Page 1

Where We Are, Where We’re Going

INSIDE •Future I-87 to connect area to the future, Page 2 •Nash




improves services, Page 4 •Early college high schools blaze trail of innovation, Page 6 •NCC targets training for local workforce, Page 6 •Area parks offer something for everyone, Page 8



Visions 2020

Business & Industry Future I-87 to connect area to the future BY BOB GARNER Special to the Telegram

The future I-87 interstate highway between Raleigh and Norfolk, Va., will continue to spur economic development and population growth in the region during the next several decades, according to economic development and transportation officials. There are no accurate projections of when the highway will become fully completed, since it is funded and scheduled for construction or improvement in sections that compete for priority, officials said. However, simply the promise of relatively continual upgrading of the route to interstate standards over time is enough to quicken the pulse of economic development efforts in the counties through which it will pass. What are now rural, largely agricultural areas of eastern North Carolina will inevitably become better connected to highway networks, seaport facilities and rail terminals serving prosperous population centers throughout the eastern United States and beyond. “Ninety percent of all new job creation takes place along these type corridors,” said Christian Lockamy, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Authority. Future I-87 will be about 213 miles. The 180-mile North Carolina portion will follow present U.S. 64 east from Raleigh through Rocky Mount to Williamston, where it will turn toward the north and follow present U.S. 17 past Edenton and Elizabeth City to the state line. In Virginia, future I-87 will join interstates 64 and 464 in the vicinity of Norfolk and the Port of Virginia.

Those red, white and blue signs — even the ones that say ‘future’ — are remarkable things, providing not only branding but focus for advocacy by local leaders and developers. - Joe Milazzo of the Regional Transportation Alliance in Raleigh

Even though it’s widely estimated that future I-87 could take as long as 30 years to be brought to full interstate status, the existing multi-lane roadway from Raleigh to Norfolk is already a big selling point. “We’re blessed to have future I-87, in addition to I-95, as a conduit to get our clients’ products to the end user quickly, efficiently and when the customer wants them,” said Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership. “Even now on present U.S. 64 and U.S. 17, the Norfolk port is within a two-hour drive from Rocky Mount, while the ports at Morehead City and Wilmington are both only two hours and 15 minutes away. That makes the Rocky Mount area a great logistical hub — especially when you add in the new CCX intermodal rail terminal here that will become operational in January

FILE PHOTO/THE DAILY ADVANCE A sign along U.S. 17 Bypass announces the future Interstate 87 that will link Raleigh and Norfolk, Va. The 180-mile North Carolina portion of the highway will follow the current U.S. 64 east from Raleigh through Rocky Mount to Williamston, where it will turn toward the north and follow current U.S. 17 past Edenton and Elizabeth City to the state line. In Virginia, future I-87 will join interstates 64 and 464 in the vicinity of Norfolk and the Port of Virginia.

2021.” “As future I-87 is upgraded to full interstate status in the coming years, Nash and Edgecombe counties can only become even more attractive as an advanced manufacturing, food processing and logistics center,” Tolson said. To cite just one example of what is happening already, Triangle Tire selected Edgecombe County in 2018 for its first U.S. manufacturing facility. The Chinese tire manufacturing company will create 800 jobs and is investing nearly $580 million at the 1,449-acre advanced manufacturing megasite site located near Tarboro and just off future I-87. The project will contribute an estimated $2.4 billion to North Carolina’s economy. When future I-87 was signed into law and announced at the end of 2015, initial preliminary estimates were that the total cost of the route would be around $1 billion. But according to more recent information released by the state Department of Transportation, estimates now range from $1.7 billion to nearly $2 billion. Approximate calculations of the cost of improvements to the section between Raleigh and Williamston range from $845 million to $1 billion. The preliminary estimates for upgrading the portion from Williamston to the Virginia border vary from $850 million to $945 million. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of interstate construction. The only portion of I-87 that is finished and in operation as a completed interstate is a 13-mile stretch in eastern Wake County between Raleigh and Wendell, which makes I-87 the nation’s shortest current interstate highway. Around three miles coincides with the Raleigh beltline I-440, while the next 10 miles is

known as the Knightdale Bypass, which extends as far as Wendell. According to the DOT, improvements to bring future I-87 from Wendell eastward to Zebulon up to interstate standards, mostly through widening outside lane shoulders and upgrading some interchanges, are scheduled to begin in 2026. There is no firm timetable for how long that overall process may take. Although no design work has yet been done on future I-87 east of the Wake-Nash county line, there is still a lot of work to be done to bring the roadway up to interstate standards. Existing paved shoulders will need to be widened, some bridges will have to be replaced and some interchanges will have to be improved to meet modern requirements — lengthening on-ramp lanes, for example. Certain segments on present U.S. 17 that still have intersecting side roads and driveways, traffic lights and other characteristics will have to be re-engineered or bypassed entirely. Some stretches of U.S. 17/Future I-87 around Windsor, Edenton and Elizabeth City, however, already meet most interstate standards. “I’ve been working on I-87 for 15 years, and I always tell people we shouldn’t be amazed at how long interstate highways take to complete, but rather that they get built at all,” said Joe Milazzo of the Regional Transportation Alliance in Raleigh. “But bit by bit, they do get built. And those red, white and blue signs — even the ones that say ‘future’ — are remarkable things, providing not only branding but focus for advocacy by local leaders and developers. “Interstates won’t ‘make’ a region by themselves, since land, workforce and other infrastructure are also vital — but they do provide the opportunity to at least participate in the broader economic development game,” Milazzo said.

State grants, loans fund area infrastructure projects From Contributed Reports

The Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments assisted seven of the region’s towns with the application preparation and submittal process for part of $166 million in in recent state loans and grants awarded to help pay for 88 critical drinking water and wastewater projects across the state and is expected to provide grant administration services and technical assistance related to the projects. “We are very happy our member governments will receive over $11 million in new grants and loans from this last round of awards” said Planning and Development Services Department Director Ron Townley. “This brings the regional total we have assisted with to over $40 million since 2014. These awards are critical to assisting our small towns with needed maintenance and improvements so they can provide quality water and sewer service to their residents and businesses.

