Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Partners in Wine 

150 Gallons of Soup & 5,000 Chocolates

After appearing on Virginia calendars every February or March for the past 13 years, Richmonders probably know something about the Virginia Wine Expo.

But, what you might not know, and what might motivate you to attend or get involved, is one of the original goals for the event was raising money for a charitable beneficiary.

A short history: in 2008 Alex Papjohn approached the Virginia Wine Board (yes, there is a Virginia Wine Board) with the idea of holding a premier indoor wine and food event in the wintertime. The Board liked the idea and Alex, along with Tracey Leverty and Jessica Corbett teamed up for the first Expo.

Accomplishing its purpose, since its inception, the Virginia Wine Expo has raised over $100,000 for such organizations as Komen for the Cure, Feedmore, Richmond Performing Arts Association, and Autism Society Central Virginia. 

In 2020, the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation will join this list as the Expo's next charitable beneficiary, with proceeds supporting The Kitchens at Reynolds.

More short history: When Chef Jesse Miller came into the Reynolds culinary program in 2009, one of the first items on his “to do” list was a dinner with Business School Dean David Barrish and Alex Papajohn. “We discussed this event and our involvement, and it grew from there,” said Chef Jesse.

“Now, anywhere from ten to forty students volunteer per year; having exceeded a couple hundred student volunteers overall. They help with any, and everything, from food prep, to serving at the Reynolds booth, and setting up and cleaning up. The Expo is more than just a wine tasting, it’s an opportunity for attendees to learn.”

Yes, Expo attendees learn, but it’s the Reynolds culinary students who truly get an education.

“This is the perfect opportunity for students to learn about events and what it’s like to prepare for thousands,” says Chef Jesse, “this is difficult to do in the classroom, but the Expo is a great time to teach them to prepare 150 gallons of soup or 5,000 chocolates. This also gives them a chance to engage in offsite catering, which includes menu planning, purchasing, food prep, packing and loading, unpacking, setting up on site, meeting deadlines, all the while executing and assuring high quality food and safe handling. And of great importance to their future, it's a chance for the students to make connections with industry leaders at the event, many of whom have jobs to offer.” Whole Foods Market is among the industry employers and is providing a sponsorship of ingredients for Reynolds' culinary arts booth.

Fine wine. Amazing food. Education. What more could you want in a single event? How about the chance to volunteer in support of The Kitchens at Reynolds and its fabulous student chefs-to-be?

A portion of the proceeds from the 2020 event will go to the Foundation which will help fund projects such as scholarships, equipment, buildings and grounds, and curriculum enhancement. As the charitable beneficiary, the Foundation will recruit and manage hundreds of volunteers to help execute this event. You can help by volunteering! 

Volunteers will receive one complimentary walk-around pass to the Saturday Evening or Sunday Walk Around Grand Tasting (a $55 value) per shift completed. 

IF YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER, please e-mail Ms. Ariel Cole, Special Events Manager at Reynolds Community College, at events@reynolds.edu.

IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND, the Virginia Wine Expo runs from Tuesday, March 3 to Sunday, March 8, 2020. Tickets to individual events and ticket packages are on sale now at www.virginiawineexpo.com.

The Expo is a multi-day, immersive and educational craft beverage and culinary experience featuring more than 30 events. Enjoy an exceptional variety of brilliant wines, spirits, ciders and high-end craft beers (at the new Ultimate Brew Fest) with Virginia's vintners, distillers, cider-makers and craft brewers, including highly sought-after top-scoring bottlings. And, experience Richmond's vibrant and flourishing culinary scene, savor delicious cuisine from some of the region's hottest chefs and pitmasters at our signature dinners, lunches, brunches and larger culinary events. Among the ticketed events in a weekend full of activities is a sneak preview tour of The Kitchens at Reynolds.

The 2020 Virginia Wine Expo presented by Publix and is coordinated by Variant Events. J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation is the charitable beneficiary of the event. Alex Papajohn is the Executive Director of Variant Events.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Meet Justin Ellis

Counselor, Student Life

Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I am from the big little county of Surry, VA. As a youth, there was a saying "Surry is something special." This was instilled in us to help us believe in the strength of who we are and who we were raised to be. 

You are relatively new to Reynolds. What brought you here? 
A mentor sent me the job listing. After I saw the job post, I knew this was within my skill set and decided that this would be the logical next step in progressing in a career in higher education. I am so glad I applied. This has been a life changing year.

What sparked your interest in working with students?  
My personal philosophy on life is "to help everyone I meet become the best them they can become."  I also have a love for student engagement. The joy in seeing a student find a connection that pushes him or her to pursue his or her dreams is what got me started in higher education. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? 
The most challenging part of my position is not being able to reach all students. I know that it is truly impossible to reach them all, but my goal will always be to not have one student feel disconnected.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? 
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing students engage with people, events, and activities that he or she may not have done had he or she not participated in the Student Life event. Students often say they were so glad that he or she participated in the event. It was the best time they have had.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it? 
Spending quality time with my family. I live in Suffolk and drive to Richmond daily. I love watching movies with my wife and son.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds? 
I love sports, so watching any sport is a great time. I like running as well. I have run one full marathon and three half marathons. I also play golf on occasion. Those are my favorite things outside of family time and work.

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants? 
I still live in Suffolk so I am not very familiar with a lot of things in Richmond. My wife and I are foodies so I use yelp to find places to eat. Right now ZZQ is my favorite. I am a griller so good grilled food is amazing. 

