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Germanna moving automotive program back to Culpeper
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Germanna moving automotive program back to Culpeper

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Culpeper County student enrollment has remained steady in recent academic years at Germanna Community College, which remains by far the top choice of higher education for Culpeper residents.

Germanna’s local range will broaden as collaboration solidifies with opening of the Culpeper Technical Education Center, a public high school with a career focus scheduled to open later this fall on the Culpeper campus of GCC at the Daniel Technology Center.

As part of the new school opening, Germanna will bring its automotive program and equipment back to Culpeper, GCC President Janet Gullickson told the Board of Supervisors in a Zoom presentation earlier this month, “What is Germanna Community College doing for Culpeper County?”

Notably for Culpeper, the public school facility will house the Germanna automotive program and equipment that was moved a decade ago out of a building on the Carver Center campus on U.S. Route 15 South in Culpeper County.

GCC moved the longstanding program from the site of the historic former Black regional high school in 2011 due to the more than $1 million estimated to fix up the program building.

According to CSE archives, the Carver Center—named for George Washington Carver, the famous Black botanist and inventor—hosted an automotive program at least as far back as the late 1960s when Culpeper schools fully desegregated.

That’s when the county removed Carver’s name off of the former Black school, renamed it Piedmont Vocational Center and launched the automotive program along with cosmetology and other job-focused training in an integrated setting.

The school now hosts various uses including church services, as a voting site, a minority and veterans farming program and as the new headquarters for Virginia Cooperative Extension Culpeper Office.

Gullickson told the county board she didn’t know why the automotive program was moved off the Carver Center campus.

“We are moving it back to Culpeper,” she said. “That’s where it should have been all along.”

Automotive training will be offered at Culpeper Technical Education Center using the relocated GCC equipment.

When she started in her role as college president in 2017, Gullickson said, she heard very strongly from the Culpeper community that Germanna needed to do more to serve the Culpeper community.

“I hope we have stepped up to do that,” she said, mentioning strong relationships with county and public school administration.

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GCC is the fourth largest community college system in Virginia behind Northern Virginia, Tidewater and John Tyler, Gullickson said, adding Germanna is the only community college in the state that has shown consistent growth over the past several years.

Culpeper County accounts for 8.5 percent of its students, she said, of the 554 general studies students from Culpeper enrolled in the 2019-2020 academic year – up from 509 students the prior academic year.

Dual enrollment high school students from Culpeper dropped in the same time period from 316 to 295 and so did workforce students—from 363 students in 2017-18 from Culpeper to 277 in 19-120.

Offering hands-on workforce programs during the 2020 pandemic made for a strange year, Gullickson said, noting the college did not have “a ton of money” to retrofit facilities for workforce training, which was done, but not at optimal levels.

There were 45 Germanna Scholars local high school students in the 2019-20 school year, on-ground experience towards an associates’ degree upon graduation. The program shifted online in the 20-21 school year, Gullickson said, noting the transition had gone pretty well.

GCC tuition is less than $5,000 per year, she said, and more than $1 million was awarded in financial aid to Culpeper students in 19-20.

Looking ahead, Germanna will offer various credit and non-credit courses in partnership with the Culpeper Technical Education Center including Automotive Technician, Automotive Diagnostician, Computer Aided Drafting and Design, IT/Cybersecurity, Nurse Aid, Emergency Medical Service, CORE Craft, Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC, Industrial Maintenance and Masonry (future program).

GCC evening and weekend credit and hourly offerings at the Culpeper Technical Education Center will also be offered in the same courses of study to the general public.

“We are really excited about what hits facility has allowed us to do,” Gullickson said.

As for community events at the adjoining Daniel Center as were previously held in abundance, COVID-19 really hampered the college’s ability to lease it out in 2020, and continues to do so.

“It’s just been kind of rough year for us,” Gullickson said, adding that’s why she is especially proud the facility is now being used as the five-county health district’s main coronavirus vaccine site.

What more should Germanna be doing for Culpeper County, the college president asked the elected board. Catalpa Supervisor Paul Bates commended the building trades classes being offered locally and asked about ability to obtain a journeyman’s license as part of courses.

Gullickson said all GCC trade classes end result is some sort of industry-recognized credential toward apprenticeship credits and ultimately, journeyman.

“Our job is to serve the county,” she said, encouraging board members to contact her with any concerns about GCC in Culpeper.

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