November 2022 Central Connection

November 2, 2022

New pathway opens doors to good careers

By Scott Miller
Senior Director of College Communications

Central Community College has been selected by the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation to establish a Walter Scott Jr. Career Pathway Scholarship at CCC-Hastings. The foundation has made an initial reviewable commitment of more than $6 million over the next decade for this one-of-a-kind program.

“We are excited to partner with Central Community College to deliver one of the most comprehensive scholarship programs in the state of Nebraska,” said Calvin Sisson, president and CEO of the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation. “The foundation is committed to supporting youth through higher education and developing the next generation of leaders for a skilled and talented workforce. Walter Scott Jr. believed that investing in young people through scholarships is one of the finest investments we can make as a society. We are proud to invest in the education of CCC students who strengthen communities and ultimately our state.”

The innovative program will annually provide up to 50 students in skilled technology programs with the opportunity for a full scholarship that covers tuition, fees and room and board. Additional amenities include an on-campus living and learning environment and program enrichment activities throughout the year. Student support and career placement will be coordinated by a full-time director dedicated to the program.

“This life-changing program will allow hundreds of skilled technology students to make positive impacts throughout Nebraska,” said CCC President Dr. Matt Gotschall. “Our faculty, staff and administration are grateful for this opportunity to implement the shared vision with this generous donor.”

The ultimate outcome is for the students to complete a paid internship, receive a career and technical education credential and be placed in a high-demand, high-wage and high-skill position within six months of completion, with no or minimal debt.

“Central Community College is thrilled to partner with the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation on this unique opportunity,” said Alison Feeney, CCC associate dean of skilled technology. “This partnership will allow students, who otherwise could not afford college or the complete residential experience to fill needed positions in the central Nebraska workforce.”

The first selection of 25 students will occur by January and another 25 students by August 2023. Scholarship recipients can choose from these programs: advanced manufacturing design technology; auto body technology; automotive technology; construction technology; diesel technology; drafting and design technology; electrical technology; energy technology; heating, air conditioning and refrigeration; heavy equipment operator technician; and welding technology.

Conference to focus on regenerative ag

The Central Nebraska Regenerative Ag Conference will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Tassel Performing Arts Center in Holdrege.

Sponsors are Green Cover, Central Community College and UNL Extension. Featured speaker Gabe Brown is a North Dakota ranch owner and operator and author of “Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture.”

The conference will give ag producers the opportunity to learn how to adapt to changing markets, reduce input costs and improve conservation practices.

The cost is $15 through Nov. 14 and $25 after that date.

Big Idea Grand Island was big success

Hayley Royle of 29th Design, a website design business, gave the winning pitch at the first-ever Big Idea Grand Island on Oct. 27 at Kincaider Brewing Company.

The competition was patterned after the TV show, “Shark Tank.” Aspiring entrepreneurs had two minutes to pitch their business to a panel of judges and a live audience.

 29th Design received $5,000 for winning first place. The other winning pitches were given by Brenda Kay for Flthy (correct spelling) Hair Mobile Salon, a mobile hair salon, second place, and Fouad Mhadji Issa, for Koponi Vanilla, a manufacturer of extract, paste and syrup made from vanilla beans, third place.

“Big Idea Grand Island was a tremendous success,” said Sara Bennett, director of Central Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center in downtown Grand Island.

She expected eight idea submissions and 75 people to attend, but received 19 submissions, of which 10 were pitched live, and an estimated audience of 150 people.

“The amount of support we received from sponsors, volunteers, people interested in the event and general supporters far exceeded our expectations,” Bennett said. “We are so grateful that the community of Grand Island took great interest in our first event.”

The photo for this story shows Hayley Royle (left), who gave the winning pitch for her company, 29th Design, at Big Idea Grand Island Oct. 17 at Kincaider Brewing Company. Here she poses with Sara Bennett, CCC’s entrepreneurship director, and a really big check. (Photo by Scott Miller)

Virtual horizons
Colleen Vetick (far right), instructional technology specialist at Central Community College-Columbus, gives a tour of the new extended reality lab to the CCC Board of Governors on Oct. 20. The lab has 12 Oculus virtual reality stations, a MultiTaction wall and other innovative, challenging and fun technology. You can see the lab and the rest of the new Center for Science and Technology at an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 29.

