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Jan 8, 2020

Four men and a woman pose for a photo indoors at Harrah's.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort officials recently announced plans to endow a scholarship through the SCC Foundation. Pictured are, from left: Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation; Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President; Brooks Robinson, Regional Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Properties; Dr. Jo Ray, Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Community Relations & Employee Wellness; and Dr. Thom Brooks, Executive Vice President for Instruction and Student Services at SCC.

Through support of Southwestern Community College’s annual fundraising gala and the state’s first table-gaming school, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and General Manager Brooks Robinson have become more than just partners with SCC.

“They are friends,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “They are friends to our college, to our foundation and – most importantly – to our students.”

In December, the region’s largest employer made a commitment to take its support of SCC and its students to an entirely new level. Robinson and Dr. Jo Ray, Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Community Relations & Employee Wellness, signed an agreement on Dec. 16 to endow a scholarship through the SCC Foundation over the next three years.

The scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the fall of 2020.

“The impact of Harrah’s generosity and support through the gala as well as this new scholarship will be felt by our students for decades to come,” Dr. Tomas said. “It’s been an honor to work so closely with Mr. Robinson, Dr. Ray and their team these past few years. I personally could not be more grateful for their friendship.”

Robinson’s official title is Regional Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Properties. Since 2012, he has served on the Board of Directors for the SCC Foundation.

“Our partnership with SCC is mutually beneficial,” Robinson said. “We provide support to grow students educationally and professionally, and in return SCC provides us quality employees. In the process, we form and grow relationships and friendships, and in the end, everyone wins. It is these types of partnerships that Harrah’s Cherokee values. Our Code of Commitment promises that we will work in our communities to make them better places to live and work.”

Since Harrah’s began hosting the SCC Foundation’s gala and providing a leadership level of support in 2015, the event has raised more than $350,000.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 area residents have graduated from Southwestern’s table-gaming school with the opportunity to fill some of the top-paying jobs in the area.

“Throughout my time at Southwestern, our friends at Harrah’s have offered their unwavering support,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “This new scholarship just goes to show how serious they are about helping our students succeed. We greatly value their friendship, and we look forward to working with them for years to come.”

To be considered for the scholarship, students must be enrolled full-time and be pursuing an associate degree. Candidates must have and maintain a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or better. Preference will be given to children of Harrah’s employees. However, if a child of a Harrah’s employee does not apply in a given year, preference will be given to residents of Harrah’s service region – the seven North Carolina counties west of Buncombe.

For more information about the SCC Foundation, click here or contact Woods directly (828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu).

Nov 26, 2019

More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with SCC logos.
Jackson County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Gentry Bumgarner, Jordan Bryson, William Weatherford, Jason Moody and Morgana McCollough. Seated atop the chair, from left: Bailey Bumgarner, Autumn Coggins, Chiara Salgado Rivera, Ava Krauss and Ethan Gilder. Standing at left is Tatum Griffin, and Elias Cruz-Ramirez is at right. Not pictured are Christian Alcantar, Melia Cherry and Madison Franks. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.

Most academic ceremonies at Southwestern Community College pay tribute to what current students have already accomplished in their pursuit of higher education.

The annual New Century Scholars induction instead celebrates the bright collegiate future awaiting several dozen area middle schoolers.

More than 40 seventh graders from Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties walked across the Myers Auditorium stage on Nov. 18 and received certificates signifying the promise of a tuition-free SCC education set to begin in the year 2025.

“Every one of these students has been hand-picked by middle-school teachers, and we could not be more excited to know they’ll be walking across this very same stage to receive their associate degrees eight years from now,” said Freya Kinner, New Century Scholars Coordinator.

Lena Wilson, a graduate of the program, served as the featured speaker and encouraged this year’s inductees to take full advantage of their opportunities.

More than 2,400 students have been inducted as New Century Scholars since it was established in 1995. The program provides resources and support to students as they navigate middle and high school – preparing them for a successful experience in college without worrying about the financial aspect.

New Century Scholars is supported entirely by private donations and provides last-dollar tuition assistance.

“At Southwestern, we are extremely proud to be a part of this wonderful program that has provided a brighter future to so many young people in our service area,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are blessed to live in a region with so many generous individuals who make New Century Scholars possible year after year.”

