Brooke Edwards ’13 started volunteering for her church’s food bank in her hometown because she needed to fulfill service hours for a high school honor society. After a few weeks of picking up donations from grocery stores, bagging food, and helping needy families carry groceries to their cars, Edwards found a new reason to continue the service.
“I fell in love with doing good for others,” Edwards said. “I loved seeing people be so grateful. It warms my heart when I’m able to help someone with something that so many people take for granted.”
Now a senior environmental studies major at Randolph, Edwards continues to find ways to give back to her community. She regularly volunteers in the Organic Garden and for Lynchburg City’s nature center, the Nature Zone. She bolstered the service group, Circle K, and has helped organize activities such as a “Joy Prom” for people with disabilities and Relay for Life. And when she returns home on breaks, she makes a point of helping out with the food bank.
Edwards, like a growing number of college-bound students, took an untraditional road to Randolph. After high school, she was offered a full scholarship to Tidewater Community College (TCC) in Chesapeake, Virginia. The opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of her college education was an offer Edwards could not refuse, so she enrolled in TCC, planning to transfer to a four-year institution.
At TCC, she joined many student groups, including the school’s student government and Circle K, and quickly became known as a student leader. Her reputation prompted Linda Myers Rice ’72, the provost at TCC’s Chesapeake campus, to offer her a part-time job in her office.
One day, Edwards arrived at work carrying a Randolph College brochure she had received from a visiting Randolph admissions counselor. Excited to see the brochure from her alma mater, Rice started to share stories about the school, its academic strengths, and its traditions. “I realized that Randolph was the perfect place for her,” Rice said. “It was the right distance, the right curriculum, and the right culture. I thought she would thrive there.”
Taking advantage of the articulation agreement between Virginia’s Community College System and Randolph, which guarantees admission to excellent Virginia community college graduates, Edwards transferred in 2011.
“Brooke has proven that she can do everything I thought she could do, and more,” said Rice, who has kept in touch with her protégé. Edwards’ experience, she added, highlights the importance of the articulation agreement. It opens the door to the liberal arts for more students like Edwards.
“At the community college, they get a strong foundation in the basics,” Rice said. “The liberal arts institution allows the student to have a very deep level of critical thinking across disciplines. They learn to debate and discuss issues. It prepares them for the world of work by helping them understand the world around them.