The Mount Airy Rotary Club opened its weekly luncheon Tuesday at Cross Creek Country Club with special presentations to the Surry Arts Council and the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Surry Community College President Dr. David Shockley was the featured speaker.
Rotary President Jim Petelle presented checks in the amount of $2,000 each to both groups. Arts Council Chairman Laney Johnson accepted the donation on behalf of her group, and Executive Director Matthew Edwards of the Regional Museum accepted on behalf of his organization.
“The thing I am passionate about is community colleges and what they do,” said Shockley. “I am a product of the community college system.” He told the group many students are not ready for college and benefit from first attending a community college.
He also said community colleges serve the most diverse populations of any educational institutions.
“If you look at the demographics of any community, the community colleges will mirror this. It truly is a community college. We are here to serve Surry and Yadkin counties.” He told the group three guiding of any community college’s mission are to provide quality educational programs, develop the workforce and improve the quality of life.
Shockley told the group the school was looking forward to its 50th anniversary in January and explained the process for SCC renewing its accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
“This is a two step process,” said Shockley. “The off-site review was done in Georgia. I am happy to say we passed this first phase with flying colors. On Sept. 29, a group will arrive for a week-long on site review of the school. Our goal is to be accredited with no recommendations. That would be a wonderful anniversary present for us.”
He said while Surry Community should maintain its emphasis on providing quality college transfer programs which allow students an affordable to get ahead, it must revamp its emphasis on economic development. He told the group one unique thing Surry County has in its favor is its quality public schools.
“We have three outstanding public school systems in Surry County that bring out the best in each other,” Shockley said. “We need to aggressively re-do our technical programs. The jobs are returning but not the same way jobs left the United States.”
He said this was a driving force behind the school’s new, 6,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing Center. Shockley said short-term projects for the school includes upgrading and retooling its welding areas and using the manufacturing center to teach new technologies for machinists.
“The life blood of a community lies in its youth. We (schools, business, communities and counties) are working together which is something in our favor. It’s important to give the students opportunities to stay here as we move forward. That doesn’t happen everywhere, but it’s the smart way to make it happen here.”
He said ongoing efforts by this partnership will try to encourage students in ninth or 10th grade to think about what they want to do with their life.
“Things have changed. Students now do not have time to figure it out after they leave school like we did. Our children have to be prepared to compete so this community can compete worldwide,” said Shockley.
He said manufacturing is no longer a “dirty” profession and said modern manufacturing industries are cleaner and often air-conditioned. Shockley said they are looking for graduates who will both operate and repair their robotic machines. He said the school also would be assigning faculty members to visit area schools weekly to serve as resource advisors and predicted the college would become more involved with local robotics competitions.
Shockley ended his talk by telling the audience progress had to be rigorous because if the graduates could not perform, industry would loose confidence in the area. He said stereotypes about community college being inferior schools were wrong.
“With the people and the talent we have we can compete,” Shockley said. “We have to offer them (business) the confidence we can meet their needs. It will not be easy. Community colleges are not second class. I tell our students don’t be ashamed you’re not behind. You’re ahead.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.