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Friday, March 30, 2012 17

Love of

Learning

Igniting SPARKS... Mentoring program offers kids an outlet to excel By MATT CHRISTIAN Princeton Times RINCETON — One local

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program is designed to help struggling students achieve success, the SPARKS program. In the movie “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Oher struggles until the very last moment to get into the University of Mississippi. The SPARKS program, which stands for Students being Positive and Achieving Recognition with Knowledge and Success, was created to prevent bad grades and low test scores from hurting the future of an athletic youngster. Founder Maurice Gravely explained, “I would always have parents come up to me because of my background as a longtime scout and ask for my help to get [their child] into college in May.” Gravely would take a look at the grade point average and test scores and find them low. “We originally started the program to prevent that from happening,” Gravely said, “Then, it moved into helping kids that aren’t having certain needs met.” He’s hesitant to use the term “at-risk” because it doesn’t apply the right connotation for him. Gravely said, “We focus on kids that are not having their psycho-social, educational, or spiritual needs met or a combination of them. The kids that enter the program are referred to it by the school system, juvenile probation, or the Department of Health and Human Resources.” Another way that kids enter the program is wordof-mouth. Zen Clements said, “I got involved in SPARKS because my friend Kwame [Payne] invited me to be a member. I like SPARKS because it allows us to focus on our school work and stuff. It has a lot of great programs.” Taylor Hamm became involved because of an invitation from Clements. She said, “It helps me to get my homework done and actually want to do it.”

‘We focus on kids that are not having their psycho-social, educational, or spiritual needs met or a combination of them. The kids that enter the program are referred to it by the school system, juvenile probation, or the Department of Health and Human Resources.’ — Maurice Gravely SPARKS founder On Thursday evening, the program meets in the Princeton Public Library and the room is packed full of students and volunteers trying to help. Gravely said, “We might be a little late getting started because some of our kids are out doing things like track.” When a child walks through the door, Gravely presents them with a journal. “We give every kid a journal so that they can write down what’s going on in their lives and how they’ve done in school,” He said. He continued, “A lot of times we get a kid that won’t SPARKS, page 19

Photos by Matt Christian

Expanding opportunities... At top, Michael Payne writes in his journal during the early portion of a Thursday meeting of the SPARKS program. Each student who is a member of the program is presented with a journal that class members use to update the founder, Maurice Gravely, and volunteers about their lives. Above, Maurice Gravely works with a student named Cameron before a Thursday meeting of the SPARKS program. Gravely and Cameron are discussing a history test that Cameron recently took. At left, two members of the SPARKS program, Zen Clements and Taylor Hamm, work on their homework during a Thursday evening meeting. Both students are members of the program by word-ofmouth. His friend Kwame Payne introduced Clements to the program and in turn, he introduced Hamm to the program.

Concord University salutes student heroes By JEFF HARVEY for the Princeton Times THENS — In the two years since the Concord University Veterans Office opened as part of Concord’s initiative to become more veteran-friendly, the efforts have been rewarded. In October, Military Times EDGE magazine released their “Best for Vets: Colleges

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‘On behalf of the Veterans Committee and Concord we are very proud and honored to rank No. 1 this year with Military Times EDGE. I feel this is a great accomplishment for the University, but more importantly, our goal is to give back to the veterans a portion of what they have done for us not only as a university but as a nation.’ — Lisa Spencer Financial aid advisor, senior veterans coordinator 2011” rankings for four-year colleges, which saw Concord ranked first. The criteria

includes academic accreditation, central veterans offices and staff knowledgeable on

veterans issues. Financial Aid Advisor Senior Veterans Coordinator

Lisa Spencer said, “On behalf of the Veterans Committee and Concord we are very proud and honored to rank No. 1 this year with Military Times EDGE. I feel this is a great accomplishment for the University, but more importantly, our goal is to give back to the veterans a portion of what they have done for us not only as a university but as a nation.”