Apprenticeships benefit student, company

By Joni Ransom
Chief of Staff

Central Community College Apprenticeship Director Catrina Gray has spent the last two years being a bit of an apprentice herself.

Since accepting the position in November 2020, she has been learning the ins and outs of the program she now oversees.

“They (the college) had an idea of what they wanted the program to look like,” she said. “I needed to figure out how to do it.”

Gray started with her existing contacts at CCC and area businesses and industries, but made her most consequential call to the Nebraska Department of Labor (DOL).

“They were nice enough to let me join almost every meeting,” she said. “I took every opportunity to learn as much as I could.”

She also invited DOL employees to her first informational meetings so they could give her feedback or hop in if she didn’t know the answer.

“I don’t know how else I would have learned all I did without them,” she said.

Gray’s meetings took her to classrooms, workplaces and communities to talk to CCC students, current employees wanting to advance in their companies, and job seekers unaffiliated with CCC or any company.

In April 2021, the first companies, CNH and A & E Electric, registered for CCC’s apprenticeship program. This set the stage for the college to join the state’s registered apprenticeship system and then to launch its first pilot in August 2021 with four apprentices, two working at each company.

The program now boasts eight companies and 15 apprentices with three more in the application process. To qualify, students must pass a drug test, have at least a 2.0 GPA and make a commitment to the company of one to four years, depending on the occupation.

In return, the company agrees to provide a mentor and pay for the apprentice’s education. Each week, the apprentice works 25 hours and attends school seven hours for a 32-hour paycheck with benefits. These wages usually fall between $22 and $26, Gray said, and apprentices are eligible for raises, too.

“Apprenticeships are a learn-and-earn program that helps employers retain and sustain their workforce,” she said.

Helping apprentices be successful, though, sometimes goes beyond the classroom or the workplace. Gray works with CCC and community resources when students need help with such things as food, transportation and day care.

“Many of the students are trying to transfer into the middle class,” Gray said. “It’s rewarding to be able to help them up.”

The program was perfect for Eric Orozco, who loves to weld. He’s a welding major at CCC-Grand Island who, for almost a year now, has also worked as a welder at Chief Fabrication, making parts for Case IH and John Deere combines.

“I’m welding all the time,” he said. “I learn something every day.”

He encourages other students to look into the apprenticeship program. “It’s pretty good. If they know what their job’s going to be and they like it, I’d tell them to go for it.”

Apprenticeship participants


  • COLUMBUS: Valmont.
  • GRAND ISLAND: Chief Building, Chief Drafting, Chief Fabrication, CNH Welding and Standard Iron.
  • HASTINGS: A & E Electrical.
  • LINDSAY: Lindsay Corporation.


The apprentices are all Central Community College-Grand Island students. Listed with their hometown and major, they are:

  • ALDA: John Orozco and Tyler Zeman, welding technology.
  • DANNEBROG: Elisha Carlson, welding technology.
  • GRAND ISLAND: Francisco Garcia and Anai Torres, drafting and design technology, and Devin Fischer, Brian Gonzales, Justin Heston, Eric Orozco, Francisco Pano, Jaymes Quick, welding technology.
  • KEARNEY: Hunter Cox, welding technology.
  • LEXINGTON: Lisandro Baten Madrid, electrical technology.

Central Community College-Lexington is where Angela Elfgren, adult education coordinator, helps Afghans like Fahimullah Tanai and Laiq Lakanwall who are moving into the community. (Photo by Joni Ransom)

Center check-in: Afghans find a home in Lexington

By Joni Ransom
Chief of Staff

For most of us, getting on an airplane is a good thing. We’re going to visit family or take a vacation with friends. It’s not a matter of life and death.

But it was for Laiq Lakanwall, 34, and Fahimullah Tanai, 20.

The two Afghans’ lives were thrown into turmoil by the withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces from Afghanistan, which ended a war that began in 2001 but led to the collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces and the takeover of the country by the Taliban.