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money? 
If I won $100 million, the first thing I would do is fund my wife’s business idea. Next I would purchase a lot of land that would be given to my son. I would also start a non-profit to help end homelessness. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Dynamics of Karim Sultan

Reynolds Community College Student

Seeking Degree: AS Mechanical Engineering

Karim Sultan is going to be an engineer. Minutes in to a conversation with him, it’s evident engineering is a perfect career choice. He’s studious, deliberate, direct, analytical, and he gets really excited by his classes.

This semester he’s taking Dynamics. Dynamics, if you're not familiar with engineering, is the study of unbalanced forces on a system, like the acceleration of a piston in an engine. If applied to Karim, Dynamics would reveal what moves him toward engineering is more than his personality. It’s his passion.

“I’m passionate about the Earth. I’ve traveled around the world, and seen some beautiful sights, and I want to do something to preserve our awesome planet. I want to work on alternative energy sources that preserve our environment.” And Karim has a plan to learn to do that. After Reynolds he is heading to VCU. “I want to study nuclear fusion after my bachelors degree is complete.” Not fission, he clarifies. Fission is breaking atoms apart; fusion is pushing them together – much more difficult but with less waste. “After VCU, I want to study Plasma Physics.”

There’s still more moving Karim. “My Mom went to Reynolds, and she has done really, really well. She is a high-level software developer in Washington, DC. She has gone far in her career, and speaks very highly of Reynolds. She got her start here. We came to the United States from Egypt when I was small. She didn’t speak much English. She got through her education and now she is doing great, she’s very successful.”

When Karim started at Reynolds he had an auto glass business and DJ’d at local bars to pay his bills. One of his first classes was Engineering Graphics. He started calling local engineering firms, and soon landed an internship. He knew immediately he had found his place in the world. Next he got his AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design) certificate. Then came a job as Drafter with Dominion Energy. Karim still DJ’s because it’s fun, but he’s given up his auto glass gig to focus on his studies and his work.

“I really like Dominion. I work with engineers all day, and I love it. I’m drafting electrical panels now and learning a lot about electrical engineering, not my field, but I will use the knowledge someday. Eventually Dominion will pay for my school.”

“Reynolds is great. I am really happy to be here and couldn’t imagine being at a better community college. I could say the professors are excellent teachers, but it’s more than that. The professors here pass on their real life experience, not just information. Professor Clay is my advisor. She can talk about the engineering job market, her life experience working as an engineer, and what it’s like in the field. I feel like I have a strong support team, and will come out of school knowing what to expect, and being prepared to deal with it.”

You don’t need to understand Dynamics to appreciate the vast distance travelled between auto glass and Plasma Physics. Reynolds has helped launch Karim Sultan on his upward trajectory, and we look forward to watching him cross the graduation stage and continue his journey.

Meet Paul Chapman

Academic Support Librarian

Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
My father was in the Coast Guard, so I grew up all up and down the East Coast and Gulf of the USA. I was born in Louisiana and then moved to Florida, Connecticut, Alabama, Virginia, back to Florida, back to Virginia. So it was a challenge as a kid always being uprooted and not being able to make friends that lasted more than two years. But on the other hand, moving around so much made me more flexible and adaptive to new situations.

Tell us a little about your background.
My academic background is in Fine Arts. I studied Studio Art in both my undergraduate work (JMU) and also have a MFA in Studio Art – Photography (GWU). Being the child of a military family and always moving around so much actually made me quite shy since I was always the new kid trying to figure out how I fit in, so I became more and more shy as I got older. But going to art school and constantly having to create new work weekly and defend it to my peers, helped me in so many ways.

I am a survivor of child abuse and I try to be as vocal about my experience as possible. I am a firm believer in speaking up and sharing about what I went through with others. By talking about my experience, it helps reduce stigma, lets others know they are not alone, and provides support to those who have gone through similar situations.

You are new to Reynolds. What brought you to Richmond, and to Reynolds specifically?
My Partner of 16 years accepted job at VCU last October. We still had a few months left on our apartment lease in Alexandria, so I stayed up there and continued to work while searching for jobs here in the Richmond area. Our lease ran out in January of 2019, so until just recently I was commuting from Richmond to Alexandria where I was a Librarian at Northern Virginia Community College.

I was very excited by the opportunity work at Reynolds because I fully support the mission and goals of community colleges and their essential roles as equalizers providing access to resources, technology, enrichment, and advancement opportunities for the entire community.

What sparked your interest in in becoming a librarian?
I have always been a teacher at heart. I love working with people and helping students to find their passion and inspiration for knowledge and lifelong learning. I grew up going to libraries as a place to do my homework. While pursing all of my degrees, I worked in some sort of library at each school. I don’t know why I didn’t consider Librarianship earlier, but it is interesting to look back at all the little things that led me to this career.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a librarian?
The most challenging thing about being a librarian is connecting with people outside of the library and effectively communicating what the library can offer. Most people, including teachers and administrators (not just students) don’t really seem to understand the true purpose and roll of the academic library.

There is a common misconception that libraries are just buildings full of books or that Librarians just sit around all day reading novels. Providing academic support services to patrons is our main goal, but in general people only come to the library when they need help with something. That point-of-need model limits how much interaction we have with patrons outside of those specific interactions. 

