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SCC celebrates 50 years; public invited to learn about programs

fr SCCSouthwestern Community College is celebrating its 50th year by inviting the public to see all the programs being offered to students.

An anniversary celebration will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 10, at SCC’s Jackson County campus. Tyler Norris Goode, SCC director of public relations, said the event would be the first time the community could see firsthand how much the community college has grown in its first 50 years. 

SCC started as a satellite campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and became an independent community college in 1966 — about the same time as Haywood Community College and Tri-County Community College in Murphy. 

“We started with one building, 60 students and seven employees,” Goode said. “And look where we’re at now. We have 9,000 to 10,000 students and more than 80 programs.”

Each program offered through SCC will have a display table at the event to showcase the career options available through the curriculum and certifications. For example, SCC has 14 health science options that will prepare students to continue on with a four-year degree or receive a certification that will allow them to enter a career that is in high demand. 

Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC, said the college is also strong in law enforcement training through its public safety facility in Macon County as well as preparing students to attend a four-year university through its general education associate’s degree. 

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“People always ask ‘what is your marquee program?’ but we don’t have just one. We do everything well,” he said. “Our general education transfer students meet and exceed the GPAs of university students who started there.”

Students or potential students who attend the open house event may walk away with a scholarship. Goode said there would be a scholarship scavenger hunt where people would get stickers for visiting three different program displays and would then be entered into a drawing. Winners of the drawing could receive bookstore gift certificate or scholarships of $1,000 or more. 

“It’s a wonderful gift for people getting ready to start college,” Goode said.

Goode has also helped put together a SCC history book capturing the community college’s journey through each decade. Sticking with the decade theme, SCC’s Auto Club will be displaying cars from each decade the college has been open and the cosmetology program will showcase hairstyles from each decade. 

Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, Brian McMahan, chairman of Jackson County’s Board of Commissioners, and Webster Mayor Nick Breedlove will read resolutions commemorating Southwestern’s history and impact on its service area of Jackson, Macon, Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary.

Tomas said the community participated in putting together a strategic plan for the college when he first became president in 2012. He said one thing that came out of that process was the realization that SCC was the “best-kept secret in the mountains.” “People know who we are but they don’t know what we do,” he said. “We need to take our message to the community so they can gain a greater understanding of everything we provide.” 

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