Students earn degrees, credentials at New College

More than 100 people attended a reception to honor recent graduates at New College Institute.

After countless hours in the classroom completing projects and earning internship hours, all while maintaining family and job expectations, New College Institute (NCI) students earned their degrees and gained credentials to take the next step in their careers.
NCI celebrated the accomplishments of recent graduates at a reception with more than 100 in attendance. Graduates earned their bachelor’s or master’s degrees and all of their classes took place locally, at NCI.
They brought the total number of degrees earned at NCI since its inception in 2006 to more than 425.
Dr. Leanna Blevins, NCI’s executive director, commended the hard work of the graduates as well as the support of friends and family members.
“All year long, the staff and faculty at NCI look forward to this night. We love celebrating the completion of a journey for each student and to involve their families. It takes a village to invest that much time, energy, money, and sacrifice,” she said.
Those earning bachelor’s of liberal studies/elementary education degrees from Longwood University include Whitney Cassell, Leigh Ann McGuire, Nisamar Sechrist, Casey Tucker and Brittany Wells.
Earning bachelor’s of social work degrees from Longwood University were Rick Curry, Jennifer Dowdy, Makita Ellis, Sierra Harris, Breanna Robertson, Sara Roetken and Mia Smith.
Donna Hutson and Mark Toole earned master’s in educational leadership degrees from James Madison University, and the following earned certificates in educational leadership from James Madison University: Michelle Adams, Raina Brim, Elizabeth Creasy, Katie Elliott, Jennifer Gunter, John Hatchett, Clif Jones, Jasmine Lovelace, Hope Perry and Jonathan Wood.
Three graduates, Curry, Perry and Sechrist, addressed the crowd. They shared their experiences as students and the paths that brought them to programs offered through NCI.
Curry acknowledged the journey he had with his classmates and teachers. He also mentioned that he was the oldest member of his cohort, having graduated from high school 49 years ago, “It was an amazing journey. I would never had returned to school if it had not been for NCI.”
Perry expressed appreciation for the access NCI provides, “I believe NCI provided me the opportunity to take that next step in my professional journey. The JMU Ed Leadership Program was convenient and worked with my professional schedule and my family’s schedule. It was perfect for me,” he said.
Reflecting on her experience in the Longwood education program at NCI, Sechrist said, “NCI allowed me to reach my goal to become an English language teacher without having to leave home. NCI gave me a new family and a sense of pride. NCI will forever be part of my journey and of the lives I will be able to touch during my teaching career.”
To learn more about academic programs and service available through NCI, call 403–5610 or visit

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