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Halifax Community College Awarded $600,000 Federal Grant

Halifax Community College President, Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr. announced today that HCC has been awarded a $600,000 Office of Secondary Education’s Predominantly Black Institutions Program (PBI) federal grant to begin the “Freedom to Learn Initiative” (FLI). This grant is made possible by the U.S. Department of Education. This is a one-time grant opportunity, however, there is a possibility that the grant could extend into a second year and a second award of $600,000. This is the largest Title III grant that HCC has received in recent history.

“We’re going to focus on the educational outcomes of African American males to increase satisfaction, retention and graduation rates. We will try to institutionalize the program by the end of the PBI grant. It will allow us to have a number of workships for students,” said Griffin. “It will allow us to be able to go out to business and industry to find out what’s going on there and it will also allow many of the students to have specialized tutoring.”

As many are aware, the HCC service area is an economically and educationally disadvantaged region. Many live in poverty, are unemployed and live on food stamps. Others do not have a high school education or its equivalent.

To combat these problems and to increase the satisfaction, retention, and graduation/ transfer rates among African American males, HCC will now implement, with the assistance of the federal grant, the “Freedom to Learn Initiative” (FLI). There are three main goals of the FLI program. These include:

(1) The establishment of the FLI program complete with well-trained staff prepared to meet the needs of the most at-risk HCC students
(2) Increase the satisfaction, retention and graduation/transfer rates of HCC’s African American male students
(3) Institutionalize the program and ensure sustainability following the end of the PBI grant

This program will bring faculty, student services, and other administrative employees together with students in a supportive, ongoing relationship in which vocational, personal and academic issues within the student’s frame of reference can be discussed. An effort will also be made to pair minority male students with an African American male mentor within the first four weeks of entering HCC.

The FLI will place African American male students in relationships through which low self-assessments can be challenged and changed. To accomplish this, monies will be provided for training faculty, Learning Coaches, and mentors in working with students on various issues. Along with mentoring, students will participate in conferences specifically designed to assist African American males to look beyond their own limiting beliefs.

As part of FLI, Learning Coaches will assist high risk minority male students with identifying strengths, weaknesses, and personal assets, developing a comprehensive college preparation plan, and monitoring progress throughout the academic year.

Three coaches will be hired and cross-trained in campus policies, procedures and resources in order to act as a single point of contact for information during the transitional periods in each minority male’s education. The coaches will assist with class placement, tutorial assistance, academic advising and support services. Black males have some of the worst retention rates on campus, so the Learning Coaches will be a vital link in their academic success.

These coaches, along with the JobLink Office, will also assist students in becoming involved in appropriate internship and workship experiences. An effort will be made to place the student in his area of academic study. These will be paid opportunities of 10 hours per week as an alternative to student loans. Freshmen year internships will teach general behaviors and attitudes, which will lead to long-term employment. Sophomore year workships will enable students to experience work in their chosen field. A Community Advisory Council will provide input and assistance in identifying mentors and internship opportunities.

The program is slated to begin Nov. 1 with the hiring of a Project Director, Administrative Assistant and three Learning Coaches. These positions will report to the Vice President for Institutional Advancement. The Project Director will oversee the operation of the project, including ensuring that feedback and continuous improvement mechanisms are functioning and goals, objectives and outcomes are being met. The FLI Steering Committee, consisting of representatives from HCC faculty and administration, will ensure that support service aspects of the program and the college function together and are presented to students when needed.