For Immediate Release:
May 20, 2022
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
Laurel Ridge Community College on Wednesday signed an agreement with Opportunity Scholars that will open the door to higher education and career training for more students who come from families with lower and middle incomes.
Opportunity Scholars provides the up-front costs of education and career training – including short-term training – to Winchester and Frederick County students who plan to pursue jobs in their own communities in one of the following high-demand, high-skill areas: public service, healthcare, education, business, IT and trades.
Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said Knox Singleton, CEO of Opportunity Scholars, reached out to her in early 2018, shortly after she became president. He told her he was very interested in helping secure educations for young people. The two met shortly after and discussed the barriers to education many young people face.
“Knox is a great listener and he and I talked about the support systems that are often missing, and how those missing supports keep students from achieving all they can,” Dr. Blosser said.
She said it has been proven that “it’s better to be born rich than smart” when it comes to an individual’s later socio-economic status.
“We simply have to change that,” said President Blosser. “There is no reason these smart kids who just need the extra social and emotional and financial supports to be successful can’t achieve all they’re capable of achieving.”
Singleton said he was fortunate to be born into a middle-class family, which afforded him many opportunities.
“You don’t get to pick your parents, you don’t get to pick where you’re born,” he said. “This is really about the American dream.”
Nearly half of area students don’t further their education beyond high school, according to Singleton.
“At Opportunity Scholars, that is our mission,” he said. “We want to step in with that half, and we want to help them get an education. We have wonderful partners who will make that happen.”
As part of the agreement, Opportunity Scholars will pay for and provide personal, career and academic mentoring for high school and college preparation, as well as most of the expenses related to earning a degree or certification. Opportunity Scholars staff will articulate transfer pathways from Laurel Ridge to Shenandoah University for those careers that require a bachelor’s degree.
2019 Millbrook High School graduate Tihany Martinez-Gonzalez said she hopes to become an English as a Second Language teacher with the help of Opportunity Scholars.
“Before I met Opportunity Scholars, I was worried – where was my career going to go, was I going to be able to go to school?” she said. “I couldn’t afford it.”
When she arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador, Martinez-Gonzalez didn’t speak English, and learning ESL is difficult, she said.
“When I saw a lot of kids needed help [with ESL], I thought, I want to do that, too,” she said of her decision to teach English.
Del. Mark Keam, who represents Virginia’s 35th District, and has previously served as vice chair of the Finance Committee and chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee, was impressed by the program.
“This is such an amazing opportunity that you’re creating, not just for our students, but for the entire region,” he said.
Del. Keam said he’d like to see Opportunity Scholars extend around Virginia. Rather than thinking of education as a product, we should be thinking of it as part of the nation’s infrastructure, he said.
“It’s the backbone for every other service that America needs,” said Del. Keam.
Learn more about the program at https://www.opportunityscholars.org/.
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.