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VISIONS Holds Special Program to Celebrate Success of Its High School Participants

Osiel Aguirre talks about what the PCC VISIONS program has meant to him as an Ayden-Grifton High School student. He noted that a tour of Pitt's welding facilities and a trip to Winterville's The Roberts Company during last year's VISIONS Summer Institute helped him gain a better understanding of educational and job opportunities available to those pursuing welding careers.


WINTERVILLE—The Pitt Community College VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program held an event at the Hilton Greenville last month to celebrate the upcoming graduations of its high school participants.

The annual celebration, which took place May 26, featured words of encouragement from VISIONS staff and representatives from key VISIONS partners – the PCC Foundation, Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, and Pitt County Schools.

Each year, VISIONS provides a select group of Pitt County high school students with the direction and support they need in order to earn their diplomas and move on to higher education. Between 2005 and 2015, 543 of 546 VISIONS students have graduated from high school.

PCC VISIONS Program Director Marianne Cox says the annual graduation celebration is an opportunity to honor students for their hard work in meeting their high school and VISIONS responsibilities. It is also a time, she said, to recognize everyone involved with making the VISIONS program successful.

“VISIONS has touched so many lives in our community,” Cox said. “I’m so thankful for those who dreamed it into being, funded it over the years and set it in motion, so that we can be here today to applaud these students and congratulate them on a job well done.”

Most of the students will now move on to PCC, where they will receive scholarships and continue receiving personal and academic counseling from college VISIONS staff.

“… You are not alone in this journey,” Cox told the students. “Your families, your VISIONS support team, and the staff and faculty of PCC are here to help you.”

Osiel Aguirre, an Ayden-Grifton senior, said VISIONS had already helped him establish an educational path to a welding career.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to be in VISIONS was because of an inspirational speech and excitement (PCC VISIONS High School Technical Coordinator) Jim Shallow showed me when he came to me and introduced himself,” Aguirre said. “VISIONS wasn't just going to help out financially but also help me transition from high school life to college life ….”

D.H. Conley’s De’Chanta Wilkins plans to major in nursing at PCC before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a bachelor’s degree in the field. She said she wants to serve as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force and will be counting on support from VISIONS staff as she pursues her educational goals.

“To actually have great people, like everyone in VISIONS, working to help students meet their goals is an amazing feeling and I am all for it,” Wilkins said. “I appreciate everything that VISIONS has worked so hard to accomplish, and I know that once I start Pitt, that I will most definitely continue to contact them for help with any of my classes, because they'll always be there.”

While all of the students at last month’s celebration received plaques to commemorate their completion of the VISIONS high school program, 23 earned special recognition for having GPAs of 3.0 or higher (weighted or unweighted) midway through the current academic year. Of those students, South Central High School’s Braelin Mizelle had the highest GPA (a weighted 4.29) and received a Herman Simon Award, which is named for a key figure in the creation of the VISIONS program.

Mizelle was also one of 22 VISIONS students to take a college course at PCC while in high school through the Career and College Promise program. In fact, she completed four classes at Pitt as a high school student with a 3.75 GPA.

A total of 16 students were recognized for bettering their high school GPAs by at least two-tenths of a point since joining VISIONS in 2014, including Arielle Jarman. The J.H. Rose senior raised her GPA by six-tenths of a point to earn a Herman Simon Award for most improved GPA.

Through a generous Wells Fargo contribution, D.H. Conley student Benjamin Meeks received a $500-scholarship. Meeks, who volunteers with the Grimesland Fire Department, recorded a 3.5 GPA as a high school student and also completed welding classes at PCC with a 3.5 GPA.

Started in 2004 to help reduce Pitt County’s high school drop-out rate while increasing the number of county students attending college, VISIONS has served 719 students. Due to the success of the VISIONS Program, Herman Simon and the Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation have increased funding over the years to allow more students to participate.

This year’s VISIONS class was comprised of 70 students representing all six Pitt County high schools. All of the students were selected for participation during their junior year of high school and have received special mentoring and advising from PCC staff as seniors. Last summer, the students took part in a weeklong program at PCC to learn more about educational and career options available to them locally.