Organizers of the Muddy ACCE Race welcome participants and spectators alike to this year’s event on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Glen Lyn Town Park. But whether you can or can’t get there, the purpose of the race goes beyond spending a wild and crazy day in “Virginia’s mountain playground.”

All summer, Cora Gnegy, director of the Giles County Office of Tourism & Marketing, has been providing information about local students who are benefiting from the Access to Community College Education program in Giles County, which the Muddy ACCE Race supports. Program officials asked these participants to talk about what it means to them. These students represent the face of ACCE.

Lindsey Renee Stables attended Narrows High School, and says she first became aware of ACCE as a sophomore. In her junior year, she got a jump on her studies as a New River Community College student by taking a few dual-enrollment classes. Lindsey is currently in her second year at NRCC, majoring in science. She is planning to attend Virginia Tech in the fall of 2020 to pursue a bachelor’s in biological science, and possibly continue on to graduate school, with hopes of becoming a biologist or a professor.

Expressing a sentiment shared by every ACCE student the tourism office interviewed, Lindsey said, “I knew that with this ACCE funding I would have a better chance at being able to afford my dream college, Virginia Tech, in the future. Two years without student loans has made my dream far more attainable.”

Madison Keaton also learned about the ACCE program in the 10th grade. After graduating from Narrows High, she enrolled at NRCC. While the community service component was an added challenge, it also enabled her to gain work experience and establish professional relationships.

“I worked at the county administration office,” she said. “I not only learned more about how government works, but I was also able to work alongside several outstanding individuals.”

Madison is taking general studies courses, with plans to move on to a four-year college and study special education, or possibly become a professional dancer. “I have been a competitive dancer since I was young,” she said. “I would love to combine dancing and work with the special-needs community.”

Hunter Trenar learned about the ACCE program while he was attending Giles High School, and sees it as an opportunity for all of the participating students “to further their education in order to have better career choices.”

Hunter reports that he is studying for an Auto Analysis Repair Diploma, with an eye on becoming an automotive technician and working as a certified mechanic at a dealership.

He says he would still have attended college, but pointed out, “There would have been negative consequences though, with having student loan debt and trying to pay it off.”

For Nathan Gilbert, who was home-schooled all the way through school, ACCE literally changed his life.

“There is a very good chance that I would not be going to college if it wasn’t for the ACCE program,” he said. “Growing up, I never wanted to go to college, but the opportunities that ACCE offers are too good to pass up.”

Now Nathan is working toward an associate degree, with a focus on business management. “I hope to manage and own rental properties, and possibly a few other small businesses,” he said.

Nathan also noted that he especially likes that community service is a requirement, and is completing his hours at the Newport Ballpark.

Lauren Reed is the second member of her family to benefit from ACCE. She was a junior at Jefferson Christian Academy when her older brother was entering college and was able to be a part of the ACCE program, in the second year that it was available to Giles County residents.

Now she herself is entering her sophomore year at New River Community College. She is currently enrolled in a general studies degree plan, focusing on classes that Liberty University will accept when she is ready to transfer after the fall semester. At Liberty, Lauren plans to pursue an elementary education degree.

“Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be an elementary school teacher,” she said.

Stephanie Buckland says she first learned about the Access to Community College Education program while she was a student at Narrows High School. Like other Giles County students who are benefitting from ACCE, she says she recognized it as a chance to afford college in a way that would not have been possible without it, including getting a head start with dual-enrollment classes.

“Thanks to ACCE, I will be able to achieve a double associate’s degree in Police Science and Forensic Science,” Stephanie said. “After NRCC, I plan to attend Radford University to further my education in forensics. After I graduate, I plan on going through the police academy and becoming a crime scene investigator.

“Personally, I would like to thank everyone that has an involvement in ACCE for giving tons of students the ability to go to college and further their careers, whereas without it they might not have been able to even attend a college. We are truly very lucky to have been given such an amazing opportunity.”

McKayla Yopp is a second-year ACCE student who admits that it took a little while for the idea of signing on with the ACCE program to percolate.

“Back when I was an eighth grader at good old Narrows High School, I heard that my cousin had to do volunteer hours to get her college paid for. To be honest, I did not think much of it. I was just in eighth grade so I was not thinking of my future,” McKayla recalled.

But eventually, the notion caught on.

“Throughout high school, everyone was talking about this program. I knew that I would end up doing the ACCE Program. I also knew I always wanted to do something with computers. When my senior year rolled around, I knew exactly what I was going to do after high school: participate in the ACCE program and go to New River Community College. All I had to do was pick a major. With the help of my vocational school instructor, Mr. Johnson, I settled on Information Technology — Network and Technical Support Specialization.”

From once considering seeking employment at the Newport News Shipyard, McKayla says her plans now include getting a part-time IT job and attending Radford University to get a bachelor’s in computer science, with sights set on becoming a network administrator or working in an IT department.

Noting that “ACCE has helped to lessen the cost of my education for my parents,” McKayla also said, “I want to personally thank everyone in Giles County for giving me this awesome opportunity to chase after my dream job instead of working a job I hate. The ACCE program is amazing and I am honored that I was able to be a part of it.”

All of the ACCE students who participated in these profiles expressed their gratitude to the Giles community, sponsors and participants who have supported the Giles County ACCE Program.

You can be part of this community initiative too!

“Participants in the 2019 Muddy ACCE Race will directly support scholarships for the 60-plus students involved in the ACCE program this year, while continuing the spirit of community and support these students feel,” Gnegy stated in a news release.

The fourth annual Muddy ACCE Race is a 5K, 50-plus mud obstacle course event open to both elite runners and more casual athletes. There is also a youth mud pit and other family-friendly activities. Complete information, as well as registration, can be found at MuddyACCERace.com.

The Roanoke Times

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