April 20, 2015

Of 610 juniors and seniors studying in Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) L. D. Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs Criminal Justice program, two students won prestigious awards this week. They happen to be two students who are completing their degrees at New College Institute (NCI).

“The awards are significant because they are an indication of the success of the VCU Criminal Justice program at NCI and the quality students we have in this local program,” said Dr. Patricia Hylton Grant, VCU faculty in residence at NCI.

 “The significance of having NCI students chosen out of hundreds of their peers at VCU is also indicative of the quality of our faculty members who teach here as well as the commitment to excellence by the students enrolled. NCI students stand out among their peers at VCU,” added Dr. Leanna Blevins, associate director and chief academic officer at NCI.

Kolton Helbert received the Outstanding Senior Award for Criminal Justice, and Tonija Hairston received the Outstanding Junior award for Criminal Justice. Last year, VCU student at NCI and recent graduate, Lisa Blackwell, received the Outstanding Senior award as well. Additionally, Hairston received VCU’s ACME Technical Group Incorporated scholarship. Award recipients were recognized at a formal ceremony on Monday, April 13, 2015, at the VCU Student Commons in Richmond.

To receive this award, a student must be nominated by a faculty member and then selected by a committee. Selections are based on academic performance and the student’s commitment to academic excellence. “I received this award as a student in 1994, and it meant so much to me. Now, it means even more to see my students receive the same award,” shared Grant. 

“It was really humbling to receive this award. It was really special for Dr. Grant to nominate me since she has actually won the award herself as a student. Dr. Grant is beyond a professor; she is a friend and has gone above and beyond to mentor and help me as I complete my degree and make plans for the future,” said Helbert.

For Hairston, balancing family life and a full-time position of 18 years with the Martinsville City Sheriff’s Office is challenging, but rewarding. She learned about the opportunity to complete her degree at NCI from a coworker and feels that this opportunity is a “godsend for a lot of people here in Martinsville-Henry County.” Hairston added, “It is nice to know that my hard work has paid off! It was a great surprise to receive this award.”

Blackwell also appreciated the opportunity to complete her degree close to home and added, “Dr. Grant is amazing. She is someone to look up to, and I admire her.”

Students completing the Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science program through VCU receive a broad educational background, professionally oriented courses, and various skill courses designed to enhance career opportunities. The program prepares students for professional careers in private or public sector employment in the area of criminal justice. Students are also prepared for further study in government, criminal justice, homeland security, or law through this fully accredited program.

For more information about the VCU Criminal Justice program at NCI, please visit www.NewCollegeInstitute.org or call (276) 403-5610.