Rio graduates include first
from McArthur Center

University of Rio Grande graduates (second from left, from left) Brittany Haislop, Brandi Pinkstock and Amanda Fretus celebrate with Rio Grande Community College Transitions Coordinator Jake Bapts following Saturday’s 137th Commencement on the Rio Grande campus.

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Countless milestones have been reached since then-Rio Grande College first opened its doors in 1876.

Whether it was Bevo Francis’ 113 points in a single game in 1952, the addition of Rio Grande Community College in 1974, the formal name change to the University of Rio Grande in 1988, the 2003 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship or the addition of an MBA Program in 2008, Rio Grande remains a pioneer in higher education and catalyst for economic growth.

Saturday’s 137th Commencement continued both of those traditions in the form of Vinton County residents Amanda Fretus, Michael Gilliland, Brittany Haislop and Brandi Pinkstock – the first Rio Grande graduates produced by the McArthur Center, which opened its doors in 2010.

“It’s incredible. I can’t even put into words the feeling,” Rio Grande Transitions Coordinator Jake Bapst said. “We started this project with 14 students the first year; we have 132 now, and our first graduates.”

All four members of Rio’s Class of 2013 earned an Associate’s Degree in Business Management, and each already has enrolled in fall classes to begin working toward a Bachelor’s Degree.

While each journey is unique, they all began at 307 West High Street in McArthur. Whether they were the third student to ever register for classes at the McArther Center like Pinkstock, or a 2011 Vinton County High graduate, the key ingredients were accessibility and affordability.

“It was close and handy,” Haislop said. “I had to go one day a week for three hours, instead of three days a week for one hour each. So it saved a lot of money, because I only live two blocks away.”

Haislop said she would have attended the Rio Grande campus had the McArthur Center not opened back in 2010. But she acknowledged the added convenience is critical for many of her classmates.

“We started the semester with 132 students, and probably 120 of them would never have been enrolled in college if we weren’t here,” Bapst said. “Transportation is a large part of that. Many of our students are first generation students; higher education just hasn’t been very accessible to a lot of folks in Vinton County. But we’re making it possible for them through the McArthur Center.”

Similar to the Rio Grande campus, the McArthur Center also maintains an intimate environment in which every student can get the one-on-one attention they need, whether that is with a professor or an advisor.

The benefits of higher education to Vinton County thanks to the McArthur Center, however, extend far beyond each individual student.

“The McArthur Center serves as an economic generator for all of Vinton County,” said Rebecca Long, Vice President of Administration for Rio Grande Community College. “Each student not only gains confidence in their own abilities and learns the tools to make a better life for themselves, but they inspire generations of others to do the same through example.

“Rio Grande’s Class of 2013 included four graduates from the McArthur Center,” Long continued. “Twenty years from now, maybe that number tops a hundred. Just imagine what that would mean to the economic stability of Vinton County.”