The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education
5 min read

New Grants Will Help Virginia Community College Students Earn Advanced Healthcare Credentials and Higher Wages


Thanks to support from Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health and the ECMC Foundation, Virginia’s Community Colleges will develop and launch a pilot program to increase support and advising for students in healthcare programs to help them earn multiple, stackable credentials that lead to better jobs and higher wages.

The grants, totaling $450,000, will be awarded to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) and will fund the new Healthcare Pathways program at Blue Ridge Community College, Central Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College, Tidewater Community College, and Virginia Western Community College.

The six colleges in the pilot program represent a variety of sizes and communities, with an eye on establishing best practices to be replicated throughout the Virginia Community College System (VCCS).

“We’re very grateful to these donors,” said VFCCE Board Chair, Stewart Roberson. “Thanks to their generosity, students will receive vital support and guidance toward advanced healthcare credentials, boosting their earning potential and helping to prevent critical talent shortages in the healthcare field.”

“This initiative could be especially valuable at a time when more adults need to re-tool their job skills as a result of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this effort will help working adults find a path toward careers that are in demand,” said Howard Kern, President & CEO, Sentara Healthcare.

“Connecting students to pathways that lead to academic credentials is an important step to a fulfilling career with financial stability,” said Jennifer Zeisler, career readiness senior director, ECMC Foundation. “We are proud to support a program that will offer students pursuing healthcare careers the ability to achieve family-sustaining wages and lifelong learning opportunities while providing healthcare employers with the qualified and diverse talent they need.”

VCCS students in select FastForward healthcare training programs will be eligible for the pilot program. By creating strategic course enrollment guides crafted for their specific career goals, the program will provide structure and support to take the next educational steps efficiently, saving time and tuition costs.

For example, a student completing the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training would be prepared to immediately enter the Advanced EMT program, then go on to enroll in the Emergency Management Services (EMS) Paramedic degree program, resulting in an Associates of Applied Science and more opportunities in a high-quality healthcare career.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS): Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 280,000 students each year. For more information, please visit

The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) is the supporting arm of Virginia’s 23 community colleges. The VFCCE works to broaden educational access, support student success, and provide innovative solutions to workforce needs. Our mission is “Building student success and the Commonwealth’s future by supporting Virginia’s Community Colleges”. To ensure access to high quality, affordable education, the VFCCE provides statewide leadership in raising funds for community college education, supplementing and supporting the activities of the 23 individual colleges, and securing support for major system-wide initiatives that could not be undertaken by any single college. For more information, please visit

About Sentara Healthcare
Sentara Healthcare celebrates 130 years in pursuit of its mission – “we improve health every day.” Named to IBM Watson Health’s 2018 “Top 15 Health Systems,” Sentara is an integrated, not-for-profit system of 12 hospitals in Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina, including a Level I trauma center, the nationally-ranked Sentara Heart Hospital, two orthopedic hospitals, accredited Sentara Cancer Network and the Sentara Neurosciences Institute. The Sentara family also includes four medical groups, Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance and ground medical transport, senior care, home care and hospice, nursing rehabilitation centers, ambulatory outpatient campuses, advanced imaging and diagnostic centers, a clinically integrated network, the Sentara College of Health Sciences and the Optima Health Plan and Virginia Premier Health Plan serving 858,000 members in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. With nearly 30,000 employees and ranked one of Forbes “America’s Best Employers” in 2018, Sentara is strategically focused on clinical quality and safety, innovation and creating an extraordinary health care experience for our patients and members.

About ECMC Foundation
ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting

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