Wake Tech News


Community Partnerships on National Stage

ORLANDO, Fla. (February 21, 2024) – Wake Tech's work building community partnerships was on the national stage Wednesday as part of the Achieving the Dream (ATD) 2024 conference in Orlando.

Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls; Hugh McLean, vice president of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County; and recent Wake Tech alumna Khadijah Scarborough served as panelists for a plenary session focused on the transformative impact of community partnerships. The event was attended by nearly 3,000 community college leaders from around the country.

The panel, moderated by Nick Mathern, director of K-12 Partnerships for ATD, highlighted Wake Tech's efforts to create deep community connections and reach individuals in Wake County who might otherwise miss life-changing education and training that improves their economic mobility in the future.

Ralls highlighted the power of aligning forces with community organizations that share similar missions and values to develop mutually beneficial partnerships. Some of the Wake Tech's vital community partners include The Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County, Juntos, Communities in Schools, No Woman No Girl, The Hope Center at Pullen, Dorcas Ministries, StepUp Ministry, Diaper Train and the Wake County Public School System.

"We are better than we would be otherwise as a result of those partnerships," he said. "We learn from our partners. We adopt their mission, which is already similar to our mission. We can provide greater impact, the two of us, than we could individually."

Last fall, Wake Tech and the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County teamed up to help middle and high school students in underrepresented communities discover their post-secondary education and career paths by embedding a staff member at the club to work with the organization and its members.

McLean said the partnership with Wake Tech has increased capacity for the Boys & Girls Clubs to level the playing field and bring workforce readiness programs to the next level for the students it serves.

"Having Wake Tech come alongside us immediately increased our capacity for college readiness and workforce," he said. "If you talk to your Boys & Girls club leaders in your community, they are asked to focus on a lot of things. Having a Wake Tech staff member in our clubs puts a staff person focused on college."

McLean urged attendees to ensure partnerships they pursue add value for both parties. "If you think about partnering in your community, think about their capacity," he said. "You don't want to put more on them. You want each to bring something to the table."

The loudest applause of the morning was reserved for Scarborough, a 2023 graduate of Wake Tech's Associate Degree Nursing program who is now a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Scarborough grew up in the foster care system and was involved in Fostering Bright Futures, a student success program at Wake Tech that assists individuals transitioning from foster care to independent young adulthood.

Scarborough, who is also the recipient of the 2023 Dallas Herring Achievement Award by the North Carolina Community College System, said Fostering Bright Futures changed her life.

"Fostering Bright Futures allowed me to be a normal college student, which is a luxury a lot of foster youth don't have," she said. "You didn't have to worry about things that you don't have control over. It opened doors for me that I did not even know I had access to."

Scarborough said the values of service she learned while in the program continue to influence her.

"It's a continuing cycle of servitude and love," she said. "Fostering Bright Futures' main objective was to serve us, and we serve the community. There were service opportunities that I never had volunteered before. It took away the negative stereotypes of foster youth and gave us a positive experience."

The panel was led by Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, one of the country's most important nonprofits supporting higher education.

ATD President Dr. Karen Stout encouraged members to consider community partnership opportunities like Wake Tech's. "We must leverage our localness and harness our power in our communities," she said. "It is the way for us to take our movement into its next transformation."

Achieving the Dream is a partner and champion of hard-working leaders at more than 300 community colleges across the country working to transform colleges to ensure all students can access learning that propels them into rewarding careers. Wake Tech joined the national reform movement to improve student success in community colleges in 2020.

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March 2024

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