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VHCC’s new #CollegeExpress makes it possible for up to 40 Bristol residents without transportation to attend college
Kellie Crowe, Coordinator of PR & Marketing
ABINGDON, VA – Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) chose the historic Bristol sign as the backdrop of a news conference announcing a new transportation initiative that makes college attendance possible for up to 40 Bristol, Virginia, residents who do not have transportation from Bristol to the college’s campus in Abingdon.
“For far too long, the lack of transportation has prevented many Bristol, Virginia, residents from continuing their education beyond high school,” said Dr. Charlie White, VHCC president. “Today, transportation is no longer a barrier. If you live in Bristol, Virginia, we can get you to Virginia Highlands Community College — at no cost to you!”
The new #CollegeExpress will be a Monday through Thursday public transit route that will run from Bristol, Virginia, to Virginia Highlands Community College at no cost to students. The route will be served by up to two Mountain Lynx buses, with each bus having a capacity of 20 persons. The route will begin August 26.
“The #CollegeExpress will make several stops in Bristol and then deliver you to Virginia Highlands, bright and early and ready for 8 a.m. classes,” explained White. “Then, in the afternoon, that same bus will take you right back home to Bristol.”
Students boarding the #CollegeExpress need only to show their official VHCC college ID. The exact route and stops for the #CollegeExpress are yet to be determined and will be based upon enrollment response.
A special #CollegeExpress enrollment day event will be held Thursday, August 15 at 11 am at the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority, 709 Clinton Avenue.
“When you come to our enrollment day, we’re going to find out where you live and we’ll create your individual transportation plan,” said White. “With this information, we’ll then determine where the bus will be stopping.”
The #CollegeExpress is made possible thanks to $28,892 in grant funding from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE). The grant was awarded in support of developing a creative project to address barriers to student success.
“This is a happy day for Bristol,” said Lisa Cofer, executive director of the United Way of Bristol TN/VA. “This opportunity represents what I love about Bristol. We’re a city that pulls together and we make things happen — and we move Bristol forward.”
Cofer was instrumental in bringing partners together, including Mountain Lynx, the primary transportation provider for the project. Mountain Lynx is providing transportation services at a reduced rate.
Other significant participants making the #CollegeExpress possible include Bristol Transit — the sole operator of public transportation services in Bristol, Va. Bristol Transit has provided a waiver that allows Mountain Lynx to operate the #CollegeExpress route within the City of Bristol, Va.
“For the students who get on this bus and head to Virginia Highlands Community College, it’s the difference between a minimum wage job and a lifelong career,” said City Manager Randall Eads. “Today, 65% of all jobs require education beyond high school. Those who take advantage of the #CollegeExpress will have the opportunity to use the skills and certifications they earn in college to secure a world-class job, right here in Bristol.”
Other entities working to advance this project – lending enthusiasm, expertise and cooperation – include Bristol Virginia Public Schools, Bristol Department of Social Services, and the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
The graduating class of 2019 had 18 students who applied to Virginia Highlands Community College but were not going to be able to attend due to a lack of transportation, according to Jo Hutton, a VHCC career coach at Virginia High.
“Many of our students don’t even have a family car, much less a driver’s license,” said Hutton, who has been dreaming of this type of transit opportunity for more than two decades. “Today is a new day and our students can now ride the #CollegeExpress.”
Hutton was joined by 19-year-old TieShawna McDaniel, a Virginia High class of 2019 graduate who will be taking the special public transit route from Bristol to Abingdon.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at a future director of human resources,” said Hutton. “That’s TieShawna’s goal and I know she’s going to make it!”
For more information about the August 15th enrollment day event or to request an individual transportation plan for the #CollegeExpress, call VHCC’s Deborah Ledford at (276) 739-2434.
About Virginia Highlands Community College
Virginia Highlands Community College is one of the 23 comprehensive community colleges in the Virginia Community College System. VHCC has become a dynamic leader in Southwest Virginia with a primary goal of providing comprehensive and quality education and related services for residents throughout its region. We proudly serve the residents of Bristol Virginia, Washington County and the Western Part of Smyth County. The College is committed to teaching, learning & community building, and serves more than 2500 students, offering more than 80 academic areas of study.