Community partnerships, years in the making, have caught the attention of the Virginia Governor’s office with two local associations winning awards.

The Lord Fairfax Community College Career Pathways Consortium on Thursday received one of 13 Governor’s Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Education.

The new award recognizes outstanding educators and leaders, school divisions and community partners across five categories: closing the achievement gap, community partnerships and collaboration, innovation in education, preparing students for the new Virginia economy and supporting school readiness, according to the governors office.

The consortium won in the category of Community Partnerships and Collaboration.

“Over the last four years, my administration has worked hard to reduce the achievement gap, improve accountability, and expand opportunities for career exposure and experimental learning in our public schools. These individuals, schools, divisions, and partners are at the forefront of that effort. I applaud their willingness to think outside the box and boldly try new things,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe stated in a news release.

The Lord Fairfax Community College Career Pathways Consortium is composed of the following public school divisions: Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and Winchester. Its mission to prepare students spurred the creation of programs such the Worlds of Work, in which seventh-graders are able to explore, talk to and make contacts with professionals in career fields they are interested in. Worlds of Work is managed by the Lord Fairfax Community College Career Pathways Consortium, in partnership with Barrett Machine, Inc., Frederick County Economic Development Authority, Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, Winchester Economic Development Authority and the Winchester Group.

The consortium also created the Lord Fairfax Community College Trades Academy and an EMT Academy scheduled to launch in the 2018-2019 school year.

“Advancing career and technical education programs at the secondary and post-secondary levels while maintaining high academic standards for all students is fueling the workforce of the United States,” said Brenda Byard, LFCC dean of Academic, Student Affairs and Outreach, who attended the awards ceremony.

Students today need all the tools available to make good decisions about their futures, she said.

“Today’s employers want employees who can do the job and possess the polish of great communication, critical thinking and initiative,” Byard said.

Shenandoah County Public School divisions shared in the creation, development and ongoing work of the collaborative efforts of the now honored programs, said Shenandoah County Superintendent Mark Johnston.

“The Governor’s Awards for Innovation and Excellence in Education go to show how valuable partnerships are in leveraging opportunities for our students. We are all much stronger together,” Johnston said.

Valley Health System won in the category of Preparing Students for the New Virginia Economy.

Valley Heath supported the school divisions with start-up funding of $300,000 to cover half the cost of a new program instructor for two years as well as on-site opportunities for the students as well as donated equipment. Over the years, divisions were able to add courses, such as Triplett Tech adding Nurse Aide and Introduction to Health Sciences courses.

The funding, while important has been the minor component in comparison to the collaboration. Valley Health has been at the table of the school divisions, higher education, and the workforce to create a more cohesive career pathway for students.

It’s an absolute honor and privilege to receive one of the first Governor’s Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Education,” Mark H. Merrill, Valley Health President and CEO, and co-chairman of the Partnership, stated in a news release. “Our group is singularly focused on creating awareness and interest in a range of healthcare careers, and then creating a pathway for each student to receive the education and guidance to achieve meaningful, gainful employment in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Everyone benefits: Valley Health, area schools and the students.”