“Christmas gift!” According to Southern tradition, if I were the first to say that to you this morning, you would owe me a Christmas gift.
History suggests the saying originated in the mid-1800s and was prevalent among African-American and poor farming families in rural areas across the South. It was met with much delight, especially by the individual who “got one up” on the other by being the first to wish a Merry Christmas in this way on Christmas morning. The expression is still used today, especially in my family and with many others who recognize the birth of Christ as a gift.
While the Christmas gift of years ago was often a handful of nuts or candy, today, this festive time of year offers so many other gifts. And I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the gift of education and the wonderful opportunities Johnston Community College brings to you and all of our citizens. But as with any gift, to benefit from it, you have to unwrap it, learn about it, engage it and use it. Johnston Community College is just such a gift, awaiting your involvement.
Your college is working hard to make available quality instruction for immediate employment or transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Our faculty are dedicated to preparing students and maintaining the highest teaching certifications across the state. Facilities are receiving much needed renovations as a primary component of our recruiting and success agenda. And JCC is being recognized as the place to be, having been listed as a Top 150 Community College by the Aspen Institute, 26th on a national list of top 50 community colleges by Value Colleges and, most recently, as a Bellwether Award finalist.
Additionally, our sonography program has been ranked in the top 20 programs across the United States, and 100 percent of our spring nursing graduates passed the national certification exam on the first attempt. Athletics by way of men’s and women’s basketball has been reenergized, and we will start a first-ever JCC cosmetology program for Spanish-speaking students in the spring. This past fall, we opened another first for JCC in our Career Center. Our College and Career Promise program with Johnston County Schools is the largest in North Carolina, and this month, we brought back the annual Country Music Show Christmas show, with more than 1,200 attending.
In the year ahead, we will see the construction of a close-quarter shoot house and a fire-training tower, both by the tremendous gift of Donnie and Linda Lassiter; a full renovation of the Tart building, including the development of our Student Success Center; and continued efforts in the aesthetic appeal of the campus itself.
So my gift to you on this beautiful Christmas morning is the commitment to providing opportunity through excellence at JCC.
“Christmas gift!” Now you owe me the gift of your presence at and support of Johnston Community College. JCC is one of the greatest gifts Johnston County has to offer.
David N. Johnson is president of Johnston Community College.