Libraries are here to provide access to so many different things: study space, technology, books, databases, Information Literacy Instruction, but above all our most important asset is our people. Librarians and Library staff are in the business of student success. It is core to our mission and therefore we are essential to our institution because our daily interactions with students directly impact enrollment, retention, persistence and ultimately student success.

What are the most rewarding aspects?
The most rewarding part for me is when students come back to you just to say thank you and that they got an “A” on the paper or project I helped them with.

Librarians sometimes have very focused jobs, but usually we need to be a jack of all trades. Being a service oriented profession, we never know what kind of questions or issues our patrons might have, so we are constantly being challenged. I love and embrace that I am constantly stimulated by learning new things, finding new things, keep up with changes in technology, changes in pedagogy, and myriad of other areas.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
I love to cook so I would use an extra hour each day to try out more complicated recipes. Unfortunately, I have a few food restrictions, but that always makes for a fun challenge where I can try to convert and existing recipe into something that I can eat.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I am writing my first novel. It is inspired by a nightmare I had a year ago. I woke up from the dream and immediately had to start writing it down.

Another passion of mine is Holistic Wellness. I am a firm believer that we all should strive for a balance of Physical, Nutritional, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness.

I started lifting weights in 2010 and I got completely hooked. I wake up early every morning and go to the gym to lift. I still call myself an amateur bodybuilder, but I have no desire to compete professionally. Lifting is my “me time”. I put on my headphones, crank up the music, and just get lost in the challenge of trying to be better each day.

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I have only been living in Richmond full-time for a few weeks, so I am still learning all that it has to offer, but I really enjoy that there is so much access to the arts in this area. The other benefit is that we have all the advantages of being next to a city but without the traffic and overpopulation of the DC Metro area. I love that I can be out in nature or in the country in just a few minutes or head into the city for a concert or event without much trouble.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
If I won a $100 Million, I would immediately pay off my debt.

I would purchase a small farm somewhere around Richmond and build my dream home. I am a huge animal lover and gardening is one of my many passions. It is my goal to eventually have goats, chickens, and to grow as much of my own organic produce as possible.

I would establish a scholarship for LGBTQA students.

Of course some of that money would go towards retirement.

Another dream I have always had is to own a large warehouse in a city and convert it into visiting artist studio space and gallery space. I would set up a visiting artist program where artists are paid a stipend to come and use the space while they teach art master classes and give lectures. It would be an amazing partnership with all the colleges in the area to help art students and the community learn how to appreciate and make art from successful working artists.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Josh Watson – Instructor - English

Josh Watson with sons Andrew (left)
and baby William (right).
Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I grew up right here in Richmond, VA! Went to Godwin High School, attending Reynolds, and graduated from VCU with my BA & MA. 

How long have you worked for Reynolds?
As of August 2019 I have been with Reynolds for ten years.

What sparked your interest in English?
My high school English teacher taught me the value of expressing myself through writing and Paul Carlton (a retired professor from here) taught me about the fun you can have studying literature. 

What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of being an English Instructor?
Both would have to be giving each student the opportunity to work and explore beyond the walls of academia. Helping students see the application of what they learn here in a “real world” context makes the experience so much more real for them and I love seeing that realization evolve into energy and passion for their future.

You are in the first ACUE cohort group. What impact do you foresee the program having on Reynolds and our students?
Students will continue to see an engaged group of faculty that are making the classroom come alive with dynamic activities that will have them working with their contemporaries here and across Richmond. In that regard, Reynolds will grow to become even more of what it was always meant to be: a pillar for surrounding communities in every sense of the word. 

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
Reading with my sons. We’re currently working through the Last Kids on Earth series.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I enjoy tabletop gaming (Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40K) as well as making wooden cutouts for my Halloween display (tombstones, scary figures, etc.). 

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
Lately my oldest son and I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the rich and diverse collection of cemeteries and graveyards around Richmond. His favorite is currently Hollywood Cemetery for its crypts and climbable trees. Our goal is to leave a single polished stone in every graveyard and cemetery in Richmond to mark our visit and honor those that have passed.  

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Keep 10 million for my family and put the rest into a fund for independent projects in Richmond (conserving historical buildings, art instillation projects such as the mural project, tuition funding for college students, etc.). Investing (wisely) in the future is never a bad idea.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Golden Gate Bridge Came First

Meet Melissa Collier

Reynolds Culinary Arts Grad and 

Operations Manager at Everyday Gourmet

Melissa Collier handles event details the way a commercial Vitamix handles carrots and kale. On the outside she’s perfectly calm, while on the inside she’s furiously chopping, mixing and churning ingredients to make Everyday Gourmet incredibly successful: fantastic food, delightful dishes, and memorable menus, all seasoned liberally with thoughtful and gracious customer service.

Everyday Gourmet is more than just a catering business – “fast food chains can deliver box lunches,” says Melissa, “for me “catering” isn’t just food. “Catering” means catering to our clients’ needs and wants. I love making people happy, which means I love this business. But it’s not for everybody. You need that love. I dreamed of being this person. I’ve seen it in my mind. I’ve admired it. I’ve wanted it. Now I’ve made it, and love being this person.” 

Melissa has found her place in the world, and it’s culinary operations. Her joy and enthusiasm could inspire even the most kitchen-averse individual to put on an apron and get to work. It all started her senior year when she went to a new high school where she felt she didn’t fit in. To escape her discomfort, she signed up for cooking and baking classes in the tech center. She knew she was in the right place when given an assignment to build a gingerbread house from scratch. Instead of a simple house, Melissa constructed a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge complete with licorice ropes for cables.