The Town of Bailey received a combination State Grant and Clean Water State Revolving Fund Principal Forgiveness Award for $1,841,500 to rehabilitate/replace the gravity sewer line. A Clean Water State Revolving Fund Principal Forgiveness Award for $1,199,080 was also given to Enfield to rehabilitate the wastewater treatment plant and gravity sewer line. Lucama, Sharpsburg and Whitakers were all awarded Clean Water State Revolving Fund Grant/Loans. Lucama will use its award of $1,467,500 to rehabilitate their gravity sewer line and Pump Station #3. Sharpsburg will rehabilitate seven pump stations and install two generators with their awarded $1,451,234. The $3,115,600 granted to Whitakers will be used to replace the gravity sewer line and rehabilitate four pump stations. Also awarded were three Community Development Block Grants for the In-

structure Program for the towns of Enfield, Hobgood and Woodland. Enfield will use its award of $888,725 for water line related work and 14 new fire hydrants. Hobgood’s $488,990 will

be used for the rehabilitation of sewer collection lines on three streets. With its award of $983,500, Woodland will be replacing a pump at Lift Station 1 and other related work.

Stock Photo

Visions 2020



CSX terminal leads to Corning, Triangle projects By JOHN H. WALKER Staff Writer

As one talks with Carolinas Gateway Partnership CEO Norris Tolson about projects currently underway, the inflection changes in his voice and his usual poker player’s facial expression gives way to a grin before turning into an outright smile. Clearly, the major projects underway in Edgecombe County are enough to stir the emotions of this veteran of economic warfare. There are three major projects underway in Edgecombe with an overall investment of more than $1 billion — Corning, the CSX Connector and Triangle Tire. Both Corning — which will soon open and employ 111 with 35-45 on-site vendor contractors — and Triangle Tire, which has yet to break ground on what will eventually be a four-building, 5-million-square-foot operation, are both located at the Kingsboro Business Park, which is a CSX-certified megasite. The third major project is the CSX Connector, the first intermodal rail-truck hub to be constructed in eastern North Carolina, located across U.S. 301 from N.C. Wesleyan College and is scheduled to open later this year. Since the announcement that Corning and Triangle were coming and the Carolinas Gateway Partnership began the marketing process, Kingsboro has grown from being known as the Kingsboro Industrial Park to, more recently, Kingsboro Business Park. “We have a lot of positive activity going on in Kingsboro,” Tolson said. “I’m very pleased with the energy around the site.” In addition to Corning and Triangle, Tolson says there have been discussions regarding a service plaza on a 20-acre plot near the northeast corner of the Kingsboro exit from U.S. 64 as well as developing a unique food court and park area in the area near the lakes where the Midlake Trailer Park once stood. Tolson previously told the Telegram that as he has talked with developers, he has told them he wants them to think outside the box to do things differently

GARY HODGES/SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAM The new CSX intermodal rail terminal is being built across from N.C. Wesleyan College along U.S. 301.

in an effort to make Kingsboro a different type of development. “We’ve been shown some interesting designs and plans,” he said. In addition to the auto plaza area with fuel and food and the food court, Tolson has heard from developers and investors talking about apartment buildings, duplexes and housing developments. Also, there’s a plan being looked at to take advantage of the Tar River for recreational purposes, such as canoeing and rafting, utilizing the state Parks Service landing off Dunbar Road to the northwest of Corning. And speaking of Corning, the company is moving closer and closer to opening — and Tolson has closely watched the project as it has moved along. Tolson tells the story that he would drive by the Corning project whenever he had to travel to Tarboro to see the progress. “They poured those walls in place,” he explained. “It was something to see. I’d drive by one day and there would be several wall panels up and then, a few days later, the whole side of the building would be completed.” Tolson, who said that while Corning will initially be served only by trucks, he

thinks the day will come when a rail spur will extend across U.S. 64 Alternate to serve the plant. “Corning continues to be an amazing project,” he said. Both Corning and Triangle, Tolson says, are the result of landing the CSX Connector — called CCX by the railroad company. “The day after we announced CSX, our phones started ringing,” Tolson said in an earlier interview. “We had calls from people asking where Edgecombe County was located and wanting to know more about us.” To use a phrase Tolson coined, “CSX put us on the map.” CSX wasn’t always coming to Edgecombe County. It fact, the railroad had selected a spot between Selma and Micro in Johnston County, but ran into heavy landowner opposition. Tolson said a longtime friend of his in Raleigh called and advised him that the CSX deal in Johnston County was falling apart and that he might contact the rail company. Tolson said he went back to his CSX contacts and started the process all over, telling them the Twin Counties would like to make a pitch.

“They told me to go ahead,” he told Welcome to Tarboro magazine. Tolson said he thought that after the battles the rail company had gone through over land in Johnston County, they were surprised at how quickly things came together in Edgecombe. Instead of CSX having to make the contacts and secure the land options, Tolson said CGP put the deal together and told CSX they were ready for business. The fact the Twin Counties could put the land deal together and CSX did not face opposition turned out to be a winwin-win — for the region, for the railroad and for the state, as many people felt that when the Johnston County site fell apart, the deal was gone forever for North Carolina. Other than not being CSX’s first choice, the site might prove to be ever better for the railroad for a number of reasons. It is halfway between Miami and Boston, 10 minutes from I-95, close to both I-40 and I-85, two hours from the Norfolk port, two hours from the Wilmington port, and four-and-a-half hours from the Charleston ports. Tolson said the location allows North Carolina rail to become a player in the mix for companies using the interstates and regional seaports. “Triangle will certainly bring product in for their tires, because we don’t have any rubber trees,” he said with a smile. The unique thing about CCX is that NCDOT will own it, much like a highway or ferry port, while CSX has agreed to operate it for at least nine years. It will be the only CSX intermodal facility that the railroad does not own. While the project has been downsized from four cranes to three and 500 acres to 300, there is more than enough space to expand, Tolson said. He noted that the facility will be able to handle 110,000 containers annually. A container has a capacity of 56,350 pounds, which means more than 3 million tons of freight annually could move through the facility.

