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Sandhills Community College Partnerships Benefit Students and Industry

Article courtesy of Catherin Shepherd, Hoke News-Journal Business Section

As part of its educational mission, Sandhills Community College works to prepare students for the workforce. With campuses in Hoke County and Moore County, SCC offers a wide variety of classes to train students for careers in many different fields. Lots of SCC students also go on to earn additional degrees and certifications after graduation.

The community college system works closely with local business and industry to provide the training needed to fill the jobs of the future, and to offer professional development for existing employees. Companies like Unilever partner with the school to support training in advanced manufacturing careers that are in high demand.

The relationship between Sandhills Community College and local business goes back a long way, to the very start of the Hoke campus, SCC President Dr. John Dempsey said. “Throughout the history of the Hoke County campus we’ve been embedded in the business community, and the business community has been embedded in us,” he said.

That’s true in a literal sense: the Upchurch family of Tarheel Turkey Hatchery, and the Johnson family of House of Raeford both provided property in Hoke County where the SCC Hoke campus is now located. Through its partnerships with international companies like Unilever, SCC has a long reach even beyond the Sandhills. Dempsey can tell a story of sitting in Heathrow Airport in England and overhearing a group of business employees nearby talking about Unilever’s plant in Hoke County, and a “little college” that partnered with the company.

“I was thinking, that’s my little college!” Dempsey recalled. The relationship SCC has with Unilever’s Raefordbased plant – known as one of the most efficient in the world – is “astounding,” he added.

SCC’s ties to the community also extend to other local education districts. Sandhills Community College has long-established, strong partnerships with Hoke County Schools that enhance students’ education opportunities in a variety of ways.

“The relationship we have with Hoke County Schools could not be closer. It’s almost like we’re brothers from another mother,” Dempsey said.

For more than a decade students at SandHoke Early College High School, located on the Sandhills Hoke campus, have taken classes with SCC instructors as well as high school teachers. Students who are accepted to the five-year program spend four years as high school students, and a fifth year as a “super senior” completing the final work on an associate’s degree. A number of students manage to complete the work early and finish with a high school diploma and their associate’s degree in just four years.

Dempsey himself teaches classes that sometimes include SandHoke students.

“They’re always good students, (Principal) Colleen (Pegram) won’t let them come up here if they’re not ready, and she does a heck of a job as their principal,” he said.

In recent years, SandHoke’s graduation rate has been 100 percent or close to it for each cohort of students. A number of the students also go on to further higher education, enter the military or pursue additional workplace certification.

The school system and SCC are also currently collaborating on plans to build a new SandHoke School of Engineering on the Hoke SCC campus. The science, technology, engineering and math-focused school proposes to offer new options for Hoke’s high school students, and reduce crowding at the Hoke High campus.

Dempsey said SCC is “tremendously excited” about the project. “That will be a game-changer for the community,” he said of the proposed School of Engineering. SCC is donating a parcel of land, originally provided by the Upchurch family, for the new SandHoke School of Engineering.

The school system and county commission are in talks about funding for the $28 million project, which would potentially include $10 million of grant funding from the state, and $18 million from local funds.

A SandHoke School of Engineering could play a big role in helping Hoke students be ready for a STEM-focused future, Dempsey said.

“The world of the future is mathematics. If you can’t deal with math you will not be able to deal with 2040, 2050 and 2060,” he said. “…This new school has got to be a place that’s exciting and welcoming, and we are thrilled to be a part of it and know it’s going to be on our campus.”

More about Sandhills and Hoke partnerships

Karen Manning, SCC director of marketing and public relations, offered this look into more of the many partnerships between Sandhills Community College and Hoke County.


Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a college access initiative funded through the US Department of Education to increase the number of students prepared to enter and succeed in obtaining a post-secondary credential. Through this grant, SCC has hired Jeffrey Quick as the GEAR UP Student Success Coach whose role is to help create for Hoke County High School students greater access, preparation, and awareness of college options.

Jeffrey’s primary role is to coach Hoke County High School (HCHS) graduates currently enrolled at SCC. Whether their needs are academic, financial, health and fitness, developing a career track, or developing plans to help them realize success, he will assist them in their first year. In addition to coaching current HCHS graduates, Jeffrey will work to establish relationships with juniors and seniors at the school.


For almost 20 years, Sandhills has taught Cosmetology to high school students on the HCHS campus. Dana Wright began the program in August of 2001, and the yearly enrollment now ranges from 20 to 30 students.

Students can begin taking the two-year program at the start of their junior year of high school. Upon completing class requirements and passing their state exam, they can apply to become an NC licensed Apprentice Cosmetologist and work under a licensed cosmetologist for six months. They can then apply for their full NC Cosmetologist License.

The students learn in a simulated salon environment, enabling them to develop manipulative skills and hands-on fundamentals. Students learn professional imaging, hair design, chemical processes, skincare, nail care, multi-cultural practices, business/computer principles, product knowledge, and other selected topics.

The Cosmetology Program is included in the Career and College Promise program, allowing students to be eligible for two years of tuition-paid SCC education through the Sandhills Promise upon high school graduation.

Career and College Promise

Career and College Promise (CCP) is the statewide program that offers structured opportunities for qualified high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits, choose a technical pathway, or earn workforce continuing education credits toward an industry-recognized credential or certification.

Students must be a NC resident and attend a NC high school, private school or home school.

The College Transfer Pathways allow students to earn up to 32-35 hours of college credit that will transfer to any public North Carolina University as long as a grade of C or better is earned in each class. Students can earn college credits towards a credential or certificate in a technical career through the Career and Technical Education Pathway. There are 45 Applied Science Certificates from which to choose.

There are eight tracks from which HCHS students can choose in the Workforce Continuing Education CCP program (WCE-CCP).

Kimberly McMillan is the contact person for students interested in curriculum courses and pathways at Sandhills and can be reached at (910) 848-6350 or, or they can contact Leslie Baldwin at (910) 875-2156 ext. 6697 or

Workforce Continuing Education-CCP

Workforce Continuing Education CCP (WCE-CCP) allows HCHS students to earn a state or industry-recognized credential aligned with a high school Career Clusters, high school credits, and opportunities for employment with local business partners. Successful completion of classes can qualify HCHS students for the Sandhills Promise.

HCHS students have available to them Certified Production Technician Levels 1 and 2, Pharmacy Technician, Certified Medical Administration Assistant, Electrocardiogram Technician, Electrical Levels 1 and 2, Firefighter Training Academy, HVAC Core Skills and Level 1, Plumbing Core Skills and Level 1.

Jason Levister can be reached for WCE-CCP questions at (910) 695-3778 or

The Sandhills Promise

If HCHS students take at least four CCP or WCE-CCP classes, the Sandhills Promise will cover tuition costs for two full years at Sandhills, saving students thousands of dollars in tuition and helping them forgo a large college debt.

Hoke High graduates must enroll at Sandhills for the fall semester immediately following graduation. Eligibility begins that fall semester and ends at the end of the summer semester of their second year. Find the complete list of eligibility and paperwork requirements at promise. Jonathan Garrison is the contact person at the college and can be reached at, or (910) 695-3726.

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