After high school Melissa immediately enrolled in Reynolds Culinary Arts program. She had already started working full time in the food business her senior year. “This was perfect for me,” she says, “I could make my mistakes at school and then go to work and do everything the right way. I would get an idea in one of my classes and take it to work that evening, and it could be on the menu the next day. Working in the business helped me understand fully what I was learning in class. It was a great time for me. I had no idea there were eight ways to chop carrots, that potatoes must be washed in cold water, or what happens at a meat processing plant. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am without Reynolds.”

If she wasn’t so perfectly suited for catering operations, Melissa would certainly find success as a Culinary Comedian. She has stories, lots of them. Some about events gone right: a bridal shower, a wedding, and a baby shower for the same couple all in one year. And, some about events gone wrong: like only having three volunteers show up to serve 1400 people at an outdoor event, rain came down in buckets for four hours, and with more than 100 people left in the food line the tent company came and took away their tent. When put to the test, Melissa is the kind of culinary pro who laughs instead of cries, and keeps on serving.

A typical Saturday at Everyday Gourmet includes a mix of catering, weddings, and parties. They might have a 20k engagement party in the afternoon and a family reunion in a hotel ballroom that evening. Melissa has a roster of 52 servers, captains, drivers, and chefs to choose from, with 20 of those being event regulars. In addition to catering, Everyday Gourmet has a meal preparation and delivery service, Well Fed, which regularly serves about 75 customers.

Melissa calls on Reynolds culinary students to help out, too, and readily sings their praises. “Reynolds students are delightful. They come to work early, their attitudes are great, and they are diligent and detailed about their assignments. John Bradley helped at the “rain event”. He was amazing. He hung in there the whole time, and never complained about the situation. Sam Bausone  and Anna Zanetti helped at the Elby’s. They were both just incredible. That night Sam was named one of the students of the year at the event. He worked until he was called to the stage to accept his award, then came back to work after he received it. I didn’t even know he was getting an award, he was so humble about it.”

And, Melissa Collier knows “humble.” After she was offered and accepted her position at Everyday Gourmet it took her months to talk about it, to embrace it, and to see it as her own. She had wanted it for so long, when she finally got it, she first wanted to be sure she had it, that she was up to it. Now she knows for sure. Now, on any given day Melissa can be found quietly chopping, mixing, and churning her way through another crazy-busy week of event details. 

She has definitely arrived.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Meet Nakia James

EMS Program Coordinator

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Prince George, VA, a very rural county about 45 minutes south of Richmond, VA. I am an identical twin and one of 4 siblings. I grew up in a two parent household, in which I was very active in church and High School sports.  I grew up serving and helping others at a very young age through various outreach activities in the community and my church. I can honestly say I had a very good childhood in the sense of a loving and happy family. 

This summer you were selected as Reynolds EMS Coordinator, but you were already a member of Reynolds faculty. How long have you worked for Reynolds, and what was your previous role?
I worked as an adjunct faculty member through a high school EMT dual enrollment program and Governor's STEM Academy, located at the Richmond Technical Center as a part of Richmond Public Schools. I served as the Lead STEM Instructor (Department Head) and EMS Program instructor for 10 years, totaling 15 years as an instructor at the Richmond Technical Center. I also taught EMT courses for the Richmond Adult Technical Center at night. I have worked as a member of the Reynolds Adjunct faculty for 8 years.
What sparked your interest in EMS work?
My older brother who was in EMS sparked my interest well before I was old enough to participate in my local Rescue Squad. Instead, I would ride in the car with him as he responded to 911 calls from our home by way of his EMS pager/radio. I stayed in the car, watched and waited for him during many accident scenes and medical emergencies that he responded to. When I became old enough to join and volunteer, I enrolled in an EMT course after school hours and the rest was history. Interestingly enough my older brother stayed with EMS for a while and later transitioned his career into Law Enforcement to this date.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As an EMS provider (firefighter/paramedic) I would assume this is a pretty standard answer, which would be  trying to change the outcome of a patients situation, knowing it may not change, due to the extent of injuries or illness the patient may have sustained or have been affected by. The daunting task of educating patients regarding bad practices/habits that negatively impact their lives and having to repeat this process by me (EMS) over and over as a result of repetitive poor choices/decisions. As an educator, It would be helping students to understand and tap into his/her full potential in spite of the struggles and challenges many of them face on a daily basis. 
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Making a difference no matter how big or small it may be. Seeing students achieve their goal and often moving on to accomplish even greater achievements. It is nice for students to come back and say thank you, but not required. Knowing I helped them along the way, is gratification enough that I have done my job. Seeing that excitement and smile on their face when the light comes on in their head that they can do it!

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
I would likely spend it doing more work unfortunately as there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. In reality, I would likely give that time to my family, as I could always spend more time with the ones I love.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I spend some of my time with Church related activities as I am a musician and play for two churches currently. Family time is always a big priority for me whenever I can. When I am not doing that, I am an avid RC Helicopter / Airplane enthusiast. I build and fly large RC Aircraft and Scale Helicopters.  I am a member of the Richmond Area Radio Controlled Club in Charles City, VA which is one of the areas I can legally fly them due to their sizes and the FAA regulations/restrictions. It is very relaxing for me. As if this isn't enough, working in my garage, landscaping, working on vehicles  or building things take up the rest of my free time.  