Long-term outlook bright for economic development From Contributed Reports

Corning, Triangle Tire, CSX Carolina Connector, Sara Lee Bakery, Frozen Food Express and Babington Technology are companies that have recently announced that they are adding jobs and tax base to Edgecombe County, Tarboro, Rocky Mount and Nashville. Driven by these projects as well as by the resurgence of Rocky Mount and the Rocky Mount Mills, interest in the area is at an all-time high. The Kingsboro business park, the Tarboro Commerce Center, the West Nashville Commerce Park and the City of Rocky Mount

are all receiving renewed attitude toward growth attention from site con- and investment by local sultants and investors political and civic leaderfrom all over the United ship, then our whole area States. presents a great The basic inwelcome mat to gredients for new consultants and investment are investors.” having the right The interest in type of land availthe Rocky Mount able, a plentiful region is validated workforce base of by the very strong Norris trainable employproject flow being Tolson ees and a good handled by the quality of life. five-person staff at the “We are very fortunate Carolinas Gateway Partthat we have all three of nership. Currently, it is these elements in our working with 45 different product offering,” said projects that are in variNorris Tolson, president ous stages of negotiation. of the Carolinas Gate- The strong interest in this way Partnership. “When region is further validated you add an aggressive by the four to five new

project requests the partnership receives monthly from various sources including The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina in Raleigh. Further indication of the interest in the Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Nashville and Edgecombe County area is not only the large number of projects received but by the fact that half of its active projects are self-generated leads or referrals. “All of this activity bodes well for this area for growth of good jobs and further tax base increases from industry investments. Our growth

segment targets are advanced manufacturing, food processing, logistics and agriculture and this definitely demonstrates the diversity of our investment stream,” said Vince Andracchio, chairman of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership. To accommodate this growth, the Carolinas Gateway Partnership has initiated a workforce recruiting and training effort called RAMP East. This collaboration of 10 counties and eight community colleges serves as one of the connectors between residents of the area and the large number of available jobs. For

more information about training for one of the new job opportunities, prospects should connect with www.rampeast.com or call 252-443-6175. “The potential for more continued growth in the Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Nashville and Edgecombe County area is outstanding. We have been discovered. It’s our intent at the CGP to capture our share of this growth, create more good jobs and demonstrate to an ever-increasing audience what a great place our area is to live, work and grow,” Tolson said.



Visions 2020

Health & Wellness Nash UNC Health Care improves services BY JENNY WHITE Staff Writer Nash UNC Health Care has made significant strides in improving the services provided to Twin Counties patients in the past year. Nash UNC Health Care president and CEO L. Lee Isley said Nash UNC not only strives to provide excellent medical services, but also seeks to improve the health of all Twin Counties residents. “Our goal is to fulfill our board’s vision that we not only provide high quality healthcare when our patients need us, but that we also improve the overall health and vibrancy of our community. We continue to make great progress on our strategic plan in the areas of physician alignment, quality and service culture, community partnerships and financial sustainability,” Isley said. Isley said Nash UNC has invested in key services to serve local patients, like the cardiology and cancer center. “We don’t want our patients to have to travel for top-level care,” Isley added. “We are excited to be working collaboratively with the region’s medical staff and other partners to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.” Here are a few of the milestones achieved by Nash UNC in the last year: Improved Emergency Department Services Dr. Chris Brock, the Nash UNC Emergency Department medical director, said the improvements made in the department in the past year could best be described by the patients. “Our main improvements haven’t been behind the scenes where our patients might not have noticed,” Brock said. “We’ve cut wait times down from over an hour to 22 minutes. And the entire emergency department staff, from the doctors to environmental services employees have worked hard to make the entire experience better for patients and their families.” “We’ve made really noticeable and tangible changes to improve patient outcomes,” he added.

Brock is part of a team Nash UNC has partnered with, Wake Emergency Physicans (WEPPA), to manage the emergency department. Brock said a group of about 14 doctors from WEPPA staff the emergency department, along with other staffers part of the Nash UNC Health Care family. “Most all of these newest ED improvements came about before we came on board, so we’re just looking to build on that momentum,” Brock said. “I love being a part of making Nash UNC better and have found a phenomenal group of people working here. We’re not here to just staff a shift. Be assured that your health care team at Nash UNC ED is here to be members of the community and take part in improving the overall health of Nash County.” While Nash UNC’s emergency department’s wait time is currently rated at 22 minutes, the national average is 30 minutes. Brock said that’s especially impressive given the volume of patients the emergency room sees on a daily basis. And overall satisfaction results have climbed over the last two years. Scores have moved from the lowest percentile to the top percentile for this year. Growth of Heart Services For the third year in a row, Nash UNC Health Care has earned national recognition from the American Heart Association for its heart care. The hospital was recently awarded the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline for both Gold STEMI Receiving and Gold NSTEMI. To earn both Mission: Lifeline Gold STEMI Receiving and Gold NSTEMI, Nash UNC Health Care had to abide by strict guidelines and performance measures geared toward increasing the quality and timeliness of care for heart attack and pre-heart attack patients. “STEMI stands for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, the deadliest type of heart attack, caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart. To prevent death, it is critical to restore blood

flow to the heart with a balloon or stent. Every minute counts. NSTEMI stands for a non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, which means blockages are partial,” said Dr. Michael Yeung, an interventional cardiologist with UNC Cardiology at Nash and the medical director of the Nash Heart Center, which opened in 2014. Knowing that care for heart patients starts before they arrive at the hospital, Nash UNC partnered with Nash EMS to coordinate protocols for treating cardiac patients before they reached the emergency department. The collaboration of efforts has resulted in better care for patients – and national recognition. Another cardiac services milestone at Nash UNC this year was the opening of an outpatient Heart Failure and Intravenous IV Diuresis Clinic to improve care and access to services for heart failure patients, according to a press release from Nash UNC Health Care. “We have seen a rise in heart failure in our emergency department in recent years, and it is the leading cause of 30-day hospital re-admissions,” said Sarah Heenan, executive director of Nash UNC Health Care’s Heart Center. “Outpatient IV diuresis helps many patients avoid emergency department visits and potential hospitalization, and therefore allows them quicker, easier and more cost-effective access to treatment.” Investment in Local Nursing Talent Due to an aging population and decreasing reimbursements, hiring and retaining bedside nurses can be a challenge for hospitals in rural areas. A Georgetown University study has indicated by 2025 North Carolina will be the second highest state in the nation with a shortage of nurses, with a projected deficit near 13,000. Nash UNC has strategized to come up with long-term goals to meet the nursing needs at the hospital. A collaboration with Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College has created the Nurse Scholars Program. Nurs-

