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Nelson hopes vehicle donation will help student hit high gear
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From left, Ed Anthony, PHCC instructor; Michael McAdams, Great Expectations student; Barry Nelson of Nelson Automotive; Christy Yaple, director of Great Expectations; Samantha Griffith of Henry-Martinsville Social Services; and Christopher Parker of the PHCC Foundation stand with a car Nelson donated to Great Expectations.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A 1993 Buick Regal may not be the newest car on campus, but for Michael McAdams, it will make a world of difference.

The car was donated by Barry Nelson, vice president of the Nelson Automotive Family, to the Great Expectations program at Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC).

Great Expectations serves foster youth aged 17-24, assisting with goal setting, education and training, career assessment, life skills, preparation for employment, tutoring and mentoring, and job placement.

For many foster youth, such as McAdams, 18, the transition into higher education or a career once they reach adulthood can be more difficult due to a lack of transportation.

“For many of our Great Expectations students, lack of transportation prohibits them from pursuing higher education, employment opportunities and access to community resources,” said Christy Yaple, PHCC’s director for Great Expectations.

Transportation usually ranks second to finding a place to live among the barriers to success that foster youth face, Yaple said.

To remedy that, the Skills to Wheels initiative was created as a part of Great Expectations to try to match students with the transportation they need.

Nelson said he decided to donate a car because he “wanted to give these students an opportunity to succeed, an opportunity they probably wouldn’t have without a car. It’s like in baseball,” he said. “If you can’t get on the field, you won’t even have a chance to succeed in the game.”

Nelson plans to donate two to three cars in the coming year.

McAdams, a first-year welding student, was grateful to be given such an opportunity. “I’m very thankful,” he said. “This will be so helpful.”

His foster-care worker, Samantha Griffith of the Henry-Martinsville Department of Social Services, said, “I wished more of my 18-year-old boys were as responsible as Michael is. I’m very proud of him and his progress. He deserves this.”

Ultimately, this program will benefit more than just the car’s recipient. Ed Anthony, automotive instructor at PHCC, said the donation has given his students hands-on experience working on a car. Students worked on some lighting problems and motor assembly and, for the first time, they replaced a window regulator.

In the future, Anthony said, he hopes the donated cars will give his students even more opportunities for this “key learning experience.”

Christopher Parker, executive director of the Patrick Henry Community College Foundation, who helped facilitate the donation, has great hopes for the program.

“If we can break down any barriers, like transportation, that children have to receiving an education and succeeding in life, then we can open so many doors,” he said.


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