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I would say the diversity is one of Richmond's greatest assets along with being one of the best Food cities in VA. I enjoy visiting local small neighborhood restaurants, Carytown at times and discovering new attractions in the city.  I enjoy visiting historic and revitalized areas and any of the sporting venues or sporting events that come to Richmond.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Well unfortunately, I don't gamble so this would be highly unlikely, but if someone wanted to gift me with $100 million dollars, I would tithe to my local church and give monetary donations to everyday people that I would come in contact with. I love surprising people with kindness when they least expect it.  Paying off layaway accounts at various establishments, paying the tolls for a day for random people, taking a family in need on a vacation or shopping spree, paying someone's tuition in  full.  I could go on and on as I often think about how I could help people pretty regularly. In the meantime, I privately pray for almost everyone I come in contact with that God would give them the desires of their heart, bless and prosper them!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Who is Marcus Taylor?

Is Marcus Taylor a barber? A dog breeder? A house rehabber? A car salesman? Or, a personal trainer? The answer is yes, and no. Yes, Marcus has done all these things, but they aren’t all he is. He still works as a barber and he still rehabs homes, but he has bigger plans for his future. Asking himself, “Who is Marcus Taylor” was the question that eventually landed Marcus at Reynolds. 

Right now, what Marcus is, is a Reynolds student.

Aside from career labels, what Marcus is, is a fighter, a survivor, a tenacious “never give up” Veteran who started life in less than ideal circumstances. “Where I came from in the East End there wasn’t anything to lose, and there seemed to be no way out,” Marcus said, “my saving grace was joining the Army. It was my way out. I got to see the world and go to pla
ces I never dreamed of.”
When Marcus got out of the service in 2013 he didn’t know which way to go. “I went a lot of ways,” he says, “I’m good at almost anything, and can grasp how to do almost anything. So I tried on lots of careers. They were like suits that just didn’t fit right.”

“Then,” says Marcus, “I got interested in construction. I could see that Richmond was booming. I met a developer who said: “you know, people always need housing,” but I didn’t know what to do with my interest until I came to Reynolds. An advisor gave me a career survey, and I knew I had found a good fit. I started taking classes in Building Construction Management, and for the first time since I got out of the Army, I had hope, I had a future again, I finally found a light at the end of the tunnel – and I found it at Reynolds.”

Marcus credits his girlfriend with urging him to speak up about his experience at Reynolds. It’s a good thing she did, because Marcus has a lot to say. Especially about the Reynolds classroom. “I have thrived in the Reynolds atmosphere of small classes. I am truly grateful to have been given the space to explore my talents and interests. I tell others, if you want to go to college, and you want to work, there are opportunities right here at your fingertips. If you can afford those expensive gym shoes, you can afford to go to college.”

“I used to wish I had grown up some place else, some place better,” Marcus says, “but then I think about the tools I have in my bag as a result, and I wouldn’t trade those tools for anything else.” Marcus has also been to war, which added a whole other set of tools to his arsenal. As a result, he comes to the classroom with a perspective many students don’t have. “At first I felt like a dinosaur next to some of the 18-year old students. Now, I chuckle when they huff and puff about getting a tough homework assignment. Paying bills, and fighting for your life, now THOSE are tough assignments.”

Marcus plans to graduate in the spring or early summer. He knows he has a lot of work to do to get there, but that work doesn’t faze him. “You have to tap in to your “have to” to reach your tough goals,” Marcus explains, “you can’t whine and complain that the work is too hard. You’ve just got to dig in and do it, you’ve got to do the hard stuff.”

And after graduation? “I’d like to go to ODU or VA Tech and get my degree in Building Construction Management or Project Management. Now that I have found my passion and a career that fits, even if my GI Bill runs out, I’ll find a way to go.”

Who is Marcus Taylor? He’s a guy who greets you openly with a wide, genuine smile. He’s a hard-working, no nonsense realist who doesn’t believe in excuses – his own or anyone else’s. He’s smart, he’s curious, and he’s focused on his goals.

Who is Marcus Taylor? He’s a Reynolds student.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Driven by Dreams

Madison Scalf is driven. Her ride of choice? Maserati? Lamborghini? Porsche? No way. For Madison, it’s politics, history, and economics. Not long ago, she was stalled on the side of the road. She had dreams, but she’d stopped dreaming them. Then she came to Reynolds, and Madison went from 0 to 60 once she was accepted into the Honors program and got back in the fast lane. 

When she came to Reynolds, Madison didn’t know what she wanted to do. “I’d given up on the things I had always cared about. I’d stopped believing in myself, or in the possibility that good things could happen for me.” Her U-turn was rapid. She rediscovered her love of history and politics during a Western Civilization class in the Spring of 2018, and from there decided to pursue her dream to run for Congress one day.

Her first step was to volunteer for a Congressional Campaign last fall where she got promoted to field organizer for Hanover County. Armed with that experience and her knowledge of what it takes to run a campaign, a chance conversation with another local candidate landed her a job as his Campaign Manager for this election year. “It’s rare to jump from being in the field to becoming a Campaign Manager,” Madison confessed. “I was comfortable being in charge of field, but had a lot to learn about running everything and being the extension of the candidate. I have to hire staff, and manage all the finances, and make important, sometimes difficult decisions.” 