FILE PHOTO/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM Nurse Karley Sharpe, left, goes over Lou Cohoon’s discharge plan on Jan. 29, 2019, at Nash General Hospital.

ing students can apply for a Nurse Scholars scholarship. The program offers to pay for school at one of the two local colleges and in return students commit to work at Nash UNC as a beside nurse for two to three years. Another contribution Nash UNC has made to support the education of local nurses is a $150,000 grant made to N.C. Wesleyan to help them start their RN to BSN nursing program. “We are excited to enhance the growing network of continuing education available for the nursing profession in our community,” Isley said. “Our partnerships with all three local colleges help to ensure we are developing a pipeline of local talent who are well prepared to work in our local institutions and to continue to advance and improve the health care landscape in our community.” Continued Accolades for the Joint Center In February of 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina selected Nash UNC Health Care as a Blue Distinction Center for knee and hip replacement. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated healthcare facilities shown to deliver improved patient safety and better health outcomes. Hospitals designated as Blue Distinction Centers+ for Knee and Hip Replacement demonstrate ex-

pertise in total knee and total hip replacement surgeries, resulting in fewer patient complications and hospital readmissions. “Knee and hip replacement procedures are among the fastest growing medical treatments in the U.S.” said Dr. Greig McAvoy, medical director of Nash UNC’s Joint Replacement Program. “Our team is committed to offering the highest quality knee and hip procedures and to continuously improve our patient care. Having our Joint Replacement Program recognized as a Blue Distinction Center+ is a salute to the work we have done to offer the best patient care in our area.” McAvoy said the Joint Replacement Program’s great success rate is in partly due to the successful workflow and communication between departments throughout a patient’s entire experience – from pre-surgery classes, to surgery, to rehabilitation plans. “Part of what makes our patient outcomes so good is we take a team approach and treat every patient like family,” McAvoy said. “If the rehab therapist sees a patient and thinks there’s something I should be aware of, the flow of communication is so direct. It’s just nice to offer patients one continuous stream of care from beginning to end, versus going one place for surgery and then another for rehab.”

Local hospitals increasingly use telemedicine BY JENNY WHITE Staff Writer

As medical technologies and health treatments change and improve at record speeds, so too are the methods in which we receive our health care. Both Nash UNC Health Care and Vidant Edgecombe Health have existing protocols to use telemedicine methods to treat patients. Telemedicine is the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecom-

VidantNow CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Vidant Edgecombe Hospital has been offering the VidantNow app since 2018.

munication technologies like video con- medicine at Nash UNC is the intensive ferencing. This allows practitioners to care unit. Dr. Crystal Hayden, chief opconference with other doctors, researchers erating officer and chief nursing officer or specialists for consultations or long-dis- at Nash UNC, said the hospital recenttance patient and clinician contact, care, ly launched Tele-ICU in the critical care advice, reminders, education, interven- unit and cardiovascular intensive care tion, monitoring and remote admissions. unit in February. “Tele-ICU enables off-site, board-cerTelemedicine is especially helpful for rural hospitals or medical practices that lack tified intensivists to interact with beside access to more specialty-intensive health staff via audio/visual conferencing on a mobile work station to consult on care. patient care when there is not an Dr. Chris Brock, Nash UNC intensivist physically present in Health Care Emergency Departthe unit,” Hayden said. “By imment medical director, said Nash plementing Tele-ICU, we ensure UNC has made great strides 24/7 intensivist coverage of every in using telemedicine in recent patient in our ICU.” years, especially for stroke care. According to a JAMA study “Typically, we’ll receive a patient in the emergency room and Dr. Chris Brock published in 2018, research showed annual telemedicine ussuspect a stroke. There is a regiage in a control group increased men of testing required for diagnosis, so while the CT scans and other from 206 visits in 2005, or less than 1 per tests are happening, we’ll go ahead and 1,000 people, to more than 202,000 visits make contact with the Duke Telestroke in 2017, or more than 7 per 1,000. Over service. We get to speak to a Duke neu- 83 percent of the telemedicine incidents rologist within minutes and go ahead and were in rural areas. Amy Dixon, manager of marketing give our initial workup notes to the specialist,” Brock said. “So, we’ve got the ball and volunteer services at Vidant Edgerolling by the time the test results are back combe Hospital in Tarboro, said their and can have a patient into a treatment emergency department also uses telemedicine to treat stroke patients, as well as plan as soon as possible.” Brock added that, especially for stroke heart failure patients. “Vidant Neurology and other contractpatients, getting the most advanced and proper treatment started can make a tre- ed specialists are used to help with the mendous difference in the eventual out- treatment of stroke patients,” Dixon said. “Vidant Health also utilizes telemedicine come for patients. “Using telemedicine for our stroke to treat high-risk congestive heart failure patients 100 percent helps us offer bet- patients in their homes to monitor weight ter patient care,” Brock said. “It literally and vital signs.” However, Vidant has used telemedicine helps us to save more lives and have better outcomes for our patients that are having the longest to help treat mental health issues for their patients. Since 2010, Vidant a stroke.” Another department that’s using tele- Edgecombe has offered telemedicine for

behavioral health problems. “We utilize NCSTeP and Vidant Behavioral Health to provide telemedicine for behavioral health patients.” Dixon said. Across the country, this is the most common use, so far, of telemedicine. The JAMA lead study author Michael Barnett of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said a shortage of mental health specialists and resources is fueling the growth of telemedicine in this discipline. “It’s growing most rapidly in rural areas where a shortage of mental health specialists is prompting more patients to consider this alternative to in-person visits,” Barnett said. During the study period, 53 percent of telemedicine visits were for mental health visits. Studies predict primary care telemedicine incidents will increase over the next few years. Vidant Edgecombe offers a similar service to patients already. “We offer VidantNow virtual care in partnership with MDLive to North Carolina residents with non-urgent symptoms including acne, allergies, flu, fever, insect bites, sore throat, urinary problems and vomiting, just to name a few,” Dixon said. “VidantNow is an app which allows access to licensed physicians 24/7 via smartphone or computer in the patient’s home or wherever they may be. This technology helps our patients avoid long wait times in our waiting rooms and lengthy travel time while sick.” Vidant Edgecombe started offering VidantNow in 2018.

