three people with a big check
Cherry and Hugh Sutton (left) presented a $40,000 donation to Beaufort CCC president Dr. Dave Loope on behalf of the First Annual Belhaven Trout Tournament and Festival.

Belhaven Trout Tournament Donates $40,000 to Beaufort CCC for Marine Scholarships

The Beaufort County Community College Foundation received a $40,000 donation from the First Annual Belhaven Trout Tournament and Festival. The festival took place September 29-30, 2023, in Belhaven with $6,500 in prizes and trophies, a pig cooking contest, and craft vendors. The BCCC Foundation will use the donation to establish a new scholarship for students in boat manufacturing or marine-related programs.

Captain Hugh Sutton of Pungo Charters, LLC, noticed a shift in the balance between recreational fishing and commercial fishing in the Pungo River with the rising popularity of the former. Sutton is a member of the Belhaven Chamber of Commerce and brought the idea to the group to attract new recreational fishing tourists.

“Knowing the great fishing for speckled trout in this area, it seemed that a fishing tournament would be a great fundraiser for this area,” he said. “There were two goals that we wanted to achieve: help local students financially so they can pursue the marine industry and bring people to the Belhaven area to support local businesses.”

Sutton knew about the opportunities at Beaufort CCC for students to start in the marine industry through programs such as boat manufacture and service, welding technology, and industrial sewing and upholstery.

“Helping Beaufort CCC with financial services would not only benefit the students, but also could help with local employment opportunities in the area,” he said. “After touring the new boat building facility, I was amazed with the state-of-the-art technology it has for the students and the hope is to market these assets for growth in the future.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the support that Captain Sutton and the Belhaven Trout Tournament and Festival have provided to our students,” said Serena Sullivan, VP for Institutional Advancement at Beaufort CCC. “The college has crafted programs that benefit our local industries and connects students with solid careers in our region such as the thriving marine industry, and this new scholarship can let them get their education quickly and for free.”

Recent graduates Nate Holden and Parker Van Staalduinen are already working at World Cat, a boat manufacturer in Pitt County, and two current students are working at the company part-time through a work-based learning program. The boat manufacture and service program is a one-year diploma program that teaches students about the entire boat manufacturing process so they can think critically about construction, innovate the process, and make it more efficient. This can make new graduates a commodity for employers.

The college cut the ribbon on its state-of-the-art $2.08 million Boat Manufacturing Center in the center of its campus in October of 2023.

The industrial sewing and upholstery program is a partnership with Diamond N-D Rough in downtown Washington. The third course in the program teaches marine upholstery, a valuable skill for the boat manufacturing process and an essential for skill small-scale reupholstery businesses.

The new scholarship will be available through the BCCC Foundation and is open to any student who plans to enter the marine industry. Students must first complete a FAFSA and fill out a BCCC Foundation scholarship application.

The Second Annual Belhaven Trout Tournament and Festival is scheduled for October 11-12.