Gwynnavier Jones and her daughter, Bianka Warrick, have both benefitted from an Laurel Ridge education. And, both were able to do so without leaving Luray for most of their classes.
A mother of three, Jones graduated from Laurel Ridge in 2010 with an associate degree in elementary education. Bianka earned her associate degree in general studies May 11 – several weeks before graduating from Luray High School.
Jones briefly attended Laurel Ridge after graduating from Warren County High School in 1995, but quit to move out West and travel. After returning to Virginia, she met her husband, Vincent Warrick, got married and started her family.
As her children started to get older, Jones realized she wanted to focus on building financial security, and re-enrolled in Laurel Ridge.
She based her class schedules around her kids’ needs, and having the Luray-Page County Center nearby was very helpful. Some of Jones’s classes were distanced to the center, although she did have to take her biology classes on the Middletown Campus.
“Most of my classes were offered right here in town, which was really convenient for me,” she says. “The new Luray-Page County Center looks like it’s going to be really amazing. I think that is really awesome. I love how you guys are expanding the facility here for these kids because they need it.”
Jones particularly remembers enjoying her philosophy and psychology classes.
“And, my pottery and painting classes were amazing,” she says. “All of my classes at Laurel Ridge I really enjoyed and were really helpful.”
After earning her associate degree, she transferred to James Madison University, where she graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in art education.
Jones took a few years off after graduation so she could spend more time with her family, noting her classes sometimes took her out of the house for long periods.
She took her first teaching job last year, teaching art at Shenandoah and Springfield elementary schools. Starting this fall, she will be teaching art at Skyline and Warren County high schools.
“It’s so important that we have the arts in schools because kids need to sort of unplug from the other side of learning in the brain and relax a little more,” Jones says.
Her daughter, Bianka, is headed to the University of Virginia this fall to study pre-law. Before her daughter got to high school, Jones didn’t know much about Laurel Ridge’s dual-enrollment program allowing high schoolers to take college classes at a fraction of the cost.
“When I heard about it, I said, ‘Let’s do that,’” says Jones, whose son Juelian and daughter Leahnesse are rising high school sophomores. “Not only would it save us money, but it would also get her brain ready for that type of push and expectation of college-level classes. I’m hoping that Bianka inspires my twins and they think about doing it.”
Bianka says she was cheered on by her classmates when it came to taking her dual-enrollment courses.
“My graduating class is a big group of hard workers, so we all encouraged each other to get our degrees before graduating high school,” she says. “My favorite class was sociology with Professor Laurie Alphonse. The issues she talked about were so interesting.”
A high school student pays approximately $200 to take a dual-enrollment course through Laurel Ridge. Unfortunately, there are academically capable students whose families cannot afford the cost. Several years ago, the Laurel Ridge Foundation established a dual-enrollment scholarship fund.
“A donation to this fund will help a student earn college credit in high school,” explains Liv Heggoy, executive director of the foundation. “This opportunity could change their future.”
You can learn more about dual enrollment at laurelridge.edu/dual. For more about the Laurel Ridge Educational Foundation, visit laurelridge.edu/foundation.