Visions 2020


A healthy community is a strong


As a locally-owned and operated hospital, Nash UNC Health Care is proud to support our growing community. We are committed to providing progressive, high-quality health care to help our region continue to thrive. Most of all, we’re committed to serving you – our friends, neighbors and loved ones – with care that exceeds expectations.

NashUNCHealthCare.com NHCS 31150 Visions 2020_10.125x21.indd 1

3/17/20 12:03 PM




Visions 2020

Schools & Education Early college high schools blaze trail of innovation By Amelia Harper and Amber Revels-Stocks Staff Writers The crown jewels of public education in the Twin Counties are the two early college high schools that are located on local community college campuses. Edgecombe County Early College High School, which is located on the Tarboro campus of Edgecombe Community College, has had an A rating on the state’s measure of school report cards for the past five years. It also consistently boasts a graduation rate of more than 95 percent, a significant increase over Edgecombe County Public Schools’ overall rate of 77.3 percent in the 2018-19 school year and North Carolina’s graduation rate of 86.3 percent. Edgecombe County Early College High School also has been consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the past few years. By its ranking system, which includes such factors as state testing results, graduation rate and how well students are prepared for college, the school was most recently ranked as the top school in the Rocky Mount Metro Area and was ranked at number 234 of all high schools in North Carolina. Currently, the school also boasts the distinction of having North Carolina’s principal of the year at its helm. Matt Smith has been the principal of the school since it was established. The Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School is also the top school in the Nash-Rocky Mount school district. The school, which is located in a newly-renovated building on the campus of Nash Community College, is the only school in the district to have ever earned an A rating on the school report cards. The school is currently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the second-best public high school in the Rocky Mount Metro Area. It ranks at 267 in North Carolina, according to criteria used in that study. These schools are public schools, but they differ from traditional public schools in the state. They fall into the category of Cooperative Innovative High Schools, which operate under the Cooperative Innovative High School Programs statute crafted by the General Assembly in 2003. The purpose of this statute and the Innovative Education Initiative Act was to “encourage Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to partner with their local postsecondary Institutions of Higher Education to provide cooperative programs joint-

ly in high schools and colleges/universities that will expand students’ opportunities for education success through high quality instructional programming,” according to the state Department of Public Instruction website. Though not all cooperative innovative high schools in the state are early college high schools, all early college high schools are cooperative innovative high schools. Some other specialty schools, such at the CITI High School in Rocky Mount, which focuses on preparing students for trades and technical education, are also cooperative innovative high schools. Currently, there are more than 130 cooperative innovative high schools in the state. Roughly 90 of those are early college high schools. These early college high schools are usually smaller than the average traditional high school and are usually located on the campus of an institution of higher learning such as a community college or university. This close proximity allows students to attend some classes at the college or university and to take advantage of the greater learning resources and opportunities such institutions offer. Cooperative Innovative High Schools target students who are at risk of dropping out of high school, first-generation college students, and students who would benefit from accelerated learning opportunities, according to the DPI website. Early college high school students usually attend high school for five years, spending their final year as a “super senior.” By the time they graduate, these students generally earn one or more associate degrees in addition to their high school diploma and are in a better academic and financial position to complete a college degree, should they desire. Currently, almost 13,000 high school students across the state are enrolled in early college high school programs. Because the admission process for these schools vary widely and stricter admissions protocols usually apply, students who are interested in enrolling in a cooperative innovative high school need to contact their school district central office or their principal, ideally while they are in middle school. Many early college high schools are making great strides across the region. Pitt County School Early College High School started in August 2015 and graduated its first class in May 2019. Out of 62 seniors, 21 completed the early college program in four years instead of the expected five. Pitt Early College moved into a

dedicated building on Pitt Community College’s campus in 2018. The school won the National ESEA Distinguished Schools award two years in a row after being nominated for the first time in 2017. Pitt Early College was honored for being an A school that exceeded growth for three years in a row, according to Principal Wynn Whittington. “We were the first high school to be nominated in 2017,” Whittington said. “But I’m pretty sure we’re the only high school to win it twice in a row.” Pitt Early College has a family environment due to its small enrollment. Faculty and staff work to know their students on a personal level. “The biggest thing is the relationships we have with our students,” Whittington said. “We’re able to focus on their social, emotional and physical needs as well as their academic needs. You don’t get that at a larger school due to sheer size.” Like other early colleges, Pitt Early College targets first-generation college students who could be considered economically disadvantaged or who qualify for free or reduced lunch. “We focus on the students who probably would never go to college due to the financial burden,” Whittington said. “The difference for us is that we’re able to change lives every day because we’re giving children an opportunity that they probably would not otherwise have.” Pitt County has two early college high schools. Innovation Early College High School became the second early college high school in Pitt County in August 2018 when it welcomed a class of 55 students. Each year, it adds 55 students, currently having one cohort of freshmen and one of sophomores. Innovation Early College High School is a collaboration between Pitt County Schools and East Carolina University. That collaboration sets the school apart from other early colleges, according to Principal Jennifer James. “I work very closely with ECU staff to ensure that our program is successful,” James said. Innovation also uses project-based learning that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Goals of the United Nations. “We approach project-based learning through utilizing a human-centered design thinking process,” James said. “Our goal is to teach students to be compassionate and to empathize with others and their situations. Our students should think about and solve prob-

