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Black Leadership Breakfast explores pathways to higher ed

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

Slim crowds on a busy Saturday didn’t discourage attendees of this month’s Black Leadership Breakfast.

Hosted at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the get together offered attendees chances to explore pathways to college for themselves and for the students in their lives.

Craig Lamb, the college’s vice president of corporate and continuing education, said he saw 10,000 people in the room despite relatively small numbers.

He explained.

“I believe in the power of networks,” he said. “Each one of you is this hub of a very powerful network. … I want you to not just take the information that you get today and think about what ‘I’ can do with it. Think about how you can be a messenger with that.”

Dennis Rivers, student activities coordinator with the college, agreed.

“As long as each person individually is winning, the community is going to be able to thrive even more so,” he said. “That way, it’s like a relay race. You’re passing the torch onto the next person, to help that next person, to help that next person.”

Breakfast goers would hear inspiring tales from college staff and community college graduates alike, as well as learn statistics and resources from different community organizations.

Subrina Hough, author and creator of Parent’s Point of View, Inc., said that the pathway to college started with encouragement and advocacy from parents.

She encouraged caregivers to engage with school personnel to make sure they were taking advantage of all resources available on the pathway to life after high school.

“Who’s on the team? Mom, you are their first advocate,” she Hough. “Besides them, you are their first advocate so you have to speak to what it is they need and ask the questions.”

One local resource comes in the form of Crosby Scholars, which program director Flora Calderon-Steck described as a college access program available for students in grades six through 10.

Clarissa Rankin, a mother who earned her CDL at Rowan-Cabarrus, spoke of the impact the license had on her life.

Previously, she was working two jobs with a bachelor’s in criminal justice to make ends meet. One of her sons had required multiple heart surgeries, causing financial strain.

By earning her CDL, she was able to find local employment making over $50,000 a year, she said. But it didn’t stop there: she and her husband started their own company.

“By June 14, 2018, we became J.C. Rankin Transport,” she said. “Not only (that), … but June 14, 2018, within my year of trucking, the job I worked for offered me a contract to haul their freight through my company.”

Opportunities like this were available for many, said RCCC President Carol Spalding— more, even, than the institution was currently serving.

At its peak in 2010, she said the school was serving 25 percent more students than it is currently. Everyone was unemployed and coming to them for job retraining, she said.

“That acceptance letter is going to be pretty simple from us, because, frankly, we’re an open-door college,” said Spalding. “We will place you in the place where you will be successful and help you work your way toward your goal.”

Crystal Ryerson, director of recruitment, spoke similarly.

“It’s about what do you want to do, then how do we get there,” she said. “Here at Rowan-Cabarrus we are … about meeting the students where they are, figuring out where they’re at, where they want to go and how we can get them there.”

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