More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with SCC logos.
ABOVE: Macon County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Skyler Taylor (kneeling), Abby Maney, Sheana Morgan, Emily Pazar, McKenna Plemmons, Molly Ramey and Helen Ward (kneeling). Top row, from left: Elisabeth Ramos Soriano (standing), Ophelia Contreras-Garcia, Joselyn Herrera-Hernandez, Emma Ledford, Lida Lopez, Yuritza Lopez Santos, Lathea Watts (seated atop right arm) and Jackie Ramos Soriano. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva. BELOW: Swain County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Ben Walls (kneeling), Nichole Green, Aaliyah Griffin, Addisyn Jenkins, Kiana Parton and Eugene Pyles. Top row, from left: Hadleigh Stiles (standing), Rocky Barker, Greyson Beck, Pippa Jo Bridges, Gunnar Floyd, Logan Green, Max Wilmot (seated atop right arm), Aiden Smith (standing) and Lorelei Wegner (standing). Not pictured is Nse Uffort. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.
More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with white SCC logos.

In addition to working toward their high school diplomas, New Century Scholars are required to participate in community service activities that encourage leadership skills and explore potential future career options.

To support this program, donations may be made at or by check to New Century Scholars and sent to the SCC Foundation, 447 College Drive, Sylva, NC 28779.

For more information about New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner, SCC’s New Century Scholars coordinator at f_kinner[at]SouthwesternCC[dot]edu or 828.339.4477.


Aug 19, 2019

Native American pottery crafted by Alvina Yepa. Made in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. 

Online bidding for our "Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling" Gala is now open through Silent Auction Pro. 

To bid on items, you are required to have an account with Silent Auction Pro and have a credit card on file. However, you may view items up for bid without having an account. 

To register for an account, please click here. 
To simply view items, please click here.

Auction items range from Native American art, woven baskets and handcrafted jewelry to vacation packages and gift certificates from regional businesses. Whether you're looking for a one-of-a-kind piece to add to your home or an unforgettable local experience, there are items for everyone with all proceeds going directly to our students. 

While you do not have to attend the Gala to participate in online bidding, we would love to have you join us. Every year, faculty, staff and community members come together for an exciting night of music and dining, ready to dance the night away in their finest country bling.

Since Southwestern Community College held its first fundraising gala in 2014, some aspects have changed: the venue, menu, musical entertainment and activities.

“Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling” will still feature a casual vibe, plenty of fun and – most importantly – it will raise money to help students succeed at SCC.

This year’s event, which is scheduled for Sept. 7 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, also aims to keep alive another positive trend by raising more scholarship funding than the year before. Over the past five years, the gala has raised more than $275,000 – including a record $72,000 at the 2018 event.

“When we held our first gala, we could only dream it would grow into what it’s become today,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “The communities we serve in Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary continuously impress us with their generosity and commitment to our college. The best part of the Gala is that at the end of the evening, the real winners are our students.”

"Girl of the Water" giclee on canvas by Bryan Waytula.
"Girl of the Water" giclee on canvas by Bryan Waytula. 

To Dr. Tomas’ point, the SCC Foundation this year was able to award 128 scholarships worth a total of $167,000. That’s a huge improvement from seven years ago, when SCC was only able to help 32 students with a total of $33,000.

However, much work remains to be done. A total of 333 deserving students applied for scholarship assistance this year, but there simply wasn’t enough funding to go around.

“Without the scholarship money this event has raised over the years, many of our students simply wouldn’t be where they are today,” said Vance Davidson, a member of the SCC Board of Trustees who also serves on the SCC Foundation’s gala-planning committee. “We’re hoping that this year’s Gala will take our fundraising efforts to a whole new level.”

Transitioning from the bluegrass genre of recent galas, this year’s affair will spotlight the versatile band Crocodile Smile that plays everything from old-school throwback and Motown to country, rock and current Top 40 tunes.

Steve Johannessen, who’s performed at every gala to date, will sing classics from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Co-chairs for this year’s gala will once again be Lambert Wilson, who serves on SCC’s Board of Trustees, and Wendy LeMay, who is also Chair of the SCC Foundation Board of Directors.

“We have tremendous leadership and extremely active and enthusiastic members on our gala planning committee, and they are a key reason this event continues to gain momentum to benefit our students,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation.

“Every single year, people tell us they really appreciate the relaxed, casual atmosphere of our gala,” Woods added. “That’s why we’re keeping the same basic look and feel as all past galas with cornhole, a silent auction, best-dressed contest and  wine pull. We’ll also have music that’s easy to dance to, and everyone will have a lot of fun.”

To select a sponsorship level, purchase tickets, sign up for the silent auction or get more info, visit or contact Kathryn Posey, SCC’s Institutional Development Associate, at 828.339.4227 or k_posey[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Click here to see a gallery of photos from last year's gala (This link will take you off SCC's website to Facebook).