Concord has a proud heritage of serving veterans and continues to maintain one of the top programs in the nation. Making the transition back to civilian life is a challenge, adding the transition to college can be challenging, too. “So therefore, we strive to make that transition easy as possible offering veterans oriVeterans, page 22


18 Friday, March 30, 2012

Touring with the Hall of Fame... The West Virginia Hall Of Fame traveling museum is funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the West Virginia Department of Education, plus private education. Recently, Stages Music School owner Melissa McKinney and the organization’s best-known rock band, Miss Behavin’, got involved with the Hall of Fame effort. In fact, Miss Behavin’ has traveled with the museum, acting as a group of youth ambassadors. Here, the band is pictured at left with a host of other students. Contributed photos

‘We’re not just teaching music’ Stages aims to build community based on creativity, acceptance By JEFF HARVEY for the Princeton Times RINCETON — While the

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debate over what to do to revitalize Mercer Street continues in government chambers, there are smaller efforts going on involving the arts — in this case, the music provided by Stages Music School. Stages director and owner Melissa McKinney said, “We’re not just teaching music, we’re building a community. People are accepted for who they are, which builds them up inside and taking their music to help others. That’s what I empathize; using music to help other people.” She added, “The heart of a community is downtown, and why we’re here is that we want to make a difference. We’re here to ruffle feathers, and we came here to help build back the heart of downtown.” The studio, she added, has been heavily involved in promoting music in conjunction with other efforts. One such effort is the West Virginia Hall Of Fame traveling museum, funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the West Virginia Department of Education, plus private education. “It’s a big tractor-trailer with a recording studio and artifacts from state musicians such as Hazel Dickens, Bill Withers, Kathy Mattea and Little Jimmie Dickens, which they take around to the schools. By involving Miss Behavin’, it gives the kids a picture of what they could do if you are young. We’ve gone to rural counties and performed and the kids think Miss Behavin’ is fantastic,” McKinney said. The girls of Miss Behavin’, she said, do question-andanswer sessions with the kids and tell them to work hard, do well in school and serve as inspirations. “Miss Behavin’ has a Facebook page, where kids send them messages. All three girls are really good and acting as role models. They grow in that capacity as leaders and teachers and inspirational figures, which you don’t often get when you are a kid,” she said. The trio, she added, traveled recently to Charlotte, N.C., to audition for “America’s Got Talent” “We got to see a lot of great talent, more than 4,000 people, 2,000 of them kids. We’ve not heard from AGT, but I’m not sure I want to hear from them. It’s a hard life for kids, and I’d like the chance to mold them a bit more,” she said. McKinney added, “Music is about making a positive change in the world and yourself through music. Pretty much the opposite what mainstream music says. I expose then to other musi-

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At home at Stages... Stages Music School offers classes and programming for 165 students ranging in age from 3 to 65 years old. Most of the students, however, are 8-15. The school provides more than music, though. Owner and instructor Melissa McKinney says her school represents an investment in the rebirth of Princeton’s downtown and the youth of the region. cians at events such as ‘Floydfest’ where one gets exposed to music that matters where they are exposed to music that matters and will last for decades after we are gone.” The studio, she said, has 165 students from ages 3 to 65, with the great majority 815 years old. Seventy-five percent are girls and 72 are guitar players. “We have a blues concert in May to raise money for building additional rooms here. I never thought it would grow like this,” she said. Other efforts to raise money, she said, are the “Small Town, Big Talent” concert and two camps. “We’re going to soundproof all of the studio and build additional studio rooms, plus we have a teacher who’s teaching digital production.

We’ve had a donation of $2,000 worth of instruments and a monthly donation to our scholarships,” she said Every three months, the studio puts on concerts where the money goes towards a local non-profit agency such as the Children’s Home Society. She added, “I grew up here and I loved to sing, but the only time I had to do it was in school choir and church choir. I lived out of West Virginia for years, but I wanted to be here to help musicians develop like athletes are developed by being part of teams. These kids are out performing on a regular basis and are given a safe place to develop their talent.” For more information, call McKinney at 304-952-6647.. — Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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CU Regents Rowe: Students teach, too Bachelor of Arts English-as-a-second-language educator says she gets as much as she gives international pupils program offers flexibility to fit A

