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NRCC Landscape

For Immediate Release

Every Student Has a Story: 2016 NRCC graduate profiles



Daniel Chavez and Natalie Henderson graduated with diplomas in automotive analysis and repair at New River Community College on May 13, but how each got into the field is a completely different story.

Chavez has always liked cars. He says, “Since I was little, working on cars has been something I liked to do.” A 2014 graduate of Galax High School, Chavez says he came to New River to train for a career in the automotive industry. With New River having the closest program to his home, he enrolled but he soon found that the convenience of location wasn’t the best reason to go to NRCC. “I like the way they teach,” he says. “The professors’ knowledge is something you won’t find at some other schools.”

Henderson’s trouble with her own car was inspiration for her career choice. She had a problem with her gear shift and after researching on Google and You-Tube videos she repaired her transmission range sensor. “Fixing my own car sparked my interest as something I could enjoy as a career,” she said. A 2010 graduate of Blacksburg High School, she agreed with her classmate about New River’s automotive instructors. “Their shared experience working in so many different aspects of the automotive industry makes learning easier than only teaching out of a book,” she added.

The only female graduate of the automotive program this year, Henderson joins a handful of other females to graduate in this program in the past five years. From her experience at New River, she says she doesn’t see working in a predominately male field as a challenge.

Both Chavez and Henderson are employed. He has worked for Blue Ridge Tire and Automotive in Galax for about a year. She started a job about a month ago with Shelor Motor Mile in Christiansburg.

"These two individuals represent the future of the automotive industry and are typical of what the industry demands of technicians," says Steven Denis, associate professor of automotive technology.

They both will leave New River with a diploma in automotive analysis and repair and certifications from MACS (Mobile Air Conditioning Society) and ASE (student Automotive Service Excellence). They also were named the two outstanding students in automotive analysis and repair at the college’s President’s Awards ceremony this spring.

And even though they are finishing their studies at New River, they both agree because of the ever-changing automotive industry, they will continually need to learn more. They looked at each other shaking their heads in agreement when Henderson added, “Training’s never done!”

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There are times in life when one can reflect on the past and look toward the future; Noah Magnifico did just that a few years ago. Like everyone else who is motivated, he wanted to complete a few life tasks that were pushed aside in the process. “It was time to re-do a few things, complete a few things and tie up some loose ends,” he said.

Some of those things were: finish the home repair projects on the “fixer-upper” house he has been living in for 10 years, visit some amazing places and finish a college degree that he hadn’t completed.

A few years ago, he re-entered New River Community College to study engineering design. Only those closest to him knew where he was spending his days; he didn’t even tell his family. “I was going back to school to appease my Dad, a long-time professional in education,” Magnifico said.

After a year being immersed in the program at NRCC, he realized that he was no longer doing it for his father. He was doing it for himself. “When I knew I was going to finish, it was time to finally tell my parents,” he added. Already proud of his accomplishments, Noah’s parents were very happy to hear the news.

His neighbors and people in the community may first find out when they read this story. He says, “It’s very difficult when the community knows you well for only doing one thing, being amazing at your craft. I felt like I had to hide this new addition. Few things in life will always be yours, education is one of those items.”

Magnifico, of Blacksburg, is a highly sought after professional wedding photographer in the region. As a full-time photographer, he’s covered hundreds of weddings, has been published in magazines, has won dozens of awards and has made a name for himself with creative approaches to his art.

But, don’t worry wedding couples out there; he’s not going anywhere when he finishes his degrees at New River. He is still a photographer and plans to continue his business of capturing special occasions.

After New River Community College’s graduation on May 13, he’s holding associate degrees in engineering design technology and architectural & engineering design specialization and a career studies certificate in engineering design.

He was named outstanding student in engineering design technology at the recent President’s Awards ceremony at NRCC. He says he likes thinking about a design, creating it on the computer, then holding it in his hands as a result of the 3D printing technology at NRCC.

As a message to anyone interested in returning to college, Magnifico says, “There’s no good time to go back to school. It’s a sacrifice, it’s not easy. But, it’s worth the investment… worth having completed that aspect of life.” There’s only one problem he says, “Now, I don’t want to leave!”

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Service to their community and nation are driving forces for two New River Community College administration of justice graduates. Lorenzo Rios, Jr., will stay in the New River Valley to enter law enforcement and Ryan Page plans to enlist in the Navy this summer to become a recon corpsman.

Rios, who lives in Christiansburg, is a 2006 graduate of Floyd County High School. He currently is applying for law enforcement jobs in the area. A forensic science major at New River, he said his instructor, Dennis DuBuc, is knowledgeable about all aspects of law enforcement. “Not a lot of people get to do what we do, here,” he says. “We can learn about DNA and drug analysis in class; but in our labs, we have the expensive equipment to run the tests ourselves.”

