dr. David Shockley, Vice President of Corporate and Continuing Education Dr. George Sappenfield and other college faculty and staff representatives who were on hand.

The program is described as a collaborative vocational training project between the business community, SCC and MACS. It is organized to address the pre-employment needs of developmental needs participants ages 14 to 21 years and adults 21-years and older.

“This program’s success has shown that there is a place for everyone in our workforce,” said Hariston. “This is a nationwide award for a truly innovative program.”

Long said that the credit goes to her teachers and staff “who go in every day with smiles and are greeted by smiles right back.”

Shockley told the group about a letter from the parents of a participant in the program who had died. He said the parents said their son had many medical problems and had felt unhappy since high school. The letter said the two months he’d been in the program had been the happiest they’d seen him. Shockley said that is what the training project was all about.

The program’s goals include helping participants transition into independent life and vocational skills through relevant training and subsidized employment opportunities. Participants are taught functional math and literacy, computer skills, how to advocate for themselves and how to access community resources.

Upon completion of their initial training, students then move on to a hands on apprenticeship which focuses on learning skills matching their aptitude and ability. Students are placed in unsubsidized work with partner business organizations in Surry County based on mastering of hard and soft workplace skills.

Business leaders also offer guidance to program participants in a job networking system where vocational goals and skill sets necessary to compete in today’s job market are discussed. Participants are members of Kiwanis International and take part in community service projects through the Kiwanis Aktion Club.

Award winners were first showcased during NADO’s 2013 Annual Training Conference held in August in San Francisco, Calif.