With an unwavering dedication to student success, Virginia Keithley has led Thomas Nelson’s TRiO Student Support Services program since 2005. TRiO, funded by a federal grant, connects students who face economic, social and cultural barriers with the academic and counseling support they need to complete their degrees at Thomas Nelson, then transfer to Ta four-year college or university.
The TRiO program is very important to Keithley, who is active in her state, regional and national TRiO associations and currently serves as the president of the mid-eastern regional association. She also holds a seat on the national TRiO board, which is better known as the Council for Opportunity in Education.
Keithley was unfamiliar with TRiO programs until she was hired as a TRiO counselor at Rappahannock Community College after graduating with a Master’s Degree in Education/Counseling from the College of William & Mary. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Christopher Newport University and an Educational Specialist degree from William & Mary.
At Thomas Nelson, Keithley advises and counsels students form low-income households, those who are first-generation college students, as well as students with disabilities. To the students she advises, she says, “Major in a subject that will lead to a career in which you have a strong passion.
The results will be a rewarding career and the ability to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, leading to joy in life.”
Since coming to Thomas Nelson, Keithley had established a unique TRiO tradition with her staff. During the May graduation, they blow party horns when TRiO students walk across the stage. This began several years ago when a student who had no friends or family coming to their graduation told Keithley that they dreaded the upcoming ceremony. At the commencement, TRiO staff cheered for that student, and all the other students in the program, and the tradition has remained.
“There is no one great accomplishment that stands out in my career. It’s simply the pure joy I receive helping students achieve academic success,” Keithley says.