Jul 22 2022
McKensie Baker, a recent Pulaski County High School (PHCS) graduate, is spending her summer volunteering in Pulaski County. Her volunteer service is part of the Access to Community College Education (ACCE) program at New River Community College (NRCC). Baker will begin college at NRCC in the fall.
The ACCE program at NRCC provides tuition-free higher education to students graduating from high school who live in Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties and the City of Radford.
Each locality partners with the NRCC Educational Foundation to provide the funds needed for all eligible graduates to attend NRCC tuition-free for two years. For PCHS students, ACCE is made possible by the annual commitment of Pulaski County to pay half of the student tuition. The remaining amount is raised through private contributions and local fundraisers.
To remain eligible for ACCE, students must complete 80 hours of volunteer service within their county each year they are in the program. Students are also required to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher and reimburse the program for any classes they do not successfully complete.
Pulaski County began offering the ACCE program in 2020. At that time, Baker was completing her sophomore year of high school and knew ACCE would be the perfect route to reach her career goals—becoming a nurse. Nursing became her passion after her father was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and passed away in 2017. During his illness, she watched nurses provide care for her father and decided that as a nurse, she, too, could help patients and their families by providing care during some of their worst days.
She’s been working toward that goal ever since. Baker enrolled in nurse aide program offered at PCHS, a dual enrollment program through NRCC. She wanted to work her way up, noting that the skills she gained as a nurse aide will help make her a better nurse eventually. Baker completed her nurse aide program and has been working part-time at Pulaski Health and Rehabilitation Center.
After graduating from high school this year and being accepted into the ACCE program for the fall 2022 semester at NRCC, Baker immediately began working on her 80 hours of volunteer service and has already completed 40 hours of service at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski. She is now volunteering with Dublin Fire Department and plans to volunteer with EMS as well. In addition to becoming a nurse, Baker would also like to become a paramedic. She hopes that her volunteer concentration areas will improve her skills and provide her with connections to professionals in the fields.
Beyond benefitting the students through connections and skill building, ACCE student volunteers also provide a benefit to Pulaski County.
“It is becoming increasingly challenging to find volunteers that want to volunteer and commit their time,” said Josh Tolbert, Pulaski County ACCE Volunteer Service Coordinator. “Over the last two years, ACCE students have made a big impact on our volunteer first response agencies. They help with daily fire department duties such as cleaning trucks, and some even complete their 80-hour requirement and choose to join as a volunteer member. ACCE has been a win-win.”
“Not only is ACCE helping me financially to go to school and earn a degree, but it is also giving me the chance to meet new people in my field and preparing me for working in emergency response,” said Baker.
After graduating from NRCC with an associate degree in nursing, she plans to transfer to a four-year university and work toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing and eventually become a registered nurse.
“Knowing ACCE was available to me has made me want to go to college. Without the financial support of ACCE, I don’t know that I would have been able to go to college right out of high school. I am very thankful for the ACCE program and the opportunity I have been given me to reach my goals,” said Baker.
For more information about the ACCE program at NRCC, visit www.nr.edu/acce.