Posted on Friday, April 29, 2016

VCCSLogo-smallDozens of students from Virginia’s Community Colleges were honored this month for their commitment to academic excellence and public service during a celebratory luncheon in Richmond. Each was named to the Phi Theta Kappa 2016 All-Virginia Academic Team.

After receiving an inspirational pep talk from keynote speaker Idalia Fernandez, chairman of the State Board for Community Colleges, the students were presented with colorful medallions in recognition of their achievements. Chancellor Glenn DuBois was on hand to personally congratulate each of them.


Wheelock (right) also has a pilot’s license

Among the team’s Top Ten students this year is Elise Wheelock from Lord Fairfax Community College. Thanks to dual enrollment, she will graduate high school in mid-May with an associate’s degree.

“I’ve gotten to take a lot of different classes and I’ve been more challenged than I would’ve been in a normal high school program and I’ve really enjoyed that; taking challenging classes and studying with people who are motivated and trying their best.”

In addition to being named to PTK’s prestigious list of academic elites, Wheelock also has a pilot’s license and plans on further developing her flying skills at the University of North Dakota. The university’s aviation program – considered by some to be the best in the country – is what caught her attention. With a robust 4.0 GPA and enviable ACT scores, Wheelock says she had little trouble getting accepted. 

“What was hard was getting into their honors program. There were several essays and a lot of questions.”

Wheelock, who turns 18 this summer, has already plotted a career course as a rescue pilot.

“I want to do fixed-wing rescue, preferably. Not helicopters.”

When she’s not in the air, Wheelock is busy maintaining a vigorous class schedule and training to become a paramedic. It’s an unrelenting grind. But the ambitious teenager says she still makes time for friends.

“I’m a very outgoing person and I start going crazy if I don’t see other people.”

Wheelock describes community college as a “welcoming” experience and says her friends and classmates sometimes admit they wish they had followed in her footsteps.

“I think it’s sad, honestly, that more people don’t get the opportunity to do what I’m doing – to go to college while you’re in high school and I think it should be open to more people.”

A list of the 2016 PTK Top Ten All-Virginia Academic Team members (including Wheelock) and their respective colleges appears below:

Bich  Ngoc Tran


Nicole Reyes


Jacqueline Chavez Orellana


Christopher Flurry


Brandon Johnson


Elise Wheelock


Abigail Allen


Patrick Fritz


Jasmane Ormond


Evita Wang


Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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