 “You don’t go into politics for the money,” she continued, “You go in to it for a sense of purpose. I live on my own, pay for school on my own, and need to work. But, being a Campaign Manager is the first job I’ve had where I’m doing something I want to do. I’m working for a sense of purpose, rather than just for the money. Also, it’s great preparation for performing under pressure, and the issues I see every day are reinforcing what I learn in my classes.” Money being an issue, Madison also works two other part time jobs, fortunately with flexible hours, to keep a steady paycheck coming in.

How does she keep her schedule organized? “I use an Excel template. But the template only broke down the day in half hour increments so I had to adjust it to suite my needs. I organize my day in 15 minute increments. Everything goes on the spreadsheet, work time, school time, travel time, family and friend time, and most important: rest time. It all gets planned. It has to. That’s the only way to get it all done.”

Now that she has her dreams back, Madison knows “getting it all done” is the key element of achieving those dreams. “When I was a sophomore in high school one of my dreams was to go to William and Mary to study politics and history. Another dream was to become a Marine officer.  I thought I had lost all of those dreams until I came to Reynolds and joined the Honors program.”

Fast lane forward to September 2019: Madison has received her Letter of Intent from William & Mary, and has been accepted for the fall semester in 2020. She also has a Marine adviser who is helping her navigate through her application to the Officer’s Program. Her screening will come next June. True to Madison’s character, she has a plan to prepare herself when the time comes to face the Marines.

Really, who needs a Maserati when your dreams can take you anywhere you want to go? 

Hold tight to the wheel, Madison, you are on your way, and there is no speed limit on your road. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Meet Susan Roach 

Student Service Specialist/Special Accommodations

Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, which is about one hour drive northeast of Cleveland right on Lake Erie.  I lived there until 1971 as I moved to Norfolk, VA as a Navy wife.  Mom and dad gave us the opportunity to have lots experiences.  I was a girl scout up to high school graduation, belonged to 4-H, worked at the local YMCA as a junior leader from Junior High to gradation and then continued to volunteer. Was a member of the FTA Future teachers of America in high school and had the chance to go to my elementary school and work as a SUB.  

How long have you worked for Reynolds? Have you always worked with students?
I started August of 1999, as a wage employee under the Perkins Grant as a notetaker in classrooms. Then in October, I was hired as the part time wage employee doing what I am still doing today. On 11-24-2004, I went full time as a classified staff still doing the same job, working with students with disabilities.  

You are described as being “very knowledgeable, and the epitome of professional and caring,” and showing, “real warmth with a no-nonsense style.” Were these traits always part of your personality, or did they develop over the years you have worked with students?
This statement would be a compliment to my mom, this is how she lived her life, and she was a nurse and a mom to four of us and had a matter of fact attitude. I have two older sisters and one younger brother and we were raised to care, nurture, and mind your manners. The activities we could be involved in made up for what we did not have in material items. My personality has always been the same treat someone as you would expect to be treated, always do the best you can and if you can have fun while doing your job. 

When my son was born and had complications at birth and was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy my world took a different turn. He is now 39 an alumni of Reynolds Community College and been working since 2003 at the same job and because of him I dove into the world of disabilities. Many of you know my son and see the end results of being able to teach someone how to be proactive and understand the world that they live in. My mom would be very proud us.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
We are very involved with our students and all of the parts of their lives as the disabilities can cross many lines. It is challenging when you help the students make the transition to college but also for many for the first time to try to understand their disability. K-12 does so much of the work for the student that may not be able to communicate what and why they need accommodations.   

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Graduation!! I love to see my students cross the stage. I started on the graduation committee in 2003 and have not missed one yet. However, there is a BUT – the friendship you make with your co-workers and my relationships with our faculty are awesome and let you have fun at work.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
 To be honest I might just say “Rest” but in the real world to have an extra hour at home every day to enjoy time my family would be great. We moved to King William in 2013 and that gives us a healthy drive. Nevertheless, that drive also means we have turkeys and deer in our front yard that do not mind sharing the yard with us.  

What do you like to do when you are not here on campus helping students?  
Spending time with family and friends does not matter where or what you are doing. You have to appreciate them while you have them and tell them often you care about them.  

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
We like living in Richmond, as you can go either direction and in a matter of hours enjoy very different scenery. Since I grew up on Lake Erie and around boats, it is great that the Bay and Ocean is so close. When I was little my family spent time in the mountains camping. We have a camper and boat near Smith Point at Reedville, VA and enjoy time with family and friends that brings back many childhood memories.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
I would pay off the new cars we bought, travel to visit family in Ohio, West Virginia, and Arizona. Probably add chickens, goat and not sure what else to our property and enjoy being at home. I would also start a few scholarships at Reynolds to support our students with disabilities in the honor of what Reynolds has done for my son.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Reynolds Student Named Valley Proteins Fellow 

for 4th Consecutive Year

She’s here. She’s there. She’s everywhere. "And that," says Valley Proteins Fellow Janeen McNeish, “is one of the most important keys to student success. You have to be everywhere. You have to be visible. If you want to stand out, you have to give to your school, and to your community. You have to volunteer.”

In her first year on campus Janeen was everywhere, devoting every bit of her time and energy to her studies, her college, and her community. And her philosophy paid off. It has earned her scholarships, the respect of faculty, administration and fellow students, and the latest award: the prestigious designation of Valley Proteins Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Being named a Valley Proteins Fellow is an honor earned by few. 