and geography into her classes. “They point out where they come from, what city

and what area,” she said. She teaches classes every day with beginner classes from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. for intermediate classes. Students need a 500 in the Test of English as a Foreign Language to take a full schedule of Concord classes, she said, though Nancy Ellison, her boss and International Student Advisor, works out arrangement for students who score in the 450-499 range to take a class. “I review TOEFL as well,” she said. Rowe said, “This office is their home away from home. Students can crash on our couches, eat here and talk to each other and us. I help them with their banquet, organize their shopping, take them on trips to places like Dixie Caverns, the Oasis international food store in Blacksburg, Va., Carowinds and Pipestem, because learning culture isn’t just going to classes. We have current issue conversations going back and forth.” She added, “The best part of this is that I learn as much from them as they do from me. I think education is a two-way street. They come here with a certain level of knowledge which I can learn.” Rowe said she stays in contact with former students via e-mail, phone calls or personal visits. “We’ve visited with students in Japan. I tell them they have a bedroom and bathroom at my house, where we’ve kept students. We have dinners and a Fourth of July picnic,” she said. Rowe concluded by saying, “It is rewarding. I enjoy them so much. My students range in age from 18 to 63. They keep me young. I believe in lifetime learning, and they support that.” — Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com or jharvey1@frontiernet.net.

work on tutoring. He encourages Strain to work with Miller to provide her with one-on-one attention

while she’s working on an Algebra worksheet. — Contact Matt Christian at mchristian@ptonline.net.

By JEFF HARVEY

for the Princeton Times

By JEFF HARVEY for the Princeton Times THENS — For those of

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you who have prior academic, professional and/or military experience and want to get your degree, Concord’s Regents Bachelor of Arts program may be for you. The Regents Bachelor of Arts Program is tailored to help returning students finish their college degrees. Regents students are eligible to receive college credit for work experience, professional certifications, and military training. Dr. George Towers, CU’s RBA Coordinator, said, “The Regents Bachelor of Arts is designed for those who hold college credit in four varieties of institutions and sources; military training equivalent of college credit and professional experience as the equivalent of college credit.” You are eligible for the Regents program if you graduated high school at least four years ago, do not hold a baccalaureate degree, and meet Concord’s general admission requirements. You may not be simultaneously enrolled in the Regents Degree program and another degree program. What sets the RBA Program apart? Flexibility: There are no specific classes that students have to pass. Through your completed coursework, you may have already fulfilled the Regents general education requirements. “Flexibility allows us to recognize the different credits to recognized properly,” he said. Credit for professional experience: Credit may be awarded for certifications in a variety of professions including nursing, medical technology, insurance, criminal justice, computer infor-

SPARKS... Continued from page 17 tell us if something bad is happening in their lives, but we figure it out.” After a journal-writing session and a snack, the group presents what’s going on their lives to each other. While, the kids are writing, a volunteer, Xavier Strain II explains his involvement with the program. He said, “I was at church and I met Mr. Gravely and liked what the program had to offer and I decided to stick with it.” Strain’s main responsibilities are the information technology side of the program. He said, “I work with the program to update the cal-

‘The Regents Bachelor of Arts is designed for those who hold college credit in four varieties of institutions and sources; military training equivalent of college credit and professional experience as the equivalent of college credit.’ — Dr. George Towers

mation, accounting, and secretarial work. “You can be awarded college credit after review by faculty with experience in that area. Oftentimes, they have a standard procedure to recognize credit,” Towers said. RBA opportunities for veterans and military personnel: A core feature of the RBA program is recognizing military training with college credit. Concord follows the American Council on Education’s credit recommendations for veterans. Concord has gone an important step forward by partnering with Mountwest Community and Technical College to provide veterans a seamless transition from Regents, page 20

endars, and I’m the administrator of the Facebook site. I’m in the process creating a website for the group.” In addition the website, SPARKS is also seeking a permanent home. Gravely said, “Once we get a building, we’re going to expand the program.” Three students at the meeting began to explain how the program has helped them. Mercedes Payne said “It’s done a lot for me. It’s helped me to be encouraged to do my school work and get better grades.” Michael Payne added, “It’s helped me to pay more attention in class.” Kwame Payne simply says, “SPARKS has helped me to be a better person.” Gravely interrupts to check on the grades of Michael

