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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
Partnering with several universities, Crossroads Institute in Galax is working to offer students in the Twin Counties a broader selection of degree programs that can be earned without ever having to leave the city limits.
Representatives from each university were present for Wytheville Community College’s annual career fair at Crossroads on April 18.
More than 40 tables were set up at the fair and manned with representatives offering information about possible career paths in the area. Interspersed throughout the lobby, students were offered a selection of new bachelor’s, Master’s and doctorate degree programs from partnering colleges, including Emory & Henry, Norfolk State University, Bluefield College, Lindsey Wilson College, UVA Wise, Longwood University and Averett University. As students browsed through the collections of brochures, representatives from the tables worked together to help them find the specific degree programs to suit their needs.
“We used to be pretty competitive with one another, but not anymore — we just want people to get the education that will suit them the best,” said one college representative.
“Our programs don’t really overlap anywhere. Everyone has something unique to offer,” agreed another. She smiled and handed out a pamphlet, along with her business card.
Degree programs will be brought to the area through distance learning programs, where the classes can be taken online or in a virtual classroom. Thanks to these new options, a higher education can now be achieved without ever having to leave the area.
Working adults can now fit classes in with their busy schedules, without having to sacrifice part or all of their paycheck to continue their education.
Due to the high costs and inconvenience of travel, along with the typical university class schedule, some locals have been hindered or completely discouraged from pursuing their dreams. “A census showed that there are 10,000 people in the Twin County area who have some college, 3,000 of which have an associate’s degree,” said Crossroads Institute’s Executive Director Oliver McBride. “There are people here who would like to finish their degrees.”
Over time, McBride had heard requests for help from several working adults interested in obtaining four-year degrees or higher.
He gave an early example. “There were two women who worked for Head Start who came to me for help. They had the opportunities to get scholarships through Norfolk State University to complete their bachelor’s degree in early childhood education."
However, the commute was impossible for them. “They all felt like, as the expression goes, that the rug was pulled out from under them.”
Thankfully, Crossroads found the solution by creating a digital presence for the students. A room was set up at Crossroads where the distance learners could attend their classes twice a week via video feed.
After the institute’s adjacent Higher Education Center was constructed, it was possible to accommodate even more students with larger projection screens and other state-of-the-art equipment.
At the end of April, six Averett University students received their Master’s degrees in business administration. They completed a rigorous two-year program by attending classes regularly at the Higher Education Center, where they worked on hands-on projects and group activities to develop their business skills.
McBride pointed out that both Crossroads and affiliated colleges are keeping their ears open for program requests from others in the community. “We would like to hear from the people about what they would like to have,” he said.
Several universities have shown an interest in extending more programs to students in the Twin Counties, but they need to hear a certain level of interest in these subjects before they can proceed. Because of this, McBride is encouraging members of the community to voice what kind of programs they would like to pursue.
For now, the course menu has expanded significantly, offering new chances at bachelor’s, Master’s and even doctorate degrees in subjects including business administration, sociology, criminal justice, nursing, physical therapy and human services.
• Crossroads Institute’s main campus is located at 1117 E. Stuart Drive in Galax, just behind the BP near Walmart. The Higher Education Center is located at 208 Cranberry Road, across from First Citizens Bank. (An access road is under construction to connect the two neighboring facilities.) For more information about programs, visit the Crossroads Institute’s website at crossroadsva.org, or call (276) 236-0391.