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COLUMN — November is a great time for a gratitude challenge

In 2015, National Day Calendar established November as National Gratitude Month in the United States and Canada. The designation had been advocated by Stacey Grewal, author of “Gratitude and Goals,” who said, “Gratitude is an essential ingredient of a happy, fulfilling life.”

To help people incorporate gratitude into their lives, Grewal instituted a 30-day gratitude challenge.

I give thanks for being selected to serve Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) as its sixth president. Our college is one of the most diverse institutions in Virginia, and our commitment to inclusivity and excellence helps every student shine. Their success stories are built on a solid foundation established by my predecessors who have shaped the college throughout its illustrious history.

SVCC celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Construction for the college’s first buildings began in Brunswick County in 1969, and the college opened to students in 1970. A groundbreaking ceremony for SVCC’s second campus in Keysville was held on Oct. 30, 1970.

SVCC’s first present, Dr. Kenneth Dawson, brought with him experience gained through college and university leadership positions in Georgia and Kentucky. He also inaugurated our attitude of service, bringing with him a belief forged through personal commitments, including his work as a consultant to the American Red Cross in Liberia, West Africa.

Through the years, SVCC’s respect for diversity has had many advocates. The college’s fourth president, Dr. John Cavan remarked, “A mosaic of colors and shapes is pleasing to the eye. A mosaic of diverse people is pleasing to society.”

I also appreciate the pioneering work done in many fields by the college’s dedicated faculty. Under the direction of Dr. John Adams, SVCC welcomed its first online students in 1998. Today, cybercourses and other distance-learning options continue to be an integral component of education, and I am grateful for the experienced leadership SVCC personnel bring to this task.

Dr. Edward Chernault established much of the groundwork for current workforce programming options. Dr. Chernault developed regional partnerships for identifying the skills and competency levels required by local employers, and he deployed the Work Keys System developed by American College Testing to document achievement. Today, Workforce Development Services at SVCC continue in this tradition by offering credentialing programs that lead to jobs with family sustaining wages.

Additionally, I am grateful for all our students. They are amazing people who continue to work with diligence. I am also thankful for our graduates who serve the community as first responders, health care providers, truck drivers, information technology workers, powerline workers, electricians, HVAC technicians, members of our nation’s armed services, and more. Their leadership as engaged citizens in our everchanging world gives me hope for a bright tomorrow.

In short, I am so proud to be part of the SVCC family. Although we have been impacted by novel challenges during 2020, there is still so much for which to be grateful. I invite you to begin your own gratitude challenge. If you’re like me, it will indeed help you discover an increased sense of happiness and well-being.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.