Local News

FTCC ranks fifth in nation for military education support

09 Soldiers studyingFayetteville Technical Community College has again been ranked among the top five Military Friendly® large community colleges in the nation for 2020-21. The prestigious designation by the national Military Friendly® Schools Program affirms FTCC’s commitment to providing military members, veterans and their families with high-quality educational services that are affordable and convenient.

A wide range of classes and programs are available in a variety of settings on FTCC’s campuses at Fort Bragg and online. The school awards appropriate credits for prior military learning and follows up with comprehensive services to meet the special educational needs of military personnel and their families. FTCC’s All American Veterans Center on the school’s main campus provides educational assistance and support to veterans. A Transition Tech program provides industry-focused training for military members who are preparing for civilian life.

The North Carolina Military Business Center headquartered at Fayetteville Tech works to support the integration of skilled transitioning military personnel and veterans into the civilian workforce.

The mission of the NCMBC is to leverage military and other federal business opportunities to expand the economy, grow jobs and improve quality of life in North Carolina. “FTCC is pleased to be recognized again nationally as one of the best Military Friendly colleges in the large community college ratings,” said Dr. Mark Sorrells, FTCC’s senior vice president for Academic and Student Services.

The Military Friendly® Schools rankings are compiled each year by Viqtory, an independent media firm that promotes economic opportunities for veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses. The 2020-21 Military Friendly® Schools list will be included in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine, which is published by Viqtory and is also available at www.militaryfriendly.com. The term “military” refers to all people in the military community, including active duty, reserve and National Guard service members, veterans and military spouses. It’s a trademarked name because there are several copycat military lists and ratings programs that don’t possess the rigor and history of Military Friendly®.

The ratings are based on extensive data from public sources and responses from a proprietary survey. Final ratings are determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans. More than 1,000 schools participated in the 2020-21 survey, with 695 earning the Military Friendly® designation.
The rankings distinguish the top 10 Military Friendly® schools in several categories, including large community colleges. Top 10 schools, such as FTCC, are awarded gold status, as are those that score within 10% of the 10th-ranked school. Visit https://www.faytechcc.edu/military-veterans to learn more about FTCC’s programs for the military and veterans.

Fayetteville Technical Community College was established in 1961 and serves over 38,000 students annually by providing over 280 occupational, technical, general education, college transfer and continuing education programs to meet the needs of students and the community. It is the fourth-largest community college in the state and boasts one of the largest Continuing Education departments. Visit FTCC’s website at www.faytechcc.edu.

U.S. troops in Africa

08 African SahelThe Pentagon is reviewing whether there needs to be a troop withdrawal in Africa. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, united against a Trump administration plan to withdraw U.S. troops from part of Africa, pushed back in an exchange with Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a recent meeting. Graham and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., led the charge telling Esper that Congress would not support a U.S. troop withdrawal from the Sahel region in Africa, laying out the reasons to keep the troop presence there. At one point, Graham allegedly told Esper that he could “make your life hell.”  Graham denied making the comment.

Several other lawmakers laid out their case forcefully. “From a broad security standpoint, the Sahel is a tinderbox of terrorist activity and where violent extremist organizations look to use the space to recruit, adapt and evolve,” AFRICOM spokesman Air Force Col. Chris Karns said.

Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM commander, is on record saying that violent extremist group activity in the region has increased 250% since 2018.

The Sahel is the geographic zone in sub-Saharan Africa between the Atlantic ocean and the Red Sea. It includes several nations plagued by international terrorist groups, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. More than a dozen terrorist groups with links to the Islamic State or al-Qaida, like Boko Haram and al Shabaab, are operating there and other parts of Africa.

The upsurge in violence from extremist groups in West Africa is moving south from Mali into Burkina Faso, a former French colony that suffered more than 2,200 civilian deaths in 2019 — a steep increase from the nearly 300 civilian deaths in 2018. Thousands of people in Burkina Faso have been displaced because of the violence. Most recent estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicate that more than 500,000 people were displaced between January 2019 and January 2020 in Burkina Faso.