Consider this: of the more than 250,000 second-year students in the whole Virginia Community College system, only 10 are selected each year to participate in the Valley Proteins Fellowship Program. 

Now consider this: for the fourth consecutive year a Reynolds student has been chosen to be a Valley Proteins Fellow. 

Past Reynolds Valley Proteins Fellows are:  
Grace Swal – 2018-2019 
Donald Cooper – 2017-2018
Angela Graves – 2016 – 2017

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Janeen, she is a second year Nursing student participating in a special partnership with ODU. She will graduate from Reynolds with her associates degree along with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Her plan is to work for a year as an ICU Nurse and then apply to VCU’s Nurse Anesthesiology program so she can ultimately, “put people under.” Her plans were ambitious and rigorous even before being awarded the Fellowship. You can read more about Janeen in a previous post on the Reynolds blog.

With honor comes responsibility. “I don’t expect the Fellowship to make my life easier,” Janeen says, “what I expect it will do is reveal my role, or roles, on campus, in the community, and in my area of interest - Community Health.” While the scholarship has an approximate value of $15,000, which includes professional development, travel, networking opportunities, full tuition, books, fees, and intellectual and cultural activities, there are expectations. To strengthen their leadership skills and develop a strong foundation for future success, Fellows are expected to volunteer for 80 hours of community service during the academic year. At the same time they are required to maintain a minimum 3.5 grade point average.

What’s up for Janeen this semester along with the Fellowship? “Med Surg – an important class where you learn all the illnesses, Clinicals, Nursing Information – an online class through ODU, Health Participation, and Chemistry. It’s going to be a busy year.” 

How is it possible to carry such a heavy course load, participate in a Fellowship, and work at VCU as a Care Partner? Janeen takes a deep breath and explains what sustains her.

“I live by my calendar. It doesn’t happen if it isn’t on my calendar. With the big stuff planned I can better handle all the other unexpected stuff that comes up. Like last minute changes to my schedule.”

“Support. I can’t say enough about the support I have gotten from my professors and from the administration at Reynolds. Dr. Pando and Ann Bushey have been in my corner from day one. Every time something good has happened to me, Ann has been there."

"And the professors. They are fabulous. I did not love Chemistry until I came to Reynolds and had a class with Professor S [aka Professor Sinanian]. He is a hard teacher, no doubt, but he always made time to explain everything. I came to see him one day at noon, he set aside his lunch to help me. As long as you applied yourself he would make sure you really got it, and understood Chemistry, and I really needed to understand Chemistry."

"And then there are my classmates, I have made some amazing friends here. Having great people around you can take you to the next level. They share what they know, like the information about applying for the Valley Proteins Fellowship. I tell other students now, if you want to apply, reach out to me, I will help you - you need to be thinking about it now, because now is when you have to do the work, you have to participate, and you have to be VISIBLE.”

“I’ve learned when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to opportunities. I want to do a lot, but I can’t do everything. I have to choose carefully so I have enough time and energy to give 100% to what I do. Also, I invest in myself. I take vacations when I can. Even with a little bit of time, I’ll go watch a movie, or spend time with my family, these small things keep my tank full, too.” 

Our hearty congratulations go out to Janeen McNeish. May your tank always be full.

About the Valley Proteins Fellowship

The Valley Proteins Fellows program is made possible by the generous support of Valley Proteins, Inc., a Winchester-based rendering business operating for almost 70 years throughout the US. Valley Proteins management is committed to outstanding corporate citizenship, excellent customer service, technological innovation and support for the community college mission. 

President of Valley Proteins, Inc. Gerald Smith, Jr., said, “My brother and I are pleased to support the Valley Proteins Fellows program because it provides us with the opportunity to develop a more educated and competitive Virginia.” The Valley Proteins Fellowship Program is administered by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. Its mission is to help promising, second-year students at Virginia’s community colleges pursue their academic goals and strengthen their leadership skills.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Reynolds Employee Profile

Anthony Peterson – Computer Help Desk Technician

Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I grew up down the road in Petersburg. Being raised mainly by my mother, she always made sure that I kept my mind on my studies because she didn’t want me to be influenced by people who were involved with drugs and gangs. I had a lot of friends (some I still keep in touch with) and we always made sure to keep each other out of serious trouble.

How long have you worked for Reynolds? Have you been at the Help Desk the whole time? 
I’ve been here at the college for almost 11 years - and I have been at the Help Desk the whole time.

Were you always a computer whiz, or did you learn along the way? 
I didn’t start learning about computers until high school, but I became technically proficient when I joined the Air Force back in 2003.

Working with computers – especially faculty and staff with computers with problems – can be stressful. How do you calm them down? How do you keep yourself calm? 
I have to admit that working in the Help Desk is not easy at times, especially when trying to solve issues that don’t seem to logically make sense. What helps keep both myself and users sane is when I can use remote desktop to actually see what the problem is. I have to constantly remind myself to not take issues personally because at the end of the day, the user just wants to be able to get their work done and my job is to help them get it done.

What are the most challenging and most rewarding 
parts of your job? 
The most challenging part of my job is not being able to figure out why something is not working because my mindset is that every problem has a cause and a solution. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to meet people that I have talked to over the phone as we can get to know each other better.

