Wilkes Community College has announced receiving a $250,000 donation from Elizabeth M. “Betty” Strickland for support of WCC’s Robert L. Strickland Career Coach Program through the 2022-23 academic year.

The program was launched in 2018 with a $1.1 million donation from Robert and Betty Strickland and N.C. Community College System grants. Through the initiative, each of the six traditional high schools in the WCC service area (Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties) has a career coach who is a WCC employee.

The late Robert L. “Bob” Strickland was chairman of Lowes Companies Inc. for 41 years. In the first year of his two-year term in the N.C. House of Representatives (1962-1964), Strickland supported the legislature’s founding of the N.C. Community College System. The Wilkes County commissioners appointed him a founding member of the WCC Board of Trustees in 1964. He served on the trustees until 1973.

This WCC Career Coach Program helps provide accurate and relevant information to area high school students to help them develop career and college plans aligned with their skills and interests. Before the initiative, 13 school counselors served about 4,600 high school students. That was a ratio of one counselor for every 354 students in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties.

The new program served 1,427 high school students last year, including over 1,000 who developed personalized career and academic plans to help guide their high school and community college dual enrollment course choices and align them with career goals. All 475 students in Career and College Promise (dual enrollment) courses through WCC completed the plans. In over 3,000 one-on-one meetings with students last year, career coaches conducted career assessments, discussed careers of interest and helped students research college options and then apply. Career coaches have conducted 44 site visits to businesses to help alignment with employer needs and workforce opportunities.

“We are thrilled with the early results of this program,” said Jeff Cox, WCC president. “Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, our career coaches served and stayed in touch with students as they navigated their online dual enrollment courses and college application processes. Thanks to the generosity of the Strickland family, the hard work of our career coaches, and the strong high school partners we have in our service areas, we are beginning to see the fruits of the Robert L. Strickland Career Coach Program.”

Betty Strickland said a plaque in her kitchen has a William Jennings Bryan quote that her husband loved. It says, ‘Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a choice. It is not a thing to be hoped for, but a thing to be achieved.” She said the WCC career coaches are living examples of that belief.

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