Graham and Coons argued that the number of American troops there is small, the cost to deploy them is low and withdrawal would abandon a major ally in France, whose army is leading the fight against the terrorists there. The U.S. has approximately 6,000 troops in Africa, including 1,000 special operations troops in the Sahel, the region where four Fort Bragg Green Berets lost their lives two years ago. American forces train local troops, provide aerial refueling to French military planes and collect intelligence.
The senators noted that this is the exact model the Trump administration has been pressing for, where another country leads militarily while the U.S. backs the effort. Graham said it would make no sense to abandon an area where that arrangement is working. Esper explained that he is trying to carry out the National Defense Strategy, which cites Russia and China as the biggest strategic competitors to the U.S., and is attempting to shift American troop priorities accordingly.      

Sheriff’s deputies’ salaries increase

07 01 Sheriffs Deputies 2Cumberland County Commissioners have approved a significant adjustment in the wages of sheriff’s deputies and detention officers. They appropriated $354,233 to provide market adjustments to entry-level law enforcement salaries for the remainder of the fiscal year beginning March 1. A statewide study showed Cumberland County entry-level law enforcement wages were 10% lower than comparable counties, while average pay was 16% lower.

The turnover rate for jailers at the detention center resulted in a vacancy rate of 45%, according to County Manager Amy Cannon. “We have continued to struggle and have challenges  with employee recruitment and retention,” Cannon said.

Pay for entry-level detention officers will increase by $2,300 to $36,500. The entry-level wage for a sworn deputy sheriff will increase by $1,750 to $39,237. This increase applies to all department classifications, excluding the rank of captain and above.

“We believe this is a step in the right direction in the process to begin impacting positively our recruitment and retention.” Cannon said.

07 02 JP Riddle StadiumJ.P. Riddle Stadium renovated

Fayetteville Technical Community College’s 2020 baseball season will begin Feb. 29 at the newly revamped Trojan Field at J.P. Riddle Stadium, 2823 Legion Rd., with a doubleheader between Fayetteville Tech and Paul D. Camp Community College of Suffolk, Virginia. The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners gifted the stadium to the College two years ago. The men’s baseball teams of FTCC and Freedom Christian Academy will join the Fayetteville Swamp Dogs in utilizing the field and stadium.
“We thank the Cumberland County Commissioners for this opportunity to be associated with the J.P. Riddle Stadium and to continue the Riddle family’s intent to share this asset with the citizens of Cumberland County,” said Dr. Larry Keen, FTCC president. FTCC’s ownership of J.P. Riddle Stadium provides educational opportunities for staff, faculty and students representing various academic program areas to support of FTCC events, Keen added.

07 03 Pet Adoption 2PetSmart Charities makes local donation

Cumberland County Animal Control has been awarded a $30,000 grant by PetSmart Charities to support the adoption of cats and large breed dogs. The funds will be used to pay for spaying and neutering nearly 500 dogs and cats. That will allow the shelter to reduce adoption fee to $28 for selected animals and save more animals, Animal Control Director Elaine Smith said. “We are so excited to receive this grant so that we can really help our harder to adopt ... older pets, pets with treatable health issues and our large dogs in particular,” Smith said.

The Animal Control adoption fee includes a pet’s rabies vaccination, privilege license, microchip and spaying or neutering by a local veterinarian. For more information about adopting a pet from the Animal Control Shelter, call 910-321-6852, or to see all the animals available for adoption, visit http://bit.ly/CCAdoptablePets.

07 04 citizens academy 2Citizens Academy

The next Fayetteville Citizens Academy class will be held Wednesday, March 11, with a focus on several divisions of Fayetteville’s Public Services Department, including Traffic Services, Street Maintenance, Stormwater and Solid Waste. Academy participants will have an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning, view equipment, tour facilities and meet city personnel tasked with serving the community. The class size is limited to 25 residents. Class begins at 8:15 a.m. and will conclude at or before 5 p.m. To apply, log on to www.fayettevillenc.gov/citizensacademy, scroll to the bottom of the page and complete the form online. The submission window for this session closes March 2. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by close of business Friday, March 6. “Our one-day Citizens Academy event gives residents an opportunity to see City of Fayetteville staff in their element, doing what they do every day to support and serve our citizens,” said Corporate Communications Director Kevin V. Arata.
Lunch will be provided, and residents are asked to dress appropriately for the weather and in closed-toe footwear. 

