Laurel Ridge gave Chrishan Francis, a member of the Class of 2000, the leadership and educational foundation for a successful career.
Attending and experiencing Laurel Ridge was much different than he had envisioned prior to his 1998 graduation from Sherando High School.
“I felt like in high school there was a lot of pressure to go to the big schools,” Francis said. “I didn’t even want to tell people I was going to a community college. But, coming out of Laurel Ridge, I learned a lot – I felt I learned a lot more. I really liked the program and the professors. They really wanted to teach you and mentor you beyond just the classes. They were always available.”
Not only was Laurel Ridge just minutes from his home in Stephens City, the small class sizes and dedicated professors meant students received individualized attention.
“Every class probably only had about 20 students,” said Francis. “A lot of the professors wanted to really help us. One of my best math professors was at Laurel Ridge – Professor Cyril Petras. He was not just teaching the concepts, I felt like he really wanted to teach the students on the practical use of calculus. For a subject such as calculus, if you have 200 students in the class, you’re not going to get the attention you need if you’re behind on a certain concept. You’re kind of on your own. With Professor Petras, he had the time to teach you those concepts.”
While at Laurel Ridge, he served as a student ambassador and as an officer in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.
“PTK was really good, kind of a leadership training for me,” Francis said. “In high school, I was a little bit more reserved. PTK really taught me a lot of the leadership skills I would need and that I still use today. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Professor Jim Brumbaugh, who was one of our PTK mentors, and continues to be a great mentor for PTK.”
Another bonus of going to Laurel Ridge was he could easily transfer to Shepherd University after earning his associate degree in network engineering. By going to Laurel Ridge for the first two years, he mentioned he saved money due to the lower tuition fees. In 2002, Francis graduated from Shepherd with his bachelor’s degree in computer science. Through Shepherd, he was able to obtain an internship working as a contractor for the U.S. Coast Guard.
He has been working for the Coast Guard for about 20 years now. Working in information security as the Branch Chief, Francis has about 60 military and civilian staff working under his branch.
“I really like working there,” he said.
Francis, who lives in Winchester with his wife Marie – also a 2000 Laurel Ridge graduate – and their two sons, went on to earn a master’s degree in information systems and a graduate certificate in information security from George Mason University.
In his spare time, Francis has recently returned to playing tennis again from his time at Sherando, and he volunteers as a board member with the I’m Just Me Movement, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives of young people and their families and communities through mentorship, training, education and community partnerships.
“I really, really liked the organization and what they were offering in terms of mentorship,” he said. “I had a few mentors of my own in college and in the workforce, and it’s important that everyone has a mentor to look up to.”
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.