Jul 9, 2019

Black and white photo of a man
William B. Dillard

Without William B. Dillard, the institution known today as Southwestern Community College would not have been established 55 years ago.


Dillard saw the need, gained the necessary political support and donated money, resources and material for constructing the first building on what is now a bustling, vibrant community college on Webster Road. He even signed loans for students so they could take the training offered, and he served as a member of the college’s initial advisory panel and later as founding chairman and member of the Board of Trustees for a combined 20 years.

Though Dillard passed away 37 years ago, his legacy of helping Southwestern’s students remains alive - and continues to grow even today – through a scholarship that bears his name.

Awarded annually since 1982, the scholarship recently exceeded the $15,000 threshold for becoming endowed while simultaneously adding the name of Dillard’s wife, Catherine, to the title.

Shortly after Mrs. Dillard passed away in May of this year, her children presented a check to the SCC Foundation that transformed the “William B. Dillard Scholarship” into the “William B. and Catherine H. Dillard Endowed Scholarship.”

 “Southwestern was a big part of our family’s life throughout my years growing up in Jackson County,” recalled Catherine Collins, one of the Dillards’ seven children. “My father poured so much of his time and resources into starting this college, and our mother was supportive every step of the way. We want to ensure their legacy of helping the people of this area remains strong for many years and decades to come, and that’s why we’ve fully endowed this scholarship fund.”

A Jackson County native, Mr. Dillard was named the county’s “Man of the Year” in 1965 – just a few months after Southwestern opened its doors as the Jackson County Industrial Education Center (a satellite campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute.

Following Mr. Dillard’s death in 1982, Mrs. Dillard accepted her husband’s seat on Southwestern’s Board of Trustees and served until 1995.

 “When you look back over the history of our college, students have always come first – and that started with William and Catherine Dillard,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC’s President since 2011. “More than 50 years ago, Mr. Dillard had the vision to see that an institution like this would be a tremendous benefit to the communities we serve.

“If you add up the Dillards’ service to our college, they spent more than 31 years in leadership roles here,” Dr. Tomas added. “I am thrilled that we can continue honoring this family’s legacy year after year by making it possible for future students to attend our college through this endowed scholarship.”

Man and woman sitting on front porch of a home
ABOVE: Catherine H. Dillard is shown here last year at her 95th birthday party with Founding SCC Trustee Paul Holt. BELOW: Joey DeHart was the first recipient of the William B. Dillard Scholarship through Southwestern’s Foundation.
Man poses outdoors with his diploma

Joey DeHart – the first Dillard Scholarship recipient in 1983 – knows first-hand how helpful the financial assistance can be to a student at Southwestern.

“Southwestern helped me get out of my shell and gain so much confidence that I could be a leader,” said DeHart, who grew up in Stecoah. “That scholarship was huge for me. It was around $500. It bought quite a few books and helped me out tremendously.”

After graduating from SCC in 1985, DeHart moved to Atlanta and landed a job with Arby’s. He climbed the corporate ladder there, becoming a training manager and later earning a spot working with the organization’s special food products and new concepts.

He traveled overseas, opening new restaurants in Sydney, Australia. Later, he was instrumental in developing Arby’s Market Fresh line of sandwiches.

“I never got to meet Mr. Dillard,” DeHart said. “But I’ve heard a lot about him, so it’s kind of like I did know him. I know about the empire he built. He sacrificed a lot for his family and for this community. He was a very hard-working man, and all of his kids turned out the same.”

To learn more about endowed scholarships and other ways to support SCC students, contact Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation, at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

For more information about SCC and the programs it offers, visit, call 828.339.4000 or drop by your nearest SCC location.

May 29, 2019

Macon County wins Ducks on the Tuck again!
Animated graphic shows three ducks, each representing a different county in SCC's service area, racing in a river. After the fourth and final week, the blue duck representing Jackson County edged out Macon County's red duck and Swain County's maroon one.
With less than a week remaining, Jackson County has opened up an early lead.

This year's race was May 17

For so many local students and their families, the annual "Ducks on the Tuck" race has provided a fun, interactive way to raise money for the New Century Scholars program.

All proceeds from the virtual race fundraiser go toward the New Century Scholars program, to help students in Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties attain their education.

For the second straight year, Macon County edged out its two neighboring counties by raising the most money. Dr. Chris Baldwin, Macon County's superintendent, will be awarded the "Ducks on the Tuck Trophy."

Dozens of prizes were up for grabs this year, including a flat-screen television donated by Custom Sound and Security of Franklin.

