Blue Love – To some it may sound silly, but it represents something quite serious…a topic many may not wish to address. As Dr. W. Dallas Herring, the father of North Carolina community colleges intended from the inception of the system, our goal is to “….take people from where they are, as far as they can go.” And that is exactly what Blue Love does.
In her April 2013 TED talk, experienced educator Rita Pierson said, “We know why kids drop out. We know why kids don’t learn. It’s either poverty, low attendance, negative peer influences. We know why. But one of the things that we never discuss, or we rarely discuss, is the value and importance of human connection, relationships.” It has been suggested that the same is true about college students; many who drop out, do so because they do not feel there is value in what they are doing, or they feel that no one cares about them.
To help ensure student success, Nash Community College recognizes that not all students are alike, and that many face challenges beyond those arising in the classroom. Food insecurity, test anxiety, post-military life challenges, learning disabilities, transportation problems, mental health issues, financial concerns, substance use, impaired access to technology and health care needs are among the obstacles to learning that some NCC students encounter. These concerns must be addressed in order for learning and positive student outcomes to occur; and that is just what Blue Love does. Additionally, NCC faculty have engaged in rigorous instructionally focused professional enrichment to help them engage students at the highest level.
NCC instructors share Blue Love by understanding these differences and addressing holistically the barriers to student learning. To be effective, NCC instructors have to be engaged, energized, and happy to be in the role they are in. Blue Love puts this level of faculty and staff commitment into action. “Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be,” Pierson said. NCC believes the same to be true about its students…every student deserves a champion.
The recent rollout of the Student Wellness Center with clinical outreach counseling is one way NCC connects students with qualified professionals and community resources who can offer support. The college has devoted a full-time employee to helping students get connected with organizations and people who can assist with their individual needs. Marbeth Holmes, NCC’s Clinical Outreach Counselor, holds an Associate in Arts degree from Louisburg College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Meredith College, a Master of Arts degree in English from Abilene Christian University, and a Master of Science degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Holmes has been working at Nash Community College since August 1998, and is part of the college’s professorate class.
The Wellness Center’s scope of services includes screening and assessment, crisis intervention, personal counseling, support groups, referral services for chronic care, psycho-education, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and more. Holmes is trained to provide assistance to special populations in need of therapeutic support groups such as veterans, single mothers, survivors of trauma and domestic violence, drug abusers and others. College resources that also provide assistance to students include: the Student Government Association, MALE mentoring program, the Library, a food pantry, and success closet with professional attire for students who need clothing for work or job interviews.
Blue Love is signified with hands in the shape of hearts, buttons, and blue tie dyed tee shirts, but these representations stand for much, much more. And those who live in local and surrounding areas can attest to the impact of Blue Love each day when they are treated by nurses, use locally fabricated products, receive goods transported by a CDL graduate, are served in a restaurant by a culinary student, and experience the protection and service of law enforcement or fire services agencies. So, this term that I and others have referred to recently, is not simply about the donning of apparel and smiles by NCC employees; it is about building caring, meaningful relationships with our students, with each other, and with the community.