Candidate for RCCC president went from dropout to doctorate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post
Kerry Youngblood isn’t ashamed to admit he was a high school dropout.
But the 54-year-old has come a long way since his days as a bored teenager in Oklahoma. He went on to earn a doctorate degree and took the helm at a community college in Colorado.
Now he wants to be the next leader of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Sitting backwards in his chair Monday afternoon at the school’s Salisbury campus, Youngblood told dozens of RCCC staff members that he’s a regular guy ó a single father, a music lover, an amateur chef and the kind of leader who listens to what people have to say.
“I’m not going to be any different, other than I hate wearing ties,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood is one of five potential candidates to take over Dr. Richard Brownell’s job. Brownell is retiring after about 30 years as president of RCCC.
Youngblood is passionate about education, but he hasn’t always been that way. He quit high school the winter of his senior year, although he had gotten good grades and high SAT scores, he said.
“High school was not well-taught,” Youngblood said. “It was disinteresting. Football season was over.”
So he became a welder and completed a high school equivalency program.
He enrolled at Oklahoma State University the next fall, but stayed only one semester that time around. He eventually went back, and when he graduated, he became an elementary school teacher.
A teacher’s pay wasn’t nearly as good as a welder’s.
“I nearly starved to death,” Youngblood said.
He quit teaching for a while and ran his own small welding company, but his two passions ó teaching and welding ó soon collided. He started teaching welding and outdoor survival classes.
Youngblood earned a master’s degree in education administration from Oklahoma State University. He also earned a Ph.D. in community college leadership from Colorado State University.
He served as vice president of community college affairs at Mesa State College in Colorado from 2005-2007. As part of that post, he helped form and acted as president of Western Colorado Community College, which is part of Mesa.
Also, Youngblood was the executive director of the Grand Valley Board of Cooperative Education Services in Colorado for 13 years. He was the director of Mesa’s School of Applied Technology for several years as well.
If he is chosen to lead RCCC, Youngblood said, he would encourage the school to grow. Growing populations in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, he said, mean the school should be ready for more students.
During his tenure at Western Colorado Community College, the school’s enrollment tripled, Youngblood said. But for now, he wants to lead a small school where he can learn everyone’s names.
And if he is the next president of RCCC, he will ask for input from staff, he said.
“Leadership is about creating a culture where people will exceed their own individual expectations,” Youngblood said.
Often, meeting expectations requires money. And community colleges can’t depend solely on tax dollars and tuition for income, Youngblood said. Fundraising is an important aspect, and Youngblood admitted it’s not his forte.
But, he said, “I’m not the least bit afraid of looking someone in the eye and asking for money.”
In Colorado, Youngblood helped organize an effort that raised $580,000 in 14 months for a new construction center, he said.
Another of Youngblood’s accomplishments was his role in creating a vocational program for high school students on the community college campus. High school students can earn college credits for classes like welding and Web design.
If he comes to RCCC, Youngblood said he would be open to a program like that here. Vocational programs allow high school students to learn a trade and be prepared to enter the local workforce, he said.
The other candidates for the president’s post will visit RCCC through next week.
Ray Paradowski, chairman of RCCC’s board of trustees, said the school wants the staff to meet each candidate and provide input.
It’s been a long time since the school has had to choose a new leader. “We do not have much experience in hiring a president,” Paradowski said.