Investment initiates program as part of Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative

In rural Clarke County, students and residents face unique challenges that keep them from pursuing higher education or workforce credentials.

Thanks to an investment from Clarke County Board of Supervisors Member, Barbara J. Byrd, a new fund will be created to help them enroll in and complete college and training programs. The gift of $50,000 for the academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 will be matched dollar-for-dollar as a component of the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI).

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In Clarke County, part of Virginia’s Rural Horseshoe, 64% of residents between the ages of 18 to 24 have no post-secondary education or certification, and the high school dropout rate is 13%. The Clarke County Student Success Fund will be used for student incentives and other initiatives to help high school students and college applicants access the programs and resources needed to complete college and training programs.

This investment will pioneer a two-year initiative, carried out by Lord Fairfax Community College as part of the RVHI, focused on the students and residents of Clarke County. RVHI was launched by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) to address the challenges of Virginia’s “Rural Horseshoe.”

“The future of economic growth in rural Virginia is dependent upon an educated citizenry and a trained workforce,” said former Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, who was instrumental in establishing the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative. “By providing additional resources to individuals in these underserved areas and helping them attain higher education and credentials, we help lift up these communities and the Commonwealth as a whole.”

A resident of Clarke County since childhood, Byrd taught art for nine years at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville. She has made history in her community first as the second woman to join the Clarke County Ruritan Club, then in 1999 as the first woman elected to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. She has served as the Supervisor representing the Russell district for nearly 20 years. As a former educator, she has seen firsthand the challenges faced by students and residents of Clarke County in pursuing higher education.

“Mrs. Barbara J. Byrd has a long career in public service and education, and has dedicated her life to making Clarke County a better place to life,” said Jennifer Gentry, Executive Director of the VFCCE. “This gift is just one more example of her generosity and altruism, which will continue to elevate the lives of residents of her community and the Commonwealth for years to come.”

Byrd said that she was motivated to establish the fund after seeing the ways her parents sacrificed and borrowed money in order to send her to college.

“Going through that experience showed me how difficult it is to find the money to cover tuition, housing and other costs,” said Byrd. “Whether it is a vocational/technical education, a 2-year college, or a 4-year college, motivated individuals should be given the opportunity to advance their lives in a positive way.”

Students seeking more information about the program can contact Sherry Pinto, Workforce Career Coach, at 540-869-0754 or

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