LFCC student piloted new specialization

Colleen Dillon, of Front Royal, will graduate this weekend from Lord Fairfax Community College with an Associate of Arts & Sciences Degree in General Studies: Human Services Specialization. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – While studying at Lord Fairfax Community College, Colleen Dillon discovered and dug into a field that she felt like she fit into.

Dillon, a Front Royal resident, will be a candidate for an Associates of Arts & Sciences degree at LFCC’s commencement ceremony on Saturday. She’s one of two individuals graduating with the college’s new General Studies: Human Services specialization.

Dillon said she began studying business right out of high school, but later realized that field wasn’t for her.

“I just wasn’t quite sure what I wanted,” she said. “I was young, I didn’t really know, I didn’t have a lot of experience with life.”

After taking a break and working a number of jobs, Dillon decided to go back to school and returned to LFCC in January 2015 to finish her two-year degree. Seeing a flier for the specialization in human services, she decided to take the intro course and give it a try.

“When I was working at the different places, I guess I got to know myself very well and I realized what I was good at and what I was comfortable with,” she said. “I was really good with communicating with people and helping people. … I liked working with people and I liked listening and helping to try and solve their problems.”

She said she had already felt out her talents in previous classes and enjoyed her time working as a residential counselor for a Northwestern Community Services group home since March 2015.

The coordinated internship portion of LFCC’s program particularly interested her, and Dillon earned her credits while interning with Winchester City Social Services. While she said she isn’t going to pursue that career path, she learned plenty from the social workers she’d been around.

Although she said she’s narrowed her focus within human services, the variety of opportunities was part of what drew her to the specialization.

“You could work as a social worker, you could work in hospice, you could work in the probation or the parole office, you could do school counseling,” she said. “It’s very broad, which is kind of why I wanted to start there.”

In the fall, Dillon will be starting the online-based distance learning program at Old Dominion University to earn a Bachelor of Human Services degree. That program will require another internship, and she estimated she might be able to complete the program in a year.

“It’s all online and I’m kind of just getting introduced to that,” she said. “I’m kind of learning as I go.”

Beyond that, she said she’ll be looking to earn a master’s degree, considering developing her expertise in mental health or school counseling.

“I’ve already decided that I’m just going to keep going,” she said. “I have a long road ahead of me, but I’m very excited to look forward to it.”

Dillon said that many of her fellow students were just getting an initial exposure to the world of human services, but encouraged those who might be interested to look into the field.

“I just really hope that the program takes off,” she said. “I think human services is a very important thing that society needs, and I think that the more people are aware of it … is going to be really helpful.”

The commencement ceremony for around 1,000 LFCC candidates will occur at 1 p.m. Saturday in Skyline High School’s gymnasium.

Rebekah Pennington, who will be receiving her Career Certificate in Phlebotomy, will speak to those gathered at commencement. While part of the Forensics Team, Pennington contributed to an LFCC first place win at a competition at Wilkes University and earned an individual award in 2015. She now serves as a coach for the team.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com