Golden LEAF deserves our thanks

The Golden LEAF Foundation has been good to Sampson Community College through the years, and it continues to be a strong partner today. We cannot thank them enough for seeing the needs on that campus and working to help college officials meet them, thus ensuring students who attend have the best educational opportunities available.

Golden LEAF is a nonprofit that was established to receive a portion of North Carolina’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. For almost 20 years, the Foundation has worked to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantsmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation. It has lived up to its focus since its establishment, not just at SCC, but by way of other grants awarded to Sampson County.

Earlier in the week, SCC announced that the Golden LEAF Foundation had once again come through for the school, this time in the form of a $200,000 grant that will help bring a truck driver training facility to Sampson. It is the second grant Golden LEAF has provided to assist the community college’s truck driver training. In fact, it was an initial Golden LEAF grant, along with partnerships from area business and industry leaders Ezzell Trucking, Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms and Ag Provision, that brought the truck driver program to SCC some 11 years ago.

It is clear from the Foundation’s support, that Golden LEAF officials understand the important role this program has played in Sampson County and are willing to help it flourish.

When the program was first funded, hands-on driver training was established in neighboring Duplin County at Ag Provisions. But the distance for that training and the program’s space limitations have hampered efficiencies, and school officials have been working diligently to bring it home. But doing so isn’t cheap, thus the need for grant funding.

With Golden LEAF’s contribution this week, SCC now has nearly enough money to make the facility a reality. That will be a win-win for everyone, particularly students, who have job offers waiting when they complete the program.

Truck driver training has proven to be a boon for the college and those who sign up for the program. In the 11 years since it was established, over 700 have graduated, with 200 currently enrolled and another 200 on the waiting list. What’s more, the college has placed students in over 50 national and local businesses, and every student has a job offer waiting for them when they complete the program.

That’s some track record, and one we believe, as college officials do, that can only get better when a facility is closer to SCC’s main campus.

Golden LEAF officials obviously saw the opportunities such a facility in Sampson could open up and determined that providing a grant to speed things along would be beneficial not only to the truck driver training but to other related programs that will provide additional career opportunities to students. We thank them for their support.

College officials, too, have done a tremendous job of garnering the funds needed for this all-important project. What’s more, their vision in seeing beyond truck driver training to programs in heavy equipment repair and operation shows they are attuned to occupational needs in the community and want to be, by virtue of their students, a means to meeting them.