FILE PHOTO/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM - Edgecombe Early College High School Principal Matt Smith, second from left, talks with student Jacqueline Dickens, right, as she works on her East Carolina University scholarship application with students Elijah Williamson, left, and Lauren Reason on Jan. 14, 2019, at the school in Tarboro. lems by understanding other people’s paradigms. We want our students to leave this place better than they found it.” Greene Early College High School is another example of the success cooperative innovative high schools can attain. Greene Early College High School started in 2006 under the North Carolina New Schools model. With its opening, students could determine whether to attend it or the county’s traditional high school, Greene Central, for the first time. This early college high school is the result of a collaboration between Greene County Schools and Lenoir Community College. “The thing that sets GEC apart from other schools is the commitment to establishing positive working relationships with all stakeholders of our school, while also providing rigorous instruction that is relevant to the lives of the students we serve,” Principal Rodney McNeill said. “This takes an amazing group of professionals to make that happen and we definitely have that. We also enjoy tremendous support and trust from the parents of our students and the Greene County Community.” This has resulted in Greene Early College winning several awards and recognitions. Newsweek Magazine recognized it as one of the Best High Schools for serving students in poverty. U.S. News & World Report has also named Greene Early College as one of the Best High Schools every year since 2014. The school is also a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and a National Beta School of Merit. “We’ve also had a 100 percent graduation rate for five of the past

six years, and half of our teachers and our school counselor are National Board Certified,” McNeill said. “We’re also an A school, and our growth this past school year was in the top 5 percent of all schools in the state.” The Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience is a different kind of early college high school, one that has cooperative relationships with multiple institutions of higher learning. The Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience was created by Senate Bill 125 in the 2011 session of the General Assembly as a regional school. It is the only regional school in the state, comprising of students from Beaufort, Martin, Washington, Terrell and Pitt counties, according to Principal Hal Davis. The school allows students to take classes at Martin Community College, Beaufort Community College, Pitt Community College, East Carolina University, the University of Mount Olive and N.C. State University. NERSBA’s curriculum is designed to follow the similarities of early college programs while focusing on biotech and agriscience applications, such as animal science and equine technology. “We have a wide variety of courses to choose from whereas in a traditional school you are more focused on a specific track,” Davis said. “Most early colleges are on the campus of a specific community college whereas we have our own campus on the former site of Jamesville High School and Jamesville Middle School. In the future, that property will be permanently owned by NERSBA.”

NCC targets training for local workforce By KELLEY DEAL Special to the Telegram

Nash Community College is continuing its focus on relevant workforce training for local and regional careers. “I firmly believe that we have the potential workforce in Nash County to make us even greater than we are, but we have to train them,” NCC President Lew Hunnicutt said. “We have to come to the realization that not everyone needs a four-year degree. But we must give them the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.” To address this need, NCC offers a variety of short and long-term programs customized for local employment. Short-term training in NCC’s Practical Nursing and Medical Assisting programs allows individuals to enter into in-demand health care careers following a few semesters of coursework. Another program, Supply Chain Management — also known as logistics — prepares students for careers in distribution, transportation, warehousing, trucking operations, supply chain and manufacturing organizations. International and domestic logistic careers involve the movement of goods from the raw sources through production and to the end-user. “This is a two-year program with transfer opportunity to North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Bachelor of Science

in Logistics and Supply Chain Management four-year program,” Hunnicutt said. New two-year degree programs such as Emergency Medical Science and Emergency Management prepare NCC students to advance in high-demand careers administering advanced emergency medical care and delivering emergency services. Through its partnership with NashRocky Mount Public Schools, NCC is promoting awareness of skilled trade careers in order to address the skills gap and fill vital roles. “NCC is placing more emphasis on career awareness for younger students — even as early as fourth grade,” Hunnicutt said. “We are working diligently to communicate pathway options, advise students and parents and collaborate with school counselors to align degree pathways with high school coursework.” At CITI High, students are preparing, in partnership with NCC, for a number of high-skilled careers in Automotive Systems Technology, Electrical Systems Technology, Cybersecurity and Industrial Systems Technology as part of their high school experience. Through an academic foundation of career-informed courses and work-based learning experiences, graduates of CITI

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Students attend orientation at the Fire Training Academy at Nash Community College.

High School will be prepared to enter the workforce with solid credentials upon graduating from high school, or they may choose to continue their education. Many local students are taking advantage of the Career and College Promise program to pursue their career and technical education or college transfer goals. Students in this program obtain tuition-free college credit while enrolled at both their high school and NCC. These credits directly transfer into degree programs at NCC and most four-year colleges and universities in North Carolina. This can save families thousands of dollars in tuition and fees

that would have been spent in the first two years at a university. NCC also assists the firefighter academies in area high schools. Upon completion of high school and the academy, many graduates employed as firefighters return to NCC’s two-year Fire Protection Technology degree program to further advance in their careers. Education is fundamental to the success of the local community. NCC is a vital partner in providing workforce preparation to support the growth and innovation of the many complex occupational sectors within the Twin Counties. For more information, call 252-4518235 or visit www.nashcc.edu.

Visions 2020



Schools & Education Education partnerships support area schools By PAIGE MINSHEW Telegram Correspondent Nash-Rocky Mount and Edgecombe County schools have the support of several organizations with the intent on ensuring students, faculty and parents have a successful school year. The Down East Partnership for Children, Communities in Schools and the Strategic Twin-Counties Education Partnership are the organizations that do vital work with local schools. The Down East Partnership for Children is an organization charged with implementing North Carolina’s Smart Start initiative in Nash and Edgecombe counties. Its mission is to launch every child as a healthy, lifelong learner by the end of the third grade. For more than 25 years, DEPC has worked to improve the quality of child care and early education in grades pre-K to 3, offer families support and training and establish a base of community leadership and engagement so all children enter school ready to learn and experience long-term success. Founded in 1993, DEPC has served more than 11,000 children and families by providing quality child care scholarships; offering free child care for families facing crisis situations; partnering with seven pediatric clinics in the Reach Out and Read Program; registering 2,446 children for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library; and offering parenting classes such as Circle of Parents, Triple P and Incredible Years. Local parent Joyce Wilkins said, “My favorite classes offered to parents at DECP are the parenting classes, Triple P and Circle of Parents.” The Incredible Years – Preschool Series for parents of children 3-5 years old will hold 16 sessions on Thursday evenings from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at 215 Lexington Ave. in Rocky Mount. The first in the series began on Feb. 20. Communities in Schools is an organization that works closely with local schools to prevent dropouts and ensure high school students are prepared for college or a career. In fact, CIS is the nation’s largest stay-inschool network. CIS believes that by empowering students to achieve high in school and life, we are creating a stronger state and nation, where all people are capable of reaching their greatest potential.