This was the third year the race was held virtually. Jackson County narrowly edged out Macon in 2017, the first year of the virtual race.

“Ducks on the Tuck is fun, but students benefiting from all the fun is the best part of it all,” said Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC. “This program has been supporting students for more than two decades, and this fundraiser is essential to the future of New Century Scholars. We’re hoping the people of Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties will continue to support these students and their families.”

Established in 1995 by Dr. Charles McConnell, former Jackson County superintendent, and then-SCC president Dr. Barry Russell, New Century Scholars provides last-dollar tuition assistance and extra support such as dedicated advising to deserving area students.

New Century Scholars has served more than 2,200 students over the years. At present, 286 students participate in grades 7-12, and 167 attend SCC as adult students.

Funding is provided through private donations, fundraisers and NCS endowments.
Tickets can be purchased from New Century Scholars, their program coordinators or the SCC Foundation.

For more info or to support New Century Scholars, contact Kathy Posey at 828.339.4227 or k_posey[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

(Click here to see a list of all 2018 winners)

May 9, 2019

By: Kaitlyn Carver-Cochran

Katlin Moss will soon be cooking up the career of her dreams.

Moss, 19-year-old Highlands native, will be graduating from SCC in May with her Associate of Arts degree. She plans on returning to SCC in the fall to start a new venture in the Culinary Arts program.
katlin moss
Katlin Moss is graduating from SCC debt-free thanks to the New Century Scholars program. New Century Scholars is made possible by fundraisers like Ducks on the Tuck. The virtual race day for Ducks on the Tuck is May 17.

  “My dream career is to one day own my very own bakery,” said Moss “My grandma baked all the time. She made every single one of my birthday cakes, and I realized that I wanted to do that too. She was a big inspiration to me growing up.”

  New Century Scholars is solely funded each year by private donations and fundraisers like the “Ducks on the Tuck” virtual race, which is May 17. More than 30 prizes will be available this year including the grand prize of a flat screen television, donated by Custom Sound & Security of Franklin.

  Moss will be graduating this spring debt-free thanks to the New Century Scholar program; a program that provides college preparation skills and last-dollar tuition assistance to selected students in Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

  Moss is one of nearly 2,400 students that New Century Scholars has served since its beginning in 1995.

  “New Century Scholars has meant a lot for our family,” said Debbie Moss, Katlin’s mother. “With two children in college and another child in high school, it has helped relieve a financial burden and made us more flexible with helping our other children.”

  The county that raises the most money by that day will be awarded the “Ducks on the Tuck” trophy, won by Macon County Schools in 2018.

  Tickets for the Ducks on the Tuck event are on sale now for $5 each or in “Quack Packs” of $25 for six tickets. Tickets are available from any New Century Scholar like Moss.

  In the weeks leading up to race day, each county’s progress will be updated at

  For more information about Ducks on the Tuck or New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner at 828.339.4477 or f_kinner[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.


Apr 30, 2019

By: Kaitlyn Carver-Cochran

SYLVA – Continuing a longstanding tradition of supporting Southwestern Community College, Andy Shaw Ford of Sylva has committed to endowing a new scholarship for the Automotive Systems Technology program at SCC

The scholarship agreement was signed on April 11 by Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President, Larry Hinton, President and General Manager of Andy Shaw Ford and Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation.

“The people of Andy Shaw Ford have been long time supporters of SCC,” said Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC. “We are excited to be able to give more opportunities to future students of our Automotive program because of the generosity of Larry Hinton and his team.”

The Andy Shaw Endowed Scholarship Fund will support one Automotive student per school year once it is fully funded at SCC. Candidates for this scholarship will have an upcoming GPA of at least 2.5 and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better within the Automotive Systems Technology Curriculum.

"We wanted to honor Andy," Hinton said. "He was a lawyer by trade, but he loved the automotive industry. He was always enamored by automobiles, and he always provided opportunities for young people who wanted to work in the automotive business. We wanted to honor his memory by providing opportunities for a new generation of young people who want to work in Automotive Systems Technology so they can stay a step ahead and provide for their families."

The scholarship is set to be fully funded in the next three years.

Andy Shaw Ford employs 41 people and has 2,800 active customers including hospitals and other area businesses.
people standing at andy shaw ford
SCC Foundation Director Brett Woods (left) and SCC President Dr. Don Tomas (right) stand beside Andy Shaw Employees from left, Larry Hinton, Dustin Shuler, Meagan Wilmoth, Brad Ledford, Donald Bradley, Hollie Johnson, Scott Rodes, Erica Bullock, Kayla Ross.

