A team of apprentices worked last summer on solar projects at several Southwest Virginia schools, including St. Paul Elementary in Wise County. Joshua Kraybill, project manager for Got Electric, supervised them. Photo by Megan Schnabel.

Mountain Empire CC solar workforce program gets second round of VCEDA funding

A grant of up to $117,000 will support the Solar Workforce Accelerator Program at Mountain Empire Community College in Wise.

The grant is the second one from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority to support the solar program. Mountain Empire previously applied jointly with Southwest Virginia Community College to develop the program, which launched in 2022 and focuses on workforce development and training in the solar field.

The program is intended to create a solar workforce training pipeline in the VCEDA service region through a dual-track credentialing and internship program. Coursework takes place at the community colleges and interns are placed on the crews of commercial and institutional solar developers completing solar installations in the region.

[Read Cardinal’s previous coverage of the program here.]

The program’s first 10 apprentices at Mountain Empire helped complete solar installations at public schools in Wise and Lee Counties last summer. Each apprentice was paid $17 per hour and earned nine stackable course credits at Mountain Empire. Two of the apprentices got full-time jobs with a local solar installation company, and three others went on to pursue further education, according to a news release from VCEDA.

It is expected that in three years, at least six cohorts of eight to 15 students (three cohorts per community college) will complete a seven-day course that will include OSHA certification and solar installation SHINE credentialing. 

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Via College of Osteopathic Medicine promotes 3 members of leadership team 

The Via College of Osteopathic Medicine has announced three promotions. 

Debbie West has been promoted to provost and will oversee academic programs across VCOM’s four campuses. West also will supervise VCOM’s joint programs with the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation and other affiliated universities, including collaborations with Bluefield University, Averett University and the Appalachian College of Pharmacy. 

Dr. Matthew Cannon, dean of VCOM-Carolinas, has been promoted to senior dean. While each campus dean will retain academic and budgetary oversight of their respective campuses, Cannon will lead them in assuring the quality and consistency of the VCOM curriculum across all four campuses.  

Jim Rathmann has been promoted to vice president for information technology. The division will continue to grow as VCOM hires new programmers who will support educational systems, such as artificial intelligence, which will enhance the college’s academic and research programs.  

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Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation announces grant recipients

The Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation announced the 2023 winners of the annual $100,000 Century Fund and one-time $50,000 Fifty Fund.

Lynchburg Grows received the Century Fund grant. The funds will help transform a vacant historic building into a multipurpose space for community education and engagement.

A total of 37 nonprofits applied for the Century Fund. Finalists included Bower Center for the Arts, Campbell County Training School Complex, Mary Bethune Academy and Park View Community Mission.

Academy Center of the Arts received the Fifty Fund grant. It will support a new program, “Opening Minds through Art,” a national therapeutic intervention designed by Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio that promotes independence, social engagement and self-expression among people with dementia.

The Fifty Fund grant is a one-time award created in honor of the 50th anniversary of the foundation. A total of 43 nonprofits applied for the grant; finalists included Avoca Museum, Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses, Jubilee Family Development Center, Lynchburg Grows, Mary Bethune Academy and University of Lynchburg.

In addition to the Century Fund and the Fifty Fund, the foundation offers scholarships for local students and two grant cycles for nonprofits each fall and spring. The next grant cycle will be offered in September.

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Smith Mountain Lake cleanup nets 8.8 tons of debris

Community volunteers collected approximately 8.8 tons of debris as part of the 35th annual Take Pride in Smith Mountain Lake cleanup days, according to the final 2023 collection report. 

Bill Butterfield, one of the event’s organizers, said the amount collected throughout the month of May was double that of 2022.

“We had 364 volunteers fill an estimated 1,000 trash bags with debris that would otherwise be in the lake,” said Butterfield, president of the Smith Mountain Lake Association, which organizes the program in collaboration with the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission and the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce.

According to the report, volunteers covered more than 35 miles of shoreline and collected debris including plastic and glass bottles, beverage cans, plastic bags, rubber tubs, a paddle boat, a real estate sign, logs and tree branches.

The complete cleanup report is at www.takepridesml.com or at the TLAC office on the upper level of The Plaza, 400 Scruggs Road, Suite 200, in Moneta.