DUBLIN — A Bladen County icon turned 50 this year.
Founded Oct. 5, 1967, Bladen Community College was chartered as Bladen Technical Institute and offered a limited number of classes. The old Johnston Cotton Company property on U.S. 701 South served as the administrative offices, the library, and some classrooms. Other courses were taught out of rental buildings in and around Elizabethtown, such as the old First Baptist Church and the old Marks Tractor site.
When full-scale operations began in September 1968, offerings included programs in cosmetology, executive secretarial science, business administration, industrial maintenance, automotive mechanics, and nursing assistant. Rounding out the program were a variety of continuing education classes held in the evenings.
In 1969, following a land donation by Dublin resident Roy Brisson, the college purchased additional property adjoining the donated plot, and the institution moved to its permanent 25-acre home near Dublin in 1971. Additional purchases in 1973 and 1974 expanded the campus to its current 41-acres.
Throughout the 1970s, the campus continued to be enlarged. Additions to the campus included eight buildings, among them the Learning Resource Center and the Administrative Building. The 1970s also witnessed the name of the college change to Bladen Technical College.
During the 80s and 90s, the college began to branch out even more. When folks in the East Arcadia community expressed desire for classes closer to home, the college added a campus in the southern part of the county in 1995, enrolling 80 students.
As education has evolved in the 50 years, so, too, has Bladen Community College. The Small Business Center and the JobLink program have been added. In tune with the nation’s focus on health, BCC has expanded its Health Education Building to house practical nursing, nursing assistant, and biological sciences, as well as other medical-related studies. To allow for better articulation with universities, the school changed in 1997 from a quarter system to a semester system. Grants have been utilized over the years to expand programs like the welding and industrial maintenance or to construct new facilities like the Student Resource Center in 2009.
Presently, BCC offers 14 curriculum programs and a variety of continuing education options.
At least one of the school’s programs has brought it national attention over the years. BCC’s welding students compete each year in the SkillsUSA competition, a national competition in which more than 15,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from 600 national corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions participate. Entrants are up against thousands of competitors in hands-on skill and leadership contests. In 2016, two BCC students were each deemed number three in the nation in their respective competitions, bringing the total number of national medals for the welding program to five.
In its five decades, Bladen Community College has brought value to the community. Every $1 spent for a BCC education returns $6.20 in lifetime income for students. For each $1 invested by the government or the community, the school returns $25.70 in added income and $2.50 in taxes and public sector savings.
Throughout its 50th year, BCC celebrated its history and contributions to Bladen County. In the fall, it held a musical showcase with singing, dancing, the performing of instruments, and other talents.
“It was a wonderful celebration of our history,” BCC President William Findt said recently. “We have a lot of talented people in the community, and many of them work at the college.”
The school intends to charge ahead for at least the next 50 years. Current plans include a multi-million expansion that will include the construction of a STEM facility through the NC Connect bond passed recently, as well as a new program planned for 2018 that will allow nursing students to earn three years of a bachelor’s degree at BCC before transferring to a university for the final year.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.