Apr 29, 2019

Woman stands in front of an evergreen tree

Diane Sherrill, an SCC graduate and local attorney will present a free estate-planning seminar on May 29 at the college’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.

Diane E. Sherrill, a Southwestern Community College graduate and local attorney, will present an estate-planning seminar at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29, in Room 102D of the Burrell Building on SCC’s Jackson Campus.

The seminar entitled “Is A Will Enough?” is free of charge and will provide participants with a comprehensive view of wills, will subsititutes and trusts.

“We will discuss how each is handled during your life and upon your death so that you will know how to choose what best fits you and should be included in your estate plan,” said Sherrill, who is also a member of the SCC Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Health care directives, powers of attorney and other areas of concern such as Medicaid, VA benefits, taxation and charitable gifting will also be discussed.

Attendees will be provided with a free worksheet for use after the seminar in gathering the personal, financial and other information necessary to start estate planning.

Attendance at the seminar and completion of the worksheet prior to an individual meeting with Sherrill will entitle participants to a free estate-planning consultation.

A complimentary light lunch will be provided.

“We were thrilled with the turnout for Diane’s first presentation on this topic a few months ago,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “We know there are more people in the community interested in learning about estate planning, and this is a perfect opportunity for them.”

For more information and to RSVP, contact Denise Waltz at denisew[at]wnctrustlawyer[dot]com.

Apr 11, 2019

Man stands in front of an ambulance

Kyle Dowling, Paramedic Supervisor and Training Officer for Harris EMS, has been named the recipient of Southwestern Community College’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.

It’s only been six years since Kyle Dowling earned his Emergency Medical Science associate degree from Southwestern Community College, but he’s already compiled a lifetime of achievements.

Within two years of graduation, he was elevated to the role of supervisor and training officer for Harris Regional Hospital’s EMS Department. He’s also earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University as well as National Registry Paramedic , Critical Care Paramedic and Flight Paramedic certifications – along with more than a dozen other credentials.

He’s certified to offer emergency care in two other states (Virginia and Georgia) all while earning the respect and esteem of former instructors, colleagues and his own supervisors.

Based on those accomplishments and his continued engagement with SCC, Dowling has received Southwestern’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award. He’ll be honored at SCC’s graduation ceremonies on May 18.

“We were extremely impressed by the quality and achievements of all the nominees, particularly considering this is the first year we’ve offered this award,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “Our selection committee had several strong candidates from which to choose, but Kyle’s nomination ultimately stood out. I could not be more proud of this young man and all the success he’s attained so early in his career. We have no doubt he’ll continue to impact our communities in positive ways for many years to come.”

In addition to his role with Harris EMS, Dowling serves as a Per Diem Flight Paramedic for Air Methods out of Blairsville, Ga., providing pre-hospital advanced life support care to critically ill and injured patients.

Even with all the academic credentials and professional accomplishments, Dowling remains unwaveringly focused on helping the next patient in his care.

“Every day, I have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” Dowling said. “The program at SCC wasn’t easy, but it had me ready for the job on Day One.

“When I applied for my current position at Harris EMS,” Dowling added, “my cover letter contained the following statement: ‘A firm education from a stellar, accredited institution has laid the foundation upon which I have built my professional career.’ Without SCC, many of my accomplishments would not have occurred.”

Graduate and two faculty members pose outside at night

ABOVE: Kyle Dowling (left) is pictured here at SCC’s graduation in May 2013 with instructors Eric Hester (center) and Tony Belcher (right). BELOW: In addition to his role at Harris EMS, Kyle Dowling serves as a Per Diem Paramedic for Air Methods in Blairsville, Ga.

As winner of SCC’s Distinguished Alumni award, Dowling will receive an award plaque and also have his name listed along with all future winners on a separate plaque to be displayed prominently on Southwestern’s Jackson Campus.

SCC’s award was established as part of an effort to engage alumni and to showcase all the ways the college’s graduates impact Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties, the Qualla Boundary and the surrounding region. The award was initiated by the SCC Foundation, and the selection committee was chaired by Dr. Mark Ellison, SCC’s Director of Enrollment Management.

“I am truly grateful to our Foundation Faculty and Staff Advisory Council, which worked hard under Dr. Ellison’s leadership to make this selection,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “Every day, I am impressed by the way our college touches lives throughout – and beyond – our service area. One of our top priorities is reaching out to outstanding alumni like Kyle and the other nominees so that they know how proud we are of their accomplishments and all the ways they benefit the communities we serve.”

Eric Hester, Southwestern’s EMS Program Coordinator, nominated Dowling for the honor.

