MARTINSVILLE, VA — What could $8,000 of education funding mean for one of America’s most financially-stressed populations? For the students in Patrick Henry Community College’s Middle College program, every dollar that goes into the program goes towards helping them reach their goals and makes achieving financial stability more attainable. With $8,000, PHCC’s Middle College program could meet a host of needs and set dozens of students up for future success. When PHCC’s Middle College program applied for a highly-competitive national grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, $8,000 is exactly the amount the program received.
“We are so excited to receive this grant,” says Middle College Instructor Christy Spencer. “With this money, we’ll be able to relieve some financial burdens from our students and make it that much more accessible for them to get ahead in the world.”
Middle College serves roughly 20 students each year providing young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 with a free one-semester GED instruction program. For Middle College staff, though, the goal isn’t just to help students earn a GED. It’s also to help set students up for financial success. By assisting their students with college admissions processes, providing career guidance, and preparing them to earn the National Career Readiness Certificate, Middle College staff does everything in their power to foster future success both in higher education and in the workplace.
Over the past 25 years, the Dollar General Literacy Fund has provided over 160 Million dollars to programs across the nation that work to improve literacy rates in America. Through this funding, the Dollar General Foundation has empowered more than 10 million people to achieve their goals. The fund is highly competitive, however, providing funding only to selected applicants offering direct services to those in need of literacy assistance within a 20-mile radius of a Dollar General store or distribution center.
“Because of the competitive nature of this grant, we feel very honored to have been chosen as a recipient,” says Spencer. “We know that this money will go to great use – helping our students reach goals and hopefully achieve financial stability.”
For the Martinsville area, the work Middle College does is critical. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in PHCC’s service region 21% of the population, or 13,962 individuals, has less than a high school diploma or GED. This is a significantly higher percentage than the state average of 11% that lack a high school diploma. The poverty rate for individuals in the region is 18.1%, compared to the state average of 11.4%.
As Middle College at PHCC often serves financially-strained individuals, it is critical that the educational opportunities they provide can remain free for participants. The grant money from Dollar General will offset program costs, test fees, and experiential learning activities so all of these benefits can remain free for students.