THENS — Concord University’s international student population has a very good friend and more in English-as-asecond-language instructor Sharon Rowe. “In many cases, I’m a substitute mother to them,” she said. Her biggest early challenge in dealing with the students is their homesickness. “They miss their language, their culture and their food. I’ve been to Japan three times and Indonesia once and I know how they feel. But for them, this is longterm,” she said. The students, Rowe added, come in knowing some English, but not the difference between book English and conversational English. “In the beginning, I focus on conversational English to give them the self-confidence. A lot of what I do is cheerleading. Part of my job is not letting them give up and learn the language. It takes a special person not to give up and I admire the students for not giving up,” she said. She is currently teaching nine students this semester at three different levels; beginner, intermediate and advanced, with one student being a Korean woman in her 60s who is a widow of a retired military man. “I serve the community, not just students. At Bluefield State College, I teach a Saudi Arabian woman whose husband is a student there. I currently have students from Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Saudi Arabia,” she said. Her lessons, she said, incorporate all facets of English as a language; speaking, reading, writing, spelling and pronunciation. “We talk about (their countries) geography and literature, holidays and history, mostly because it makes it more interesting,” Rowe

Payne. Payne’s in Honors History and doing well but he’s refusing to do assignments. He said, “She [the teacher] gave us a really hard worksheet. Now, I’m always paying attention in class but I’m not going to do a hard worksheet.” Gravely begins to speak to Payne to get him to do the worksheet. He reminds Payne that he needs to “live up to the Honors” and that there are “no excuses.” When the meeting begins, a first timer, Isis Miller, is encouraged to share her story. Miller said, “I went to Bluefield Middle, I like to talk, I like colors.” The students begin to respond to Miller by suggesting activities that she

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A friend far from home... Sharon Rowe specializes in teaching English as a second language for international students at Concord University, Bluefield college and bluefield State College. Although her official job involves helping the students learn conversational English, she is also a friend for students missing home.

‘In many cases, I’m a substitute mother to them ... They miss their language, their culture and their food. I’ve been to Japan three times and Indonesia once and I know how they feel. But for them, this is long-term.’ — Sharon Rowe English-as-a-second-language instructor said. She said she brings in aspects of the students’ countries’ history, culture

can become involved in. Several suggest different sports. Miller refuses. Finally, she agrees that she could do volleyball. Gravely says, “Name one goal that you want to do by next year.” Miller replies, “I’d like to learn how to ride a bike.” Gravely asks her for a shorter term goal. Miller replies, “I’d like to get out of alternative school.” Then, Gravely herds the kids off to do homework and

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20 Friday, March 30, 2012

On campus at BSC... At left, Bluefield State students Antoinn Braxton, Antonio Barnett, and Jay Jackson wait for class to begin in the Brown-Gilbert Basic Science Building by spending a few minutes in the lobby discussing their weekends. Below, sophomore business major Patience Saah walks the campus of Bluefield State College to go to class in front of the Ned E. Schott Gymnasium on Monday morning. Photos by Matt Christian

Bluefield State sets sights on university status Administration aims for progress with top-notch programs, proactivity LUEFIELD — The

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dynamics of higher education within West Virginia and throughout the nation demand vision, leadership, and a proactive approach. That same proactive approach is essential if Bluefield State College is to achieve academic growth and service. BSC Director of Media Relations and Assistant to the President Jim Nelson said, “Last fall, BSC hosted a site visit by a team of evaluators from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association as we seek approval of a continuing 10-year period of institutional accreditation. In December, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs’ Baccalaureate/Graduate Degree Board of Commissioners awarded Bluefield State College in Bluefield, W.Va., reaffirmation of accreditation of its business programs.” Later this spring, he said, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education will evaluate the College’s Teacher Education program as an essential ele-