“While a student here, Kyle was one of only seven students in my 18 years to maintain a 4.0 GPA all the way through our program,” Hester said. “In our career field, we very often encounter people in some of the most-terrifying moments of their lives. If ever someone in my family needs emergency medical services, Kyle is exactly the type of professional I would want to respond to that call.”

In a letter supporting Dowling’s nomination for the award at SCC, Harris EMS Manager Matthew Burrell wrote that Dowling “has always been willing to go the extra mile to obtain more knowledge. … I fully believe that the education that he obtained while at Southwestern Community College was instrumental in him becoming the Paramedic and leader that he is today.”

Stephen Plemmons, the Senior Director of Emergency Services for Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals, also endorsed Dowling’s nomination.

“His dedication to his coworkers and the community is apparent in all his interactions with others, and his knowledge of prehospital emergency medicine is extraordinatory,” Plemmons wrote.

To learn more about the wide variety of ways you can support SCC students, contact Woods at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

For more information about Southwestern, call 828.339.4000 or visit your nearest SCC location.

Apr 3, 2019

Keegan Taylor: Swain Middle School student, aspiring astronomer, and as of 2018, New Century Scholar.

New Century Scholars provides college preparation skills and last-dollar tuition assistance to selected students in Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

Taylor is one of nearly 2,400 students that New Century Scholars has served since its beginning in 1995.

“I think it’s an awesome program that provides opportunities to students and shows them the importance of college,” said Jennifer Hemphill, Taylor’s mother. “The program has Keegan thinking about his future at a young age.”

New Century Scholars is solely funded each year by private donations and fundraisers like the “Ducks on the Tuck” virtual race.

More than 30 prizes will be available this year including the grand prize of a flat screen television, donated by Custom Sound & Security of Franklin.

The county that raises the most money by that day will be awarded the “Ducks on the Tuck” trophy, won by Macon County Schools in 2018.

When asked about his future in college, Taylor expressed an interest in science.

“I want to be an astronomer, but I love anything that has to do with science really,” Taylor said.

As difficult as it can be to know what career path to take one day, Taylor and New Century Scholars like him now have the resources they need to figure out their future along the way.

Tickets for the Ducks on the Tuck event are on sale now for $5 each or in “Quack Packs” of $25 for six tickets. Tickets are available from any New Century Scholar like Taylor, or from Swain New Century Scholar Coordinator Julie Richards, who can be contacted at j_richards[at]swainmail[dot]org.

In the weeks leading up to the race day on May 17, each county’s progress will be updated at

For more information about Ducks on the Tuck or New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner at 828.339.4477 or f_kinner[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Mar 11, 2019

Two men and a lady stand in front of a recently renovated steam locomotive.
Kim Albritton (center), Vice President and General Manager of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, recently established an annual scholarship through the SCC Foundation. She’s pictured here with Brett Woods (left), Director of the SCC Foundation, and Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President.

Thanks to one of the region’s top tourist attractions, Southwestern Community College students will get an extra hand up toward earning their college degrees.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad set up an annual scholarship fund through the SCC Foundation and will award a $1,000 scholarship for each of the next 10 years.

Kim Albritton, Vice President and General Manager of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, signed the scholarship agreement with SCC officials on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

“Our top priority at Southwestern Community College is serving our students, and this generous gift from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will help bring a quality college education within reach for a number of our students over the next decade,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are extremely grateful to Kim and everyone at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for supporting our students.”

The first scholarship will be awarded to a student this fall. Preference will be given to students from Swain County with a secondary preference for Jackson County residents.

Other factors that will be considered include financial need as well as a student’s program of study with preference given to anyone pursuing a credential in Welding, Culinary Arts or Electronics Engineering Technology.

“The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s success is largely based on its employees, many of whom are from the local communities that SCC serves,” Albritton said. “We are fortunate to be able to give back to a deserving student from Swain or Jackson County with hopes that the certifications and/or degree earned at SCC may come full circle with future employment opportunities in one of the many fields that support the railroad including Welding, HVAC, Electronics Engineering Technology and Culinary Arts.”

Established in 1973, the SCC Foundation exists solely to support Southwestern’s mission.

“Thanks to gifts like this one, we will be awarding scholarships to more students this fall than we ever have before,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “This generous donation will have a direct impact on our students’ lives.”

For more information about the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Scholarship Fund or the SCC Foundation, contact Woods at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.