What is the craziest computer issue you’ve ever had to resolve (please, no names, just the issue!)? 
The craziest computer issue I ever had was a few months ago when a user called saying that she could not login to the Reynolds Intranet page but could not login to her email account. I explained that even though they both use the same password, the Intranet page would not allow her to login if her password was expired, which would only be resolved through a password reset. She kept saying that she understood what I was saying but didn't understand why she could not login to the Intranet page, which confused me because her statement was a contradiction.

Long story short, after about 30 minutes of explaining the same thing over and over to her, she finally was exasperated and relented to a password reset. In trying to make her feel better, I told her that she didn't have to go through this again for another six months; whether I succeeded or not is up for debate.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it? 
I would use the extra hour to catch up on some needed sleep.

What do you like to do when you aren’t being a superhero computer technician at work? 
In my spare time, I like to cook, read books, and take road trips to different places (especially places that I have never been to before).

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants? 
I love that Richmond always has something to experience and that it’s a short drive from my house. My favorite places to visit are the Science Museum and the Redskins Training Camp. My favorite restaurants are the Olive Garden, Texas de Brazil, and Cracker Barrel.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money? 
I would pay off some bills, create a scholarship fund here at Reynolds, buy me a new house, and do some travelling across the United States in an RV.

Outstanding Scholarship Student Series:

Katherine Alloway-Roof

150 Scholarships. 427 Awards.One Application. You can do this.

Last year the Reynolds Foundation funded approximately 150 scholarships, and made awards to 427 students of all ages, backgrounds, and academic standing and interests.

We believe in you. Just like we believed in Kiersten Echols, Janeen McNeish, Katherine Alloway-Roof, and Mark AlexanderThey got scholarships to help fund their education. You can, too.

“Coming to Reynolds required a bold leap of faith,” says Horticulture student Katherine Alloway-Roof. “I didn’t even live in Richmond, and I was enrolled in another community college when I decided to pursue a career in horticulture. I did some research and found Reynolds. To attend meant I would have to leave home, move to Richmond, find another job, and really start a new life. It would be a bold move. I did it. And, I love it! And my experience here has been fantastic.”

Katherine first “fell in love with plants” when she was in high school and took a job as a cashier at a garden and landscape center. Now, in her last year at Reynolds, Katherine says, “There’s a lot to love about horticulture. The field is always evolving, with new techniques and innovations being introduced every day. Plus, plants are always going to be here. We owe them their care. I love working with plants and with people, so it’s perfect for me.”

Most of us take landscaping for granted. Grass has to be mowed, trees have to be trimmed. Not Katherine. She has a vision for how our surroundings could be different and how they could be designed to make more sense. Her work is more mission than work.

“One of my greatest challenges is working with landscape designers,” she says, “I want to encourage them to break out of the mold of using evergreens and hollies all the time. I want to show them other options that actually bloom. I’d like to see the use of more natives, perennials, and plants that attract pollinators. I really enjoy suggesting horticultural alternatives, and helping people learn about something new and different.”

In her time at Reynolds Katherine has clearly put down roots and bloomed. She says this about her experience: “One of the best parts of Reynolds is the strong support system. In my first year the advisors were really important. David Seward has been absolutely amazing and I can’t thank him enough for all the help he has given me. He knew I needed financial help and encouraged me to apply for scholarships. All the professors and the other students have been great. The whole experience has been fantastic and my leap of faith has paid off. At one point I had to move back home to Fredricksburg and commute to school, and it was still worth it.”

Katherine has been awarded the John H. Wright-Elk Hill Scholarship to help her finance her last semester at Reynolds. Right now she works full time at a local nursery taking care of the greenhouses and helping customers. She plans to graduate in December after taking a full load of classes this fall.
Then what? “I really like my job and want to continue working. I’ve been looking at Virginia Tech or UVA for a four-year degree in landscape architecture. Eventually I’d like to work with cities, maybe Richmond, designing green spaces. It’s so important for people to have green spaces, no matter where they live.” 

Coming to Reynolds may have been a big leap of faith for Katherine, but she has cleared her first hurdle beautifully, and has bloomed where she has been planted. She is well on her way now to making our world a little greener.

Want to apply for a Reynolds scholarship?

The Scholarship Application opens Sunday, December 1, 2019 and closes Sunday, March 1, 2020.

You can apply for a scholarship through the Reynolds General Scholarship Program or through the Community Highlight: Reynolds East End Scholarship Program. 

The Scholarship Application opens Sunday, December 1, 2019 and close Sunday, March 1, 2020. A wide variety of scholarships are available. Some are general, others are for specific programs of study, or are for students living in a particular locality. Current and prospective students can complete and submit one common scholarship application to be considered for all available scholarships. For more information visit: http://www.reynolds.edu/scholarships.

Reynolds General Scholarship Program
Reynolds Community College offers a variety of scholarships to students with diverse interests and backgrounds. Each year the Reynolds Scholarship Office awards more than half a million dollars in scholarships to eligible students. Awards can range from $100 to $4,000, with the average award being $1,500.  Reynolds scholarships are established by gifts to the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation and awarded by the Reynolds Scholarship Committee.
Community Highlight: Reynolds East End Scholarship

If you live in the East End of the City of Richmond or Henrico County you may be eligible for a scholarship this scholarship. With more than 90 degree and workforce programs, including culinary arts, healthcare, and other credentials for immediate employment or 4-year transfer, Reynolds has a program for you. There is no age limit. Reynolds staff members are available to help with your admission and financial aid applications.