The CIS mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve their goals in life. The Rocky Mount chapter of CIS is also considered a College Access Program. Students who are members of the College Access Program are usually the first in their family to attend college, and a particularly important aspect of that experience includes onsite visits to Nash and Edgecombe community colleges and N.C. Wesleyan College. Tours provided on these campuses show prospective students classrooms and laboratories where they may study and work. The tours also include visiting a residential dormitory and college cafeteria. CIS students and their families attend various workshops on the college-entry process and obtain valuable information on graduation requirements and financial aid. One-on-one meetings are also provided to juniors and seniors to ensure the students are meeting UNC system requirements and are making realistic choices of where to apply for college. School counselor Jan Stone recommends the program. “To continue to care for all students and their families in need and to grow — it does take a village to embrace a child and help them succeed in academics and in life,” she said. The Strategic Twin-Counties Education Partnership is an organization that ensures young people in Edgecombe and Nash counties are exposed to and fully prepared for the 21st century jobs that the region offers. STEP also secures ongoing philanthropic, corporate and public financial support so that the organization can continue to be self-sustaining. The STEP mission is to “improve educational opportunities for student’s pre-K to post-secondary in Edgecombe and Nash counties by facilitating collaboration by all groups involved and interested in public education.” STEP focuses its work in three areas: Workforce Awareness, Workforce Readiness and Strengthening Communication. The goal of Workforce Awarenessl is to increase the knowledge of different careers. For example, while in school, they can have lunch with an engineer, take advantage of Health care Ca-

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Edgecombe Early College High School senior Abdur Gant, left, explains ECC’s High Altitude Balloon Team experiments to eighth-graders during the Communities in Schools’ College Fair and College Prep Retreat in Mobley Atrium at Edgecombe Community College in Tarboro. reer Connections and participate in Mini Career Cluster Showcases. Out of school, a student could job shadow, intern at a company with whom they have an interest and participate in industry tours. For staff development, educators are encouraged to participate in summer institutes, industry tours, seminars and share best practices with others. The Workforce Readiness Coalition is a group of educators representing Edgecombe County Public Schools, Edgecombe Community College, Nash Community College, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and business andindustry and community stakeholders. The coalition seeks to “strengthen the region’s career and technical education pathway, career awareness programs, and the workforce system to produce a work ready community.” The mission of the coalition is to “promote and facilitate the successful collaboration of those involved in preparing a qualified workforce.” Its goals are to address the soft-skills job gap, increase work-based learning experiences and increase awareness of students and educators about local products, companies and careers in the Twin-Counties region.

The Workforce Readiness Coalition is always seeking community and business leaders to volunteer their time and services. Some of the ways leaders can help is by providing internships for students to gain experience, determine interests, network with professionals or gain school credit; serving as speakers for students during class; providing mock interviews for students to gain practice with experts; and providing lunch seminars with industry information and updates. Also, part of the STEP program is the #workHERE initiative. It’s primarily focused on increasing career awareness to students in the Twin Counties. This initiative works in collaboration with business, industry and education partners in Nash and Edgecombe counties. The initiative also seeks to expand community partnerships, increase work-based learning experiences, and create a continuous improvement network. Educators, students and parents are all looking forward to the future of education in Nash-Rocky Mount and Edgecombe county schools with the help of the Down East Partnership for Children, Communities in Schools and the Strategic Twin-Counties Education Partnership.

Because We Care...

RON SOWERS/SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAM - Edgecombe Early College High School student Francisco Vazquez-Hilario and Edgecombe Community College students Clayton Garrison, and Charles Newsome, from left, get hands-on experience in a Motors and Controls course in the new Center for Innovation on ECC’s Tarboro campus.

ECC aims to expand student opportunities From Contributed Reports Edgecombe Community College will focus on expanding educational and training opportunities available to students in 2020. The Center for Innovation opened for classes in January. The facility houses the college’s industrial-related programs, including Manufacturing Technology, Industrial Systems Technology and Electrical/Electronics Technology, as well as Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management. The new facility is providing high school and adult student populations with hands-on access to the latest technologies and practices found in advanced manufacturing today. Starting this fall semester, ECC will launch a new degree program in Agribusiness Technology. Edgecombe County is a leader in the state’s agriculture industry. County extension office officials report an estimate of more than 3,500 jobs in agribusiness in the Edgecombe area, not including seasonal workers. In addition, the demand is growing for local produce and vegetable/truck farmers. The Agribusiness Technology program will provide training in sustainable farming, farm management, crop production, farm maintenance, animal sciences and horticultural science through classroom and online classes. A planned program pending full approval is a new degree program in Emergency Medical Sciences. The North Carolina Office of EMS will soon be requiring all community college paramedic programs to develop an associate degree pathway for paramedic training. ECC is expanding its existing paramedic program to meet this requirement. The college’s current paramedic program prepares students to become certified paramedics. Additional clinical hours will not be required for students in the new pathway. Rather, the added courses will be in general education, such as English and math, leading to a degree.