07 05 Build a Better Murchison 2 Build a Better Murchison

Planners are in the home stretch of a special Fayetteville event. The Longleaf Pine Realtors Association is using a $5,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors to stage the Build a Better Murchison project March 7. It’s a block party that will take place from 12-5 p.m. at and around Seabrook Auditorium and Bronco Plaza. This temporary demonstration project will add new crosswalks, a greenery-lined median and a two-way bicycle track. The event will feature live music and other entertainment plus food vendors and artists.

Eric Vitale, a transportation planner with the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said, “There could end up being more people attending this event than another one held in Haymount in June 2018.”

The vendor registration deadline is Tuesday, March 3, at 5 p.m. Meetings for volunteers and interested vendors are scheduled March 3, 4 and 5. Visit the website if you want to learn more www.betterblockfaync.com.

Leadership: Five women to watch in 2020

The fabric of our community is made up of a diverse group of people who bring their individuality, skills, hard work and determination to the table. These contributions that each offers create a bounty of opportunities for anyone seeking them. A constant influx of new ideas, exciting entertainment, excellent educational opportunities, innovative business ventures, medical advancements and more make Cumberland County stand out. In a transient community, the importance of having people who consistently invest their time and energy into the area is magnitudinous. Whether working quietly behind the scenes or from a larger platform, the movers and shakers here deserve recognition for the difference they make every day. Among these people are Marge Betley, Kenjuana McCray, Tisha Waddell, Elizabeth Blevins and Diane Wheatley — five extraordinary women to watch in 2020 who are making a difference in our community. 

10 01 Marge BetleyMarge Betley
 Major Gifts Officer at the
Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation

 Q. Tell our readers about yourself, including how you came to be in Fayetteville.

A. I arrived in Fayetteville on the night of April 26, 2019 — less than a year ago. I followed shortly on the heels of my husband, Greg Weber, whose role as the new CEO and president of the Arts Council began last March. I pulled into Fayetteville late on a Friday night, and the next day we went to the Dogwood Festival. It was a great introduction to my new city.

Q. There are so many ways to serve the community we live in. What made you choose the route you did?

A. Greg and I are both very committed to community service and volunteerism — it’s part of what gives us a sense of belonging, and it is also how we have made some of our deepest friendships over the years.My job at Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation is my primary way of serving the Fayetteville community. I’ve been fortunate to have a very rich working life in the nonprofit sector, so when we moved here, I looked for some way to make a meaningful impact. Cape Fear Valley Health and the Health Foundation provide a huge amount of community benefit every year — from charity care and free health screenings to free mammograms for uninsured women, financial support for our cancer patients in financial need and so much more that many people are really unaware of. As I learned more about them, I knew I wanted to be a part of their impact in this community. And now, Cape Fear Valley’s residency program is creating a pipeline to bring hundreds of new physicians to our region — an impact that will be felt for generations to come. How could I resist?

Q. What do you love about this community? 

A. Where do I start? Fayetteville is friendly, it’s welcoming and there is always something to do. I love to explore foods and cultures from around the world, so I’ve really enjoyed the festivals here — from the Caribbean Festival — best jerk chicken ever — to the African World Peace Festival and, of course, the International Folk Festival. I love the vibrancy of the arts community here — there’s terrific theater, music and visual arts. I even started taking a silversmithing class at Fayetteville Tech from jewelry artist Gail Ferguson, which I am really enjoying.Another thing that I love about Fayetteville is that when people see a need, they just step up and take action. Last August I attended an event called Cut My City — stylists from all over Fayetteville volunteer their time to provide haircuts and scalp checks for kids before school starts. A haircut sounds like such a simple thing, but it’s so important for a child to feel confident and optimistic as they start a new school year. There were hundreds of kids there and they were all buzzing with energy and enthusiasm! I love that I live in a city where someone sees a need and creates the path to deliver a solution. 

10 02 Kenjuana McCrayKenjuana McCray 
Hope Mills Mayor Pro Tem
and full-time professor at Fayetteville Technical Community College 

Q. What’s something about our community that you want more people to know about?

A. I wish more people knew about the arts, services, activities and programs that are available in our community. I think we operate in a lot of silos, which prevents us from taking advantage of the many opportunities provided throughout the town of Hope Mills … I also wish more people knew about the stellar post-secondary opportunities in our overall community to include FTCC, Methodist University and Fayetteville State University. The Local FSU Hometown Alumni Chapter hosts an annual Little Mister and Miss Pageant each year. This pageant not only is a fundraiser to award scholarships for FSU students, but the pageant committee works with the children well beyond the pageant to help to promote emotional, social and leadership skills. I operate a small food pantry at FTCC to help serve students who suffer from food insecurity on campus. Food insecurity on college campuses is a growing concern, and I would like to help decrease this issue as much as possible. My hope is to widely expand this effort by creating programs that provide more healthy meal options for college students. 

