For the second time in two years, Wayne Community College has been honored as a finalist for a Bellwether Award, a national citation that recognizes community colleges’ best practices.
WCC’s Quest Academy is a Bellwether Finalist in the Workforce Development category that recognizes strategic alliances that promote community and economic development.
The Bellwether Awards are widely regarded as the nation’s most competitive and prestigious recognition for community colleges, and are the only awards evaluated by experts and practitioners in the field. Bellwether College Consortium through the Community College Futures Assembly addresses the best practices at community colleges. Thirty colleges were chosen by a national panel of judges to compete for awards in three categories.
The Quest Academy is a program of the WCC Transitional Programs for College and Career (TPCC) Department. It serves higher-level English Language Acquisition students, especially those who are professionally certified in their native country.
While in the Academy, students are co-enrolled in Workforce Continuing Education Services computer, technical, and occupational classes. Upon completion of the Academy, they enroll in further Workforce Continuing Education or curriculum (college credit) classes.
From 2016 to 2020, 214 students have graduated from the Academy. To date, five students are participating in job shadowing or internships, seven are doing volunteer work, 32 are enrolled in programs or courses at the college, 76 are employed, and five have opened their own businesses.
During the BCC’s Community College Futures Assembly in San Antonio earlier this week, delegations from the finalist programs’ institutions presented on their programs. In addition to the Workforce Development classification in which WCC competed, the finalists vied in Instructional Programs and Services and Planning, Governance and Finance categories.
Each category was judged by a panel of national experts within that group. The judges considered finalists’ materials and the quality of their presentations.
The winner in each category was announced and all finalists were presented trophies on Feb. 4.
The presenting team from WCC included President Thomas A. Walker Jr., Associate Vice President of Workforce Continuing Education Services Renita Allen Dawson, English Language Acquisition Coordinator Maria Abalo-Zarate, and TPCC Computer-Based Learning Coordinator Damian Perna who is a graduate of the Quest Academy.
“The Quest Academy program is designed to expose our advanced level English language learners who are professionals in their country of origin to careers, provide training in those careers and help them assimilate into our community.
“Being a finalist in the Workforce Development category is an extreme honor for our program and legitimizes the work that goes into restoring dignity to individuals who have worked so hard,” said Dawson.
“The other finalists in the competition from community colleges throughout the country all had amazing programs that are helping to provide access to a quality education and careers for students just like the ones we see at Wayne Community College. The fact that we made it as a top ten finalist is definitely an honor,” Dawson said.
“Although we were not named a winner, I am so proud of the work and efforts of my colleagues!” Walker said. “To have our QUEST program be recognized at such a distinguished event is something we can all be proud of.”
This is the second year that WCC has placed in the competition. In 2019, the college’s Clearing a Path to Student Success Initiative was honored as a finalist in the Planning, Governance and Finance category.
The Bellwether Awards are an integral part of the Futures Assembly, which was established in 1995.The Assembly is sponsored by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida and focuses on cutting-edge, trendsetting programs that other colleges might find worthy of replicating.
The Community College Futures Assembly convenes annually as an independent national policy forum for key opinion leaders to work as a “think tank” in identifying critical issues facing the future of community colleges, and to recognize Bellwether Finalist colleges as trend-setting institutions.
The Bellwether College Consortium is an elite group of colleges charged with the mission to address the critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices addressing workforce development, instructional programs and services, and planning governance and finance.
Wayne Community College is a public, learning-centered institution with an open-door admission policy located in Goldsboro, N.C. As it works to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce, the college serves 11,000 individuals annually as well as businesses, industry, and community organizations with high quality, affordable, accessible learning opportunities, including more than 140 college credit programs. WCC’s mission is to meet the educational, training, and cultural needs of the communities it serves.