For more than 50 years, Southwestern Community College has served Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties, and the Qualla Boundary by offering a wide range of educational options for residents in all stages of life. Ranked among the nation's top 10 community colleges three times in the past dozen years, SCC provides a supportive learning environment and more than 40 degree programs in Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences/College Transfer and Career Technologies. SCC also offers a variety of community resources, including the Small Business Center, Workforce Continuing Education and Career Services.


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Jan 10, 2019

SCC Seeks Nominations for Inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award

By: Kaitlyn Carver-Cochran

SYLVA- Southwestern Community College is now accepting nominations for the SCC Foundation’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.

To be considered, nominees must have graduated with either a certificate, diploma or degree from the institution known today as Southwestern Community College and previously as Southwestern Technical College (1979-1988), Southwestern Technical Institute (1967-1979) or Jackson County Industrial Education Center, a satellite of A-B Tech (1964-67).

“We are looking for candidates who are truly exceptional in their field,” said Brett Woods, director of the SCC Foundation. “Our distinguished alumni recipient will receive this award at our graduation ceremony in May, and will serve as an inspiration of what new graduates can aspire to become.”

In addition to being recognized at graduation, the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni award will be recognized on SCC’s website, social media, and will receive an award plaque.

The SCC Foundation has partnered with the SCC Foundation Faculty & Staff Advisory Council to create the award.

“The SCC Foundation Faculty & Staff Advisory Council has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to develop the Distinguished Alumni Award,” said Dr. Mark Ellison, Chair of the Council. “We are excited to recognize outstanding SCC alumni.”

Nominations for the award can be submitted in writing by someone other than a member of the potential candidate’s family.

The form for nomination can be found at:

Upon completion, forms can be emailed to Kathy Posey at k_posey[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu, along with any supporting information. Forms can also be sent in by mail, addressed to the Southwestern Community College Foundation; 447 College Drive; Sylva, NC 28779.

Nomination forms will remain on file for three years for future award consideration. After three years, nominations must be re-submitted.

For more information about the Distinguished Alumni award, contact Kathy Posey, at 828.339.4227.

Nov 14, 2018

Two ladies pose for a photo inside SCC's Burrell Building in Sylva.
Brenda Oliver Holt (right) is pictured here with Terran Jordan, the first recipient of a scholarship recently endowed in Mrs. Holt’s honor.

Brenda Oliver Holt held a special place in her husband’s heart.

So did Southwestern Community College.

A few months before W. Paul Holt, Jr., passed away this summer, the longtime SCC Trustee found a way to simultaneously honor his wife and also support students at the college he served for more than half a century as he established the “Brenda Oliver Holt Endowed Nursing Scholarship” through the SCC Foundation.

The scholarship was set up in honor of the Holts’ wedding anniversary, and it will be awarded annually to a student who’s been accepted into SCC’s Nursing program.

“I am deeply moved by such a generous gift,” Mrs. Holt said. “My sincere hope is that many students will be able to have careers in the nursing profession for years to come.”

The first scholarship was awarded this fall to Terran Jordan, an SCC Nursing student.

Over a 38-year nursing career, Mrs. Holt served in neonatal, school and surgical nursing. Most of her career was in operating room nursing, and she spent several years as Director of the Operating Room at Sylva’s Harris Regional Hospital.

 “My lifelong desire to become a nurse began in my early years when I had an illness that required weekly visits to a doctor's office,” Mrs. Holt recalled. “The nurse was so kind and inspired me to follow her example.

“Nursing school was a great learning experience for me, and I embraced the challenges each specialty area presented,” she added. “The field of nursing is very rewarding. The appreciation you experience from people you have helped makes the long hours and hard work worthwhile.”

Outside the realm of healthcare, Mrs. Holt served for 11 years as a board member and 17 years as Mayor for the Town of Sylva.

Paul Holt was a founding member of Southwestern’s Board of Trustees, and he established the SCC Foundation in 1973. He served on SCC’s board for 53 years, making him the longest-serving Trustee in N.C. Community College history.

For more information about Nursing and other Health Sciences programs at Southwestern, visit

To learn more about endowments and other ways to support SCC students, contact Brett Woods at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Oct 31, 2018

By: Kaitlyn Carver

SYLVA – For SCC employee and Macon County native Tyler Cook, his aunt’s lasting legacy was a cause worth fighting for.

Cook’s great aunt, Eva McCall, was a Macon county native, a beautician by trade and an author with passion. She wrote several novels throughout her life, publishing her first in 1997, even inspiring Cook to become an author himself.

“Endowing this scholarship is just a small way to honor Eva, who did more for me than I could ever repay her for,” said Cook.
From left to right: Brett L. Woods, Tyler Cook, and President Don Tomas.