We Are the Arts, which is an Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County initiative, strives to increase tourism, economic development and innovation by promoting the vibrant arts and cultural happenings in the community and in our region. There is also a newly created Hope Mills Creative Arts Council and the town of Hope Mills staff also has an Arts and Culture Committee to help generate ideas for more cultural opportunities in our local community. Examples of these efforts in Hope Mills include the monthly food truck rodeos on the first Thursday of each month in the spring, which usually has a theme tied to community engagement. Hope Mills also hosts a farmers market on every first Saturday of the month in the spring and is geared toward not only engaging local produce farmers but also providing our citizens with more healthy food choices. Our communities are stronger when we connect together!

10 03 Tisha WaddellTisha Waddell
 District 3 City Councilwoman 

Q. Tell our readers about yourself, including how you came to be in Fayetteville.

A. I am a very optimistic person who loves a great project! I’m thoughtful, creative and full of wonder. I collaborate easily and recognize the value of partnerships. I’ve experienced my greatest success as a result of positive connections. I came to Fayetteville as the daughter of the military. My mother retired here, and this became our final “home of record” and my longest home of choice.

Q. What do you love about this community? 

A. I love the people in this community. They are so intricately woven together in the most unique ways. When I ran for office I began to learn about the history of the city first hand from the stories of the people I started interacting with and noticed that Fayetteville’s history is truly a part of the fabric of its present. I also love the pace of our city. It isn’t so slow that I’m bored, but it isn’t so fast-paced that it’s uncomfortable. Our former slogan really summed up the community perfectly, “History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling.” That’s what I love about this community!

Q. There are so many ways to serve the community we live in. What made you choose the route you did?
A. Very candidly, this route chose me. I was in service for many years in very private ways. I’m a firm believer that we will be rewarded openly for what we do privately, and so I never sought to be the center of the city’s attention. It is still a little awkward to be so regarded for just doing what comes naturally. I am grateful to the citizens of District 3 and the city who place their confidence in me as a representation of them. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. 

10 05 Diane WheatleyDiane Wheatley
Community activist and
candidate for N.C. House Representative 

Q. There are so many ways to serve the community we live in. What made you choose the route you did? 

A. I have served the community pretty much continuously since before I was married. I have volunteered on over 30 boards and committees through the years. I also spent 10 years on the board of education and four as a county commissioner. I have found that I have been most effective and have accomplished the most when serving in elected office.

 I think what has and still does motivate me comes from growing up in a military family where service and “duty, honor, country” were so important. My interest in government grew out of our family’s involvement in Revolutionary War reenacting when my sons were young. We were exposed at that time to so many historical sites and stories of the struggles the founding fathers went through to gain our independence. Personalities like George Washington, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton and others became very real to me. I have always been struck by what strong men of faith they were and how God brought them through circumstances that would seem to have been insurmountable. I really feel my experiences have given me a unique perspective. I believe so strongly in the principles on which this country was founded.  

Q. What’s something you wish this community knew about you? What’s something about our community that you want more people to know about? 
A. I wish they knew how I truly do serve because I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I see any office as both a trust and responsibility to the people of Cumberland County. I will work every day to earn that trust and fulfill that responsibility to the best of my ability.  I wish people knew how much we have to offer. There is nothing that can be mentioned, whether it’s culture, museums, entertainment, sports teams, dinning, parks, a revitalized downtown, shopping or whatever, that we do not have. We are the most vibrant community in the state that no one seams to know about. 

10 04 Elizabeth blevinsElizabeth Blevins
Executive director of the Hope Mills Creative Arts Council
and appointee to the Hope Mills Historic Preservation Commission
and the Veteran Affairs Committee 

Q. What do you love about this community?
A. There’s a resiliency in the community that I love. Hope Mills has taken a lot of abuse over the years, from corrupt politicians, weather and human nature. But the people here are still excited to get up each day and try something new. They’re excited to support an art council and see a new history museum in place. We love our small businesses and new restaurants. They never doubted the dam would be back in place, and we’d have a gorgeous lake once again. And now that we have it, they’re so excited to plan lakeside celebrations for every occasion.  

