EdNC joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina on their “Extra Miles” listening tour of Lenoir and Pitt counties. Blue Cross NC travels to visit education and health care systems and other anchor institutions across the state.
From healthcare to education, the theme of “community” guides the mission and efforts of the colleges and health centers in Lenoir and Pitt counties.
The “community” is not just a group of people living in the same city or having a common interest. The community is the lifeline that connects resources, education, health care and opportunity.
It’s no coincidence that the word appears in the names of the two counties’ most influential organizations, including Lenoir Community College, Kinston Community Health Center and Pitt Community College.
While meeting different needs and goals, these organizations have a similar mission: to create a more accessible and equitable system. And they reflect the culture of their community by adapting and changing to its needs.
The Kinston Community Health Center opened in 1993 as a renovated downtown department store to fill a gap in the Lenoir County health system. Few options then existed for the underinsured and uninsured, leaving the local emergency department overcrowded and the health of the community underserved.
The founder of the center, Reverend Melvin Tate, proposed the idea of a community health center to meet the specific health needs of the Kinston area. And that’s how he continued to evolve.
The Kinston Community Health Center accepts all patients, providing primary care services to the community while allowing patients to pay on a sliding scale.
It cultivates deep local partnerships, exemplified by its portable school-based dental program led by Chief Dentist Francisco Rios, DMD.
Rios and her team provide dental care to all children and siblings of children attending public schools in Lenoir County, from Kindergarten to Grade 8. It focuses on children who are enrolled in Medicaid or who are low-income and uninsured and have not seen a dentist in the past year.
From health to education, the interconnected nature of community is evident in these programs.
Just a few miles away is Lenoir Community College, which offers degree programs in healthcare and nursing, as well as business and information technology, business services and education, among others.
What is unique to Lenoir is the North Carolina Global TransPark’s Advanced Center for Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing (AAMC), designed to meet the needs of local industries for skilled workers.
“It is more important than ever to provide short-term training and education opportunities as a route to employment,” said Dr. Rusty Hunt, President of Lenoir Community College. “People looking to improve their work situation or their lifestyle are looking for training to meet the needs of employers who are expanding their workforce.
The program offers degrees in disciplines such as aviation management and includes cutting-edge technologies such as Redbird FMX Full Motion flight simulation and 3D printing. It capitalizes on its ability to provide direct access to employment in the community.
“One of the biggest hurdles for businesses and industries is finding a skilled workforce, and that’s what Lenoir Community College does best,” Hunt said. “We prepare the workforce not only for the job market of today, but also for the job market of tomorrow through personalized training opportunities, short-term training and screening programs. at hiring. “
Since 2017, NC Global TransPark has added six large companies, creating 784 jobs and an overall investment of $ 169 million.
A Lenoir Community College classroom typically represents the demographics of the county, reflecting more diverse experiences beyond college – including family, jobs, personal businesses, and life situations.
Less than 30 miles away at Pitt Community College, Dr. Johnny M. Smith, vice president of strategic initiatives, says that’s what he enjoys most about the classroom.
“Our main goal is to educate and empower people to be successful,” Smith said. “We achieve this through engaging, inclusive and quality education by providing equitable support services that enable students to achieve their academic and professional goals. That’s what we’re here for, to make sure all the students cross the finish line.
Pitt Community College offers a number of programs to meet these goals, including an adult learning center and helpline for students aged 24 and over, a minority male mentorship program, financial aid and scholarships, the Office of Accessibility, tutoring labs, and first-generation student success programs.
In addition, Pitt is part of the Achieving the Dream Network, a non-profit partnership focused on achieving sustainable institutional transformation through the sharing of knowledge, innovative solutions and effective practices and policies leading to better results. for all students.
With many students traveling long distances, Pitt Community College demonstrates the value of integrated community partnerships with programs such as PCC Mobile Classrooms, set up to bring innovative equipment and demonstration labs to communities.
“When I think of the mobile classroom, it’s about accessibility,” said Smith, “but another important part is providing learning opportunities and highly skilled skills to the community, as we realize that the distance and transportation can be a challenge for some of them. our students. We want to prepare all learners for high and sustainable wages and increased economic mobility. ”
By creating more equitable access to education and increasing workforce development at the local level, these community colleges in eastern North Carolina aspire to truly serve the community.