As the demand for workers in all health care fields continues to grow, local prehospital agencies can best serve their clients through a well-trained, certified workforce. In recent years, Edgecombe Community College has added short-term training programs that equip students with the skills they need to join the workforce. These programs vary in length, from a drone certificate, which consists of seven classes and can be completed in two semesters, to forklift training certification, which is a six-hour class that is completed in one day. Baking and Pastry Arts, for example, is equipping students with the skills they need for jobs. Courses in Plated Desserts, Basic Cake Decorating, Food Service Sanitation and Safety and Food Service Management are taking place in 2020. Other short-term training courses include masonry, which is a new offering, residential HVAC service and repair, EPA refrigerant certification, real estate, construction academy and solar construction classes for individuals who are interested in working on solar farms. Students will be able to earn OSHA-10 certification along with knowledge about assembling solar panels. New summer camps for kids also will be offered this year. Camp College is held June through August for elementary, middle and high school students through the ninth grade. This summer, ECC is offering three camps for kindergartners. Popular camps such as Theatre, Music and Dance Camp; CSI Camp; and Color My World Art Camp are returning. New camps include robotics, diamond painting, sign language, math/science, electronics, circuitry, recycling and a weeklong construction camp. For information on any of these classes or camps, call 252-823-5166 or visit edgecombe. edu.

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Visions 2020

Leisure & Recreation Area parks offer something for everyone By PAIGE MINSHEW Telegram Correspondent The Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department offers essential services to those in the community who are in pursuit of leisure, entertainment and recreational activities. The department recognizes four core values to guide future decisions and operations. The acronym I.D.E.A. represents these principles: Innovative: Practicing innovation and openness to new ideas, new ways of doing things, and news ways of reaching the community. Dynamic: Striving to provide dynamic experiences that encourage healthy living and human development for all ages and abilities. Engaged: Striving to be engaged with customers, partners, and the community. Aware: Striving to promote environmental awareness through use of earth-friendly materials, recycling, and conservation practices. Recently appointed Interim Parks and Recreation Director Joel Dunn brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new role. As an 11-year veteran with the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Depart-

courts, picnic shelters and a walking trail. Other amenities at the complex include three 2,000 square foot concession areas with restrooms, air-conditioned umpire/tournament lounges, ample spectator seating at each field, over 600 paved parking spaces, professional staff and grounds crew, electronic scoreboards and batting cages. The Sports Complex is now home to the N.C. Wesleyan College Battling Bishops football games as well as the annual Down East Viking Football Classic each year at the Athletic Stadium. Other events that take place at the complex include Relay for Life, Fourth of July Celebration, Carolina Stallions football and the USA South Lacrosse Spring Championships. Local resident Sam Underwood says of the complex that “it’s a great place to watch youth sports.” The Rocky Mount Recreation Services division has two Community Centers. Both are open to the public and booking a room is easy. They are the South Rocky Mount Community Center at 719 Recreation Drive and the Booker T. Washington Community Center at 747 Pennsylvania Ave. The South Rocky Mount Community Center features a full-length basketball court, outdoor basketball courts, splash pad, playground, football field and a baseball field. In addition to the sports facilities, the community center offers two banquet rooms available for rental. These rooms are perfect spaces or family reunions, wedding receptions, and other events for socializing. The Booker T. Washington Community Center offers acFILE PHOTO/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM - King Howard tivities for the non-sports indiclimbs a rope ladder on Oct. 29, 2018, on the play- vidual. This community center offers a computer lab equipped ground at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. ment, Dunn says he is excited and honored for the opportunity and looks forward to serving Rocky Mount. Of Dunn’s abilities, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said, “I have the utmost confidence that his knowledge, decision-making and passion are what the department needs at this moment.” Rocky Mount’s Athletics Division offers year-round youth and adult athletic leagues and sporting events. There are approximately 40,000 sports participants served each year with over 100,000 spectators present at athletics facilities. One of the many athletic facilities available is the Sports Complex. The complex is a division of the Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department and serves Rocky Mount and surrounding regions. Located off U.S. 64, the 143-acre multiuse facility offers an assortment of recreational activities. The Complex features six youth baseball fields, four interchangeable baseball/softball fields, one championship baseball field, eight soccer/football fields, a professional disc golf course, two outdoor basketball courts, outdoor volleyball

with internet access and the latest Microsoft Software. The facility also offers two banquet rooms available for rental. Rocky Mount also oversees a system of parks and trails for the community to enjoy. The 7.1-mile City Trail System links several parks when combined, are nearly 300 acres of parkland. The trail system begins in Sunset Park, follows the Tar River through Battle Park, crosses the river into Stith-Talbert Park, travels into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park and completes at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex and Athletic Stadium. The Tar River Paddle Trail is comprised of 10 canoe and kayak locations that connect over 55 miles of the Tar River and Stony Creek. Sunset Park is probably one of the most popular attractions in the City’s Parks and Recreation park system. It features lighted basketball and tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, boat ramp access to the Tar River, 18-hole disc golf course, baseball/softball field, skateboard park, four picnic shelters, playground and a concession stand that serves ice cream, snow cones and many other summer refreshments. The Amusement Center at Sunset Park is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The Amusement Center includes a historic miniature train, antique carousel, spray play water park and bug kiddie ride. Admission to the center is $5 per person. Children age 4 and under are admitted free of charge. Of Sunset Park, area resident, Veronica Gaines-Lilly, says “this park is so peaceful for my early morning walks, especially with the lake in the back. It is so serene which encourages me to inhale emotional well-being, and exhale stress and negativ-

FILE PHOTO/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM - Deajuwan Perry attempts a fakie frontside flip while skateboarding at Sunset Park’s skate park. ity. I enjoy walking here in the mornings.” Best Friend’s Dog Park is also part of Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation. It’s an off-leash dog park that offers a recreation and dog setting for dog lovers and dog owners to enjoy. The park consists of nine acres divided into three fenced areas: one for small dogs and two for large dogs. The park is open from dawn to dusk except for scheduled maintenance. The Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department offers a plethora of events for the community that include lawn chair movie series, festivals, live theatre performances, yoga, art classes and gallery exhibits. The Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences, which fea-



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tures a Children’s Museum and Science Center, hosts several exhibits throughout the year. Families also have the opportunity to book birthday parties. The Cummins Planetarium Show also calls the Imperial Centre home. It features the latest full-dome video and laser light shows. The Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department caters to those who want to participate in athletics, those who want to socialize, hang out with dogs, or learn a new skill. Its mission is to “advance the quality of life by providing positive, inclusive experiences through: People, Parks and Programs.” With the diverse amount of opportunities offered, they truly meet their mission.

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