 Q. There are so many ways to serve the community we live in. What made you choose the route you did?

A. I don’t know that I specifically chose this route as much as I fell into it. I started HopeMills.net as a political blog. And that wasn’t planned. It was a reaction to two local politicians who used their social media to lie to the people of Hope Mills. Several months into it, I started talking about potential community projects, and suddenly people were really talking back. We held an initial interest meeting in June for an arts council, and four days later, we’d partnered with Sweet Tea Shakespeare Theater and scheduled plays in Hope Mills. The entire art council board is very civic-minded, and we design our projects to include as many local businesses and organizations as possible. We don’t have galleries or a museum, so we’ve learned to be creative in finding ways to promote local artists.This year, one of our biggest endeavors is establishing an artists’ co-op. We’re partnering with small businesses of every kind to use as galleries. We get to create business opportunities, but in doing so, we also get to create relationships.

This year, I was appointed to the Hope Mills Historic Preservation Commission and the Veteran Affairs Committee. I grew up in an Air Force family and we lived a very nomadic life. It instilled in me a greater appreciation for permanence and history. Our family has been fortunate to travel the world and visit some really phenomenal historic sites. Hope Mills could be a destination spot. 

As a veteran, veteran’s issues are very important to me. The last two years, I’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of local veterans and their spouses. We have a responsibility to advocate for them, to educate our community and elected officials of their needs. This year my focus is specifically on the caregivers of disabled veterans. They have very few resources and not nearly enough recognition.

Cape Fear Valley Neurosurgery serves six-county region

09 CFVHS 2There are hundreds of conditions that can affect the brain, such as concussions, strokes and tumors. Cape Fear Valley Neurosurgery provides comprehensive treatment and surgery right here in our hometown. Dr. Charles Haworth, medical director of Neurosurgery at Cape Fear Valley, says the hospital provides neurological and neurosurgical treatment and support for patients in a six-county region of Southeastern North Carolina, including Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Hope Mills, Raeford, Lumberton, Elizabethtown, Lillington, Dunn, Clinton and beyond.

 Haworth recently recruited neurosurgeon Dr. Melissa Stamates who came to Fayetteville from the Midwest. Stamates graduated with honors from The Ohio State University in 2011. She served a seven-year medical residency at the University of Chicago followed by a fellowship at North Shore University Health System in Evanston, Illinois. Stamates has more than nine years of diverse experience in neurosurgery. In the U.S., neurosurgery is a highly competitive specialty composed of 0.5% of all practicing physicians. 

Stamates and her husband arrived in Fayetteville in July of last year. She and Haworth alternate surgical rounds daily. Her special interests include surgery to treat brain cancer, pituitary tuimors, cranioplasty and other general neurosurgical diseases and illnesses. 

Both physicians said they wanted to be doctors when they were young. Haworth is a North Carolina native. He graduated from Guilford College and Duke University School of Medicine and has practiced medicine for 38 years. He practiced at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton before coming to Fayetteville six years ago. He practiced three years in the Navy followed by Duke Hospital in Lumberton and Cape Fear Valley for the past six years.

Stamates told Up and Coming Weekly she hopes to build her career here. Cape Fear Valley’s need for stability in neurosurgery is a priority. Haworth’s challenge is building a program large enough to provide coverage 24/7. Haworth said a third neurosurgeon will likely be hired soon. “There will always be a need in our community for what we do,” he said. 

Stamates said the need and new facilities make launching her career in Fayetteville exciting. A new five-story building for Cape Fear Valley’s residency program will house a neuroscience institute on the fifth floor.

 Asked what Stamates enjoys most about her work, she said she is the happiest “when my patients do well.” 

Both doctors spoke of the chemistry they have. Reliance on one another is what makes the relationship click Haworth intimated. 

The approximately $28.3 million building project includes the demolition of an older building, which is underway. The driveway on the Melrose Road side of the hospital campus has been closed because of the construction project. The building is scheduled to be completed in May 2021, Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Conway said.


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