At the time of McCall’s passing in November 2017, Cook and his family decided the best way to honor his great aunt would be to create a scholarship in her name dedicated to helping aspiring writers get their education.

“The day of her memorial service was the day we decided to create the scholarship,” said Cook. “It took off pretty quickly from there; a GoFundMe page was created, and we campaigned on social media. We also mailed out hundreds of letters to Eva’s family and friends, which wouldn’t have been possible without my grandmother, Susie Stanley, and her connections.”

The first recipient of the scholarship was Macon County resident Emily Pignona, chosen in June for the 2018-2019 school year.
Macon County resident Emily Pignona, the first recipient of the Eva McCall Memorial Scholarship.

“We admire Tyler for his determination in making this scholarship happen,” said Brett Woods, director of the SCC Foundation. “It’s important to share his story because it goes to show how just one determined person can make a difference in the lives of students. This scholarship will help students for years to come.”

For more information about this scholarship, visit, or contact Brett Woods at b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Sep 20, 2018

Group of people dancing in a circle inside the ballroom at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort
ABOVE: Dr. Don Tomas (center), Southwestern Community College President, joins with a group dancing to the bluegrass tunes of Frogtown during the SCC Foundation’s Bluegrass, Blue Jeans & Bling gala last month at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. BELOW: Recent graduate Yesenia Navarro tells the gala crowd how the scholarship she receive through the SCC Foundation helped her as she pursued her degree at Southwestern.
Woman speaks into a microphone on stage at gala.

Since moving its annual gala to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in 2015, the Southwestern Community College Foundation has raised more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

As has been the case annually since its inception, the current year’s gala yielded more money than the last. “Bluegrass, Blue Jeans & Bling,” which was held on Aug. 25, netted more than $72,000 when factoring in table sponsorships, silent auction sales, wine pull proceeds and individual tickets.

All money raised goes toward supporting SCC students through scholarships.

“None of our success with the gala would be possible without the generosity and support from our good friends at Harrah’s,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are incredibly blessed to live in a region filled with kind and generous people who understand how Southwestern benefits our communities, and they’re always willing to step up with amazing levels of financial support. We cannot thank all our sponsors and donors enough.

“We also could not have done this without the help of all our volunteers,” Dr. Tomas added. “Our co-chairs, Wendy LeMay and Lambert Wilson, once again did an amazing job of coordinating this gala. It takes a tremendous amount of work to make these events successful, and I deeply appreciate all the hard work that’s done behind the scenes.”

At this year’s gala, attendees heard from scholarship recipients MaShon Gaddis and Yesenia Navarro. Gaddis is a current student while Navarro graduated in May. Each spoke briefly about how significant an impact their scholarships have made on their lives.

Thanks in part to the recent successful galas, the Foundation is experiencing unprecedented growth – and is able to help more students each year. However, there is still much work to do.

The Foundation’s total assets have more than doubled since Dr. Tomas became president in 2011 and currently stand at $5,555,028.11.

During the 2017 gala, SCC celebrated the completion of its first million-dollar endowment. And as the Foundation continues to gather fundraising momentum, the college is able to support more students than ever.

“Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is happy to partner with SCC, working together to be leaders in the efforts to raise funds for education,” said Brooks Robinson, Regional Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Properties. “Many employees and their family members have participated in the programs offered at SCC. We are proud of the work they do in making our communities stronger, and we look forward to continuing our partnership.”

Total amount of scholarships awarded in 2013-14 was $51,355. This year’s scholarship value was $132,000 – and that’s in addition to the more than $36,000 that was awarded to New Century Scholars. The Foundation also was able to provide $4,500 to students in need through the Student Emergency Fund.

Five years ago, the SCC Foundation was only able to help one out of every five students (42 out of 225) who applied for financial assistance. For the current academic year, SCC was able to assist one out of every three (93 out of 268).

Man and woman pose for a photo in front of the stage inside the ballroom at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort
Wendy LeMay and Lambert Wilson served as co-chairs for this year's Bluegrass, Blue Jeans & Bling gala on Saturday, Aug. 25, at Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort.

But that still means two of every three qualified applicants aren’t receiving assistance.

“We’ve come a long way, and that has everything to do with the generous spirit of our donors throughout Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “We aim to continue building on this momentum until we’re able to provide financial assistance to every student who can use a hand up so that they can change their lives through the academic programs at Southwestern.”

For more information about the SCC Foundation as well as the academic programs offered through Southwestern, visit, call 828.339.4000 or drop by your nearest SCC location.