‘The College continues to move forward with its effort obtaining university status. Additionally, we are examining the possibility of establishing a School of Continuing Education and adding new undergraduate and graduate academic majors and programs.’ — Jim Nelson BSC media relations director ment of the program’s goal of maintaining program accreditation. Bluefield State College’s emphasis on quality teaching, learning, and educational outcomes is validated by the Institution’s national accreditation and its 14 degree programs that enjoy specialty accreditation. “The College continues to move forward with its effort

obtaining university status. Additionally, we are examining the possibility of establishing a School of Continuing Education and adding new undergraduate and graduate academic majors and programs,” Nelson said. College-wide goals include growing campus diversity, strengthening our service to the greater Beckley region and Lewisburg. We need to consider establishing on-campus student housing, acquire property adjacent to the College, beautify the campus, and seek external funding to assist in the renovation of the Harris-Jefferson Student Center, Ned Shott P.E. Building, and Hardway Library. The entire Bluefield State College community celebrates outstanding facility upgrades like the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business in Mahood Hall in November and the new HVAC system in the Basic Science Building. “We share with this region’s residents a common bond of tough-minded optimism and resilience and look forward to the continuing opportunity to serve them in the future,” Nelson said.

Regents... Continued from page 19 Mountwest’s Associate Degree programs to the Concord RBA to masters programs in a variety of career fields. Scholarships: Special Regents scholarships are available. Regents Areas of Emphasis: Regents students may earn an Area of Emphasis in their chosen field. Forgiveness: While Regents students must have a 2.00 cumulative grade point average (GPA) to graduate, failing grades received more than four years ago are not counted in calculating Regents students’ GPAs. Residency exemption: Regents students need to complete only 24 credit hours in West Virginia’s public higher education system. The residency requirement that 36 credit hours be completed at Concord does not apply to Regents students. A Regents degree is excellent preparation for graduate school Concord Regents students have gone on to graduate study in a wide variety of fields including: Business administration, Education , Counseling, English , Divinity and Music. Opportunities for Regents graduates are unlimited Regents graduates from Concord hold professional positions in a wide variety of

‘(RBA) is designed with adult learners with college experience in mind. You come back, and we can get you further down the road.’ — Dr. George Towers

career fields including education, business, recreation, health care, and law enforcement. Here are a few of the jobs that Concord Regents grads are doing: computer network manager; state park superintendent; teacher; U.S. Army ranger; paramedic program director; football coach; social worker; and corrections officer. Program requirements include 120 total credit hours, with 40 being upper division credit hours, 36 general education credit hours; 24 hours earned from state supported college, university or community college in West Virginia and 56 hours completed at a four year college or university The 36 general education hours must include the following: communication, 6 hours; humanities, 6; natural sciences,6; social sciences, 6; math /computer applications: 3. “(RBA) is designed with adult learners with college experience in mind. You come back, and we can get you further down the road,” Towers said. He added, “(The) RBA is a bachelor’s degree just like any other, with it serving as the credential for employ-

ment or promotion. We have staff here who have RBAs.” As for a specific RBA program, Towers cited Concord education faculty members April Campbell and Bea Harris who have designed a RBA program for those who want to operate day care centers. Students take courses while working as well. “We’re increasing our online offerings”, he added. “It’s just a wonderful educational resource we have to allow people to make a difference by themselves. The frame depends on the individual and we will resolve the credit to the fullest extent possible,” he said. Academic Advisor for Adult Students Teresa Frey said, “The students get attention right away either on the phone or personally. I track them down and tell them right away what they need to do.” Towers said the number of Concord graduates with RBAs have grown from 39 in 2009-10 to 54 in 2010-11. For more information, contact: George Towers, RBA Coordinatorrba@concord.ed 304-384-5220; Marsh Hall 240.

Photo by Matt Christian

Catching up... Andrew Maynor, an engineering major at Bluefield State College, waits for his probability statistics class to begin while talking to fellow student, Ashley Goin, in the lobby of the Brown-Gilbert Basic Science Building Monday morning.