Ryan Page says the administration of justice courses he took at NRCC “bring daily reality” to the field. He likes the way his professor breaks down topics and leads discussions instead of just lecturing to the class. “You can’t figure out what to do from a book only,” he says. The learning happens in the labs, he adds with examples like checking ballistics and using the comparison microscope.

Page is a 2013 graduate of James Monroe High School in Peterstown, W. Va. In the Navy, he will receive training to become a medic for special ops as a recon corpsman. He also plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and ultimately become an officer in the Navy.

Both men are highly regarded by their professor Dennis DuBuc. Rios and Page earned outstanding student awards in forensic science and police science, respectively. DuBuc says, “They are some of the best I’ve ever seen. You can’t teach honesty – they’ve got it. You can’t teach integrity – they’ve got it. You can’t teach a sound moral compass – they’ve got it. That’s why I’m so proud of these guys.”

Both Rios and Page have a composed demeanor and hearing the praise of his professor Rios says of entering into his career of service, “I’m just trying to take it one step at a time.”

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Last year around this time, Katie Whitlock was getting ready to graduate from high school. This year, she’s graduating with honors from college. “I do like being challenged,” she says. “I push myself to achieve a big goal.”

She entered New River Community College with 38 college credits by taking dual-enrollment courses since the tenth grade at Giles High School. And by participating in the Giles County Access to Community College Education (ACCE) program, she attended New River tuition-free. Her textbook costs this year, about $1000, were her only academic-related expenses.

Out of high school, she didn’t have a plan for college. But, when she heard about the ACCE program which is funded by Giles County and private donors through the NRCC Educational Foundation, she said it was a “great choice, financially.”

As part of the requirements for receiving the scholarship, ACCE students must complete community service projects. She said her service time spent cleaning Giles High School last summer was tolerable because she knew she was getting her college education paid for by completing it.

“I’d definitely recommend students taking advantage of ACCE… it’s a great opportunity,” Whitlock says. “I want to thank the contributors who help college kids, like me, to go to school.”

As well as taking a full academic load both fall and spring semesters, she spent 18 to 23 hours a week working two jobs, at Dance Motion in Pearisburg and at Belk in Christiansburg. Also, she kept her grades high, qualifying her for membership in NRCC’s honors organization, Phi Theta Kappa.

A science major at NRCC, she will commute from her home in Newport to Virginia Tech in the fall to major in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and minor in chemistry. Her ultimate goal is to become a radiologist.

She is the daughter of Nancy and Greg Whitlock, and she has a brother and sister at home.

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As Ryder Deal heads off to Radford University this fall as a transfer student to study graphic design, she will have come full circle with her plan to study at RU.

The NRCC graduate says she was initially accepted to RU right out of high school in 2014, but when she realized she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study she said, “This led to the idea of beginning my education at a nearby community college.”

She enrolled in New River’s general studies transfer program which provided core courses and a lot of electives to explore her interests. Those electives “exposed me to a plethora of potential career options to consider,” she added. “This is what I was hoping for and in fact, did find at NRCC.”

Registering for her last semester of classes before graduating, Deal had just decided that she would pursue a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. “To my surprise,” she said, “when searching for art courses to fill in remaining elective requirements, I noticed the mall site would be offering a couple of graphic art courses. It was then that I felt a confirmation that graphic design was the direction I was supposed to be going in.”

She enjoyed art in high school and took every class available up through AP art in her senior year. She said, “I always loved working with tangible art and figured I would like to study an art form in college, but honestly never even considered graphic design.” She didn’t think she would enjoy it the same, but after working with the software, she says, “I have discovered I love it even more.”

During one of those NRCC graphic design courses, the class was given an assignment to create publicity posters for an upcoming event at NRCC featuring renowned poet Nikki Giovanni. The student work by the class was posted on campus to announce the event. Because of the interesting design, Deal’s artwork was chosen by staff in the college’s public information office to be featured as the event’s printed program cover.

It was a chance meeting in the Outer Banks that brought Ryder to the New River Valley. The summer of 2013, a rising Radford University junior named Brady took a summer job two doors down from where Ryder worked. They met when she would stop in for a drink or snack where he worked before she went to her job. “Ever since, we’ve been together,” she says. She was about to enter her senior year at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. She graduated high school in June 2014, while Brady continued his studies at RU.

She moved to the NRV and started New River in August 2014, and Brady earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and communication with a concentration in public relations in May 2015. They married in August 2015 and continued their respective college careers. He has completed RU’s teaching licensure program and is applying for education or public relations jobs in the area while she continues her studies at Radford. Eventually, the pair dreams of opening their own visual communication business.

Ryder Deal received two outstanding student awards at the recent NRCC President’s Awards ceremony, one in general studies and the other in graphic design.

“Attending NRCC was the best decision I could have made,” she says. “In high school I was lethargic in my approach to education, but at NRCC, the faculty, staff and setting encouraged me to apply myself. Not only was I well-taught in the subjects I studied, but I grew as an individual who now understands the importance of whole-hearted application.”

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