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HCS Academies of Hampton to receive the Dana B. Hamel award from Thomas Nelson Community College during May 13 virtual graduation ceremony

Thomas Nelson Community College will present the Dana B. Hamel award during a virtual celebration of its 52nd commencement on May 13, 2021. The recipient is the Academies of Hampton. The award honors those who champion education and public service.

The Dana B. Hamel award is named in honor of the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS). It recognizes individuals or entities for their commitment to public service, fostering access to higher education, and promoting an understanding of workforce development’s role as an essential part of the college’s mission.

Hampton City Schools superintendent, Dr. Jeffery Smith shared, “It is an honor for the Academies of Hampton to be a recipient of the Dana B. Hamel award. Over the past five years, we have witnessed a substantial increase in dual enrollment credits earned by our students as a part of a strong partnership with Thomas Nelson Community College. Receiving the Dana B. Hamel award is a true testament to how the Academies are preparing our young people to be college, career, and life-ready.”

“The relationships we establish in our communities are vital to the college’s success and that of our students,” said TNCC president Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon. “These connections allow us to aptly respond to the region’s higher education and career training needs while also strengthening our resolve to be a good neighbor and an active partner.”

Through the Academies of Hampton, students in the city’s four high schools are afforded a clear path for graduation and a seamless transition to college or a career. Students participate in a learning community completing courses together with peers who share similar interests and desires to learn about a specific field. Students in each of the 16 academies get a personalized setting where they learn English, science, math, and social studies meeting all graduation requirements. The Academies also offer advanced placement and dual enrollment courses as well as industry certification exams to help students gain college credits and required credentials in more than 40 career pathways, all before high school graduation. Another element is real-world exposure to business and industry. The Academies allow potential employers to share their knowledge and experience through classroom presentations, worksite visits, job shadowing, and internships. Plus, advisers and businesses introduce students to careers, opportunities, and industry skills through relevant hands-on learning experiences with practical applications. Given these components, the Academies contribute to the overall development of the Peninsula’s workforce.  

Of the Academies Mike Kuhns, Thomas Nelson board chairman said, “This is truly transformational in that it took a traditional school system making it relevant to the needs of not only students but to the community and employers. It engages the business community while really immersing students in studies that prepare them for college or to directly enter the workforce. This is absolutely what is necessary for the economic vitality of our region.”

Brannon agreed saying, “A trailblazing concept that I am certain is propelling students to new heights, the Academies of Hampton exemplify the importance of evolving and being innovative when it comes to educating today’s youth. The emphasis on practical applications of lessons and its career exploration component, which employs broad community participation, is truly impressive.”  

In 2019-2020, more than 350 Hampton City Schools students were enrolled in courses offered by Thomas Nelson at various locations and online, earning 3,899 academic credits.

The College established the Dana B. Hamel awards about 10 years ago. Past Dana B. Hamel award honorees include Newport News Shipbuilding, Continental, and Molly Ward, city of Hampton treasurer.