Friday, March 30, 2012 21

‘We want to ease the economic burden of adults who are trying to go back to college to complete their bachelor's degree. This reduction in tuition puts us in a position to be a better value for students and helps them get that quality higher education they so deeply desire.’ — Dr. Robert Shippey BC vice president for academic affairs

BC cuts costs, adds educational value LUEFIELD, Va. — At a

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time when most folks are paying more for less, Bluefield College is asking less for more when it comes to its inSPIRE degree completion program. “Most colleges, private and public, are increasing tuition,” said Dr. Larry Sinsabaugh, associate vice president for BC's inSPIRE program, “but Bluefield College is taking a courageous step in an act of faith to appeal to the cost conscious learners by reducing tuition and fees by 25 percent.” In today's declining economic environment where competition for jobs is stiffer than ever, a college education makes candidates much more marketable to employers. But, gaining access to that higher education is becoming much more difficult in light of the rising cost of living and families' falling disposable income. “We want to ease the economic burden of adults who are trying to go back to college to complete their bachelor's degree,” said Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs. “This reduction in tuition puts us in a position to be a better value for students and helps them get that quality higher education they so deeply desire.” Tuition for inSPIRE degree completion students at Bluefield College will now run $325 per credit hour, compared to $385 per credit hour this past spring, a 16 percent reduction. In addition to paying less tuition, BC inSPIRE students will receive a free netbook computer and complimentary e-textbooks as part of the tuition package. Cutting those costs, tuition, and other typical fees means

Contributed photo

inSPIRING development... Tuition for inSPIRE degree completion students at Bluefield College will now run $325 per credit hour, compared to $385 per credit hour this past spring, a 16 percent reduction. In addition to paying less tuition, BC inSPIRE students will receive a free netbook computer and complimentary e-textbooks as part of the tuition package. Cutting those costs, tuition, and other typical fees means BC degree completion students will now pay 25 percent less for their bachelor's degree, a move that should make obtaining an education easier at BC. BC degree completion students will now pay 25 percent less for their bachelor's degree. We didn't just cut cost,” said Dr. Dale Henry, dean of online programs, “We improved value. Our degree completion programs are now more affordable and have better quality and service that will ensure our students have an excellent experience at Bluefield College.” Students enrolled in BC's 36

hour core curriculum before the tuition adjustment paid roughly $15,360 in annual tuition and fees, including books, said Dr. Henry. Now, he added, they'll pay just $11,600 annually, which includes the netbook computer and e-books. “Reports show the norm has been to raise tuition over the last two years between five and nine percent,” said Dr. Sinsabaugh, “but Bluefield College clearly stands out in

front of the competition by reducing its tuition.” Ranked among the Top 50 Baccalaureate Colleges in the South in U.S. News & World Report's “America's Best Colleges,” Bluefield College launched its degree completion program on its campus in southwest Virginia in 1990. Designed to offer the working adult a convenient, flexible, accelerated, non-traditional way to finish their bachelor's degree, the pro-

gram included one degree offering at that time in management. Today, the program, now called inSPIRE, is statewide with added regional hubs in Roanoke and Richmond, Virginia. Nearly 4,000 students have graduated from inSPIRE, which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the program now features a complete online format for its four baccalaureate degree offerings in management and leadership, public safety, human services, and nursing. “Bluefield College's vision is to be a nationally recognized Christ-centered liberal arts college, preparing innovative learners and transformational leaders to impact the world,”: said Dr. Shippey. “Innovation and entrepreneurial vision are the beacons that will guide this college onward toward excellence and relevance in the 21st Century.” In addition to being available online for added convenience, BC's four inSPIRE majors feature continuous

scheduling every two months, six times a year. Classes include guided reading assignments, video lectures, interaction with faculty and fellow students, research, reflective engagement, and systematic review. “The college is providing an ever-present learning environment through asynchronous online learning,” added Dr. Shippey. “Students can learn at their own pace in a place and at a time that is best for them. It's all about convenience and quality. This is not a diploma mill, but rather the opportunity for a first-rate online education taught by Christ-centered faculty at a very affordable price.” For more information, visit the Bluefield College web site at www.bluefield.edu/inspire or call or e-mail 800-872-0176 or bluefield@bluefield.edu (in southwest Virginia), 800-8173554 or roanoke@bluefield.edu (in Greater Roanoke), or 866870-0293 or richmond@bluefield.edu (in Greater Richmond).

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22 Friday, March 30, 2012

Just months shy of completing her lifelong dream of graduation, Rhonda McCroskey put her goals on hold for chemotherapy and radiation to treat the cancer that threatened her life. Now, she’s back.

The inSPIRE way... Special BC student puts faith and persistence to work LUEFIELD Va. — Bluefield College inSPIRE degree completion students often testify to the extreme challenge of balancing school with work and family. The sacrifices, they say, are significant, and the odds are sometimes overwhelming. But they persevere, they keep the faith, and they overcome. The result: the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of earning a college degree and the opportunity to advance in a professional career. That's just the inSPIRE way. But then, there's Rhonda McCroskey, a Bluefield College degree completion student in management from Narrows, Virginia. In the midst of her studies, she has encountered more than your typical challenges. While balancing school, work and family, she's been asked to juggle more daunting tasks, but she's persevered, she's kept the faith, and she's overcome. The result: life! In the midst of studying business ethics, analyzing research methods, and examining contemporary issues in pursuit of her bachelor's degree in management and leadership, McCroskey was diagnosed with nonHodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the body's lymph nodes and other organs of the immune system. McCroskey began BC's inSPIRE degree completion program in 2009 February 2, her 40th birthday. She did so knowing she'd need to balance her studies with full time work as the assistant to the director of the School of Communication at Radford (VA) University, not to mention her responsibilities as a wife to husband, Jimmy, and a mother to then 13-year-old daughter, Camry. And, she did well, earning a promotion at work, coaching her daughter's volleyball team, and successfully completing her assignments and classes at BC. In fact, McCroskey was set to graduate from the college with her bachelor's degree in management and leadership in the spring of 2010 -- that is, until she was diagnosed with nonHodgkin's lymphoma. "My faith is what sustained me," said McCroskey about having to set her degree aside to battle cancer instead. "It allowed me to look at things through spiritual eyes and know that no matter what, I

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‘My faith is what sustained me. It allowed me to look at things through spiritual eyes and know that no matter what, I will be OK. If God chooses to heal me through whatever means — divinely or through medicine — and I stay here with my family, I will be thankful and take full advantage of our time together. But, if He chooses to take me home, then as a Christian, I cannot be sad, because that's what every Christian lives for, to one day make it to Heaven.’ — Rhonda McCroskey

much easier." Beyond the flexibility, McCroskey said she's been grateful for the professors in the inSPIRE program, who have been more than instructors to her in recent months. Her relationships with them, she said, have extended far beyond the classroom. "The instructors have encouraged me to continue and to finish my degree," she said. "Many have been willing to pray for me and to add me to prayer lists. As a Christian, but especially as a student whom they had not known very long, that was very humbling and greatly appreciated." With just 18 academic hours or six classes left to complete her bachelor's degree, McCroskey said she can again see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, whether she reaches that goal or not, she's confident she will have achieved all that God intended and that even greater goals and dreams have been fulfilled than she ever imagined. "Because of my health situation, completing my bachelor's degree has become less about me and more about my testimony and witness to my daughter," said McCroskey. "She has seen first-hand that no matter what obstacles life throws at us, if we are willing to trust in God and not give up, we can still achieve what it is that He has placed in our hearts to achieve. As a mother, this is one life lesson that I have endured for her that is priceless and one I know she will rely on in her future whether I'm there to help her through it or not."

my needs, and processed my paper work for the VA. This ensured an easy and seamless transition to enact my benefits. All of the professors, staff, and employees at Concord University go out of their way to make sure the veterans’ needs are met. There is a veterans lounge where veterans can meet and assist each other. In the lounge, soda, coffee, and snacks are provided by the University to the veterans.

Also in the lounge, there are computers for studying and study modules, along with a big screen TV enabling the veterans to relax. Concord University provides to the veterans counseling for P.T.S.D. and referral services to the Veterans Hospital, should there be a need for the veterans. My experience at Concord University has been one of being welcoming and opened arms. I see why Concord University was

rated number one of all universities and colleges in the United States as the Most Friendly Veterans Campus in the U.S.” For more information email veterans@concord.edu, call 1-888-384-VETS, 1-304-3845339 or 1-304-384-6300, or go to www.concord.edu and click on the veterans button in the left-hand column. — Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com or jharvey1@frontiernet.net.

Contributed photo

Against all odds... Bluefield College student Rhonda McCroskey was on the verge of realizing her lifelong hope of completing a college education and a bachelor’s degree, when chance rerouted her BC career. She was forced to halt her quest for a degree to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, but now, she’s back on track and en route to graduation. Throughout the ordeal, McCroskey credits her faith and family with her strength, and praises BC’s programs and instructors for their flexibility and personalization. will be OK. If God chooses to heal me through whatever means —divinely or through medicine — and I stay here with my family, I will be thankful and take full advantage of our time together. But, if He chooses to take me home, then as a Christian, I cannot be sad, because that's

what every Christian lives for, to one day make it to Heaven." Just months shy of graduation in January 2010, McCroskey put her dream of earning a bachelor's degree on hold for chemotherapy that would last nearly a year, followed by 27 radiation

Veterans... Continued from page 17 entations, PTSD courses, vet to vet mentoring programs, tutoring and much more to accommodate our veterans.” Spencer added, “Working with the veterans has been so rewarding for me and I plan to continue to do whatever possible to make their college experience the best it can be.” David Moore, a retired U.S. Navy veteran and nontraditional student at Concord University, who is a veterans work study assistant and veterans advocate at Concord University said, “Upon deciding to attend Concord University, I came to the University to see what I would need to do to enroll. The first person I spoke to was Dr. (Marjie) Flanigan. (Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students.) She invited me into her office making me feel at home. She answered all of my questions and set me on the right path for enrollment. My next stop was at the Financial Aid Office where I was lucky enough to be placed under the care of Ms. Lisa Spencer, the Veterans and Financial Aid Officer. Ms. Spencer took care of all

treatments over an additional six weeks. That alone is heart wrenching, but consider the fact that this time is McCroskey's fourth time being diagnosed with cancer. She was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1997, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) for the first time in

2004, and NHL for the second time in 2007. Despite months of chemotherapy, total body irradiation, and a stem cell transplant, the cancer returned for a fourth time in 2010. "There is only one word to describe how I have endured, how I have continually endured each time — God, said McCroskey. "God's grace and mercy have allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand no matter what it has been. He has given me the strength and the inner peace that passes all understanding to persevere and keep striving toward the goal of completing this program. His blessings continually flow in my life because of my willingness to submit to His will. So, I go through each day not focusing on the fact that I have cancer, but on God and His purpose for my life." McCroskey said the flexibility of the inSPIRE program has helped her manage and continue her studies. The addition of online courses, she added, worked well within her work, family and treatment schedules, which included labs twice a week, occasional transfusions, and trips of more than 60 miles from the hospital to work. "Not only do I have a fulltime job, but I also have a part-time job and a part-time business," McCroskey said. "I am also very involved in my church and coached my daughter's recreation league volleyball team. Knowing that I could complete assignments at my own pace made the challenge of getting everything accomplished as a student and a working adult

Photos contributed and by Tammie Toler

Honoring service... Concord University hosted a Veterans Day ceremony in November 2011, saluting the veterans on campus, as well as the efforts that helped CU achieve a designation as one of the most veteran-friendly schools in the nation.

Friendlyy Service Directt Depositt • Loans Northfork..............(304) 862-2511 Welch....................(304) 435-2171 War........................(304) 875-2251 Bradshaw..............(304) 967-3221 Iaeger....................(304) 938-5233 Sophia...................(304) 683-9538 www.pioneercommunitybank.com


Friday, March 30, 2012 23

Photos by Tammie Toler

Walking all over the continent... National Geographic’s giant map of North America arrived at Concord University this week, offering local elementary school students a chance to walk the path of the Mississippi River and cross the borders into Canada and Mexico. Above, Savannah Johnson tries a different type of water skiing over the Atlantic Ocean, while her friends Casandra Thorn and Lexi Lester watch. Below, a group of friends seek out assigned landmarks somewhere in South America.

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Progress 2012 Section 3  
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