That withdrawal set Lakanwall and Tanai on their journeys to Lexington, Nebraska. They took different routes, but for them both, leaving Afghanistan meant a single destination: Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Lakanwall’s short hair and shaved face easily identified him as a member of the Afghan military where he had served as an interpreter and trainer in a joint operation with U.S. special forces. The Taliban was searching for people just like him.

“It was a difficult moment, but the Taliban was looking in every car and at every person,” he said about his decision to walk for two to three hours from his home to the airport. “It was better to walk.”

From there, Lakanwall flew to Qatar, where he spent 15 or 16 days before leaving for the U.S. He landed in Washington, D.C., and then was sent to a military base in Indiana. During the several months he was there, he became a leader to his 600 fellow building mates.

“I tried to help them with their problems, their issues,” he said. “If they were sick, needed clothes, I helped as much as I could.”

He moved to Nebraska because a colonel living in Mason City found him a job at the Eaton Corporation in Kearney and even booked his tickets. Lakanwall worked there for several months before moving to Lexington where he now processes knives for Tyson Foods.

Tanai’s ticket out of Afghanistan was his father, who also worked for the Afghan military. When the withdrawal happened, his father told him to leave their home in a coastal city and come to Kabul. When he got to the airport, he had to wait outside with many other people seeking to leave Afghanistan.

“I had to wait my turn,” said Tanai, who was admitted into the airport on the last day. Like Lakanwall, he went to Qatar first but also spent a few days in Germany before flying to Washington, D.C. He spent six months in Wisconsin and one month in Kansas before moving to Lexington where he works as an interpreter at Tyson Foods.

“There wasn’t a national plan, so we didn’t know they (Afghan asylum seekers and refugees) were making their way to Lexington but we’re a welcoming place,” said Angela Elfgren, adult education coordinator at Central Community College-Lexington.

She has often been the first point of contact for the 50 or more Afghans who began arriving in April, and not just for education. She directs them to the appropriate agencies who can help them with food assistance, housing and other needs. These agencies include  the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, workforce development, the housing authority and other community partners.

Elfgren also helps translate forms so they can understand their content.

She said Lakanwall and Tanai are in the minority of Afghans who are educated.

But sometimes acclimation needs to be even more basic. The Afghans who lived in remote villages, for example, may not have had electricity or indoor plumbing, so they must be shown how to use a washer and dryer.

“Some of villages are so deep in the mountains that it’s impossible for kids to go to school,” she said. “They aren’t even reading and writing in their own language.” That language would be Pashto or Dari, depending on where they lived in Afghanistan.

“We start with ESL (English as a Second Language) and GED classes,” Elfgren said. “Once they get their GED, we get them into college. They’re excited to be here, to be learning.”

Lakanwall, who was a medical technician in the army, wants to continue improving his English. His goal is to continue the occupation he had in Afghanistan and work in medical science.

“I wanted to come to college so I can be something in the future,” Tanai said. That something may be in the science or computer field.

They also are working to bring family members still living in Afghanistan to the U.S. Tanai’s father and brother are both in the U.S., but his mother and two sisters remain in their home country. So do Lakanwall’s wife and five children. In the meantime, they keep in touch through Facebook.

Their feelings about Afghanistan are as deep and complex as the country’s history and culture.

Tanai spoke with pride about Afghanistan being rich in its natural resources. “Allah made it very good with mountains and water,” he said. “A lot of countries have tried to come in, but our people are very brave. They don’t want to be beaten.”

Still, in the waning days of America’s presence in Afghanistan, Tanai began to fear that he would be killed on his way to school. “The Taliban doesn’t want people to live in peace,” he said.

Lakanwall agreed. He joined the military in high school after witnessing a bomb blast by an enemy of Afghanistan. He supported the Afghanistan government because it was trying “to make everything better for everyone,” whether it concerned schools, businesses or hospitals.

That was changed by the Taliban, which wants to dictate what makes a Muslim. “Don’t wear modern dress; otherwise, you’re not Muslim,” Lakanwall said, “but Muslim is in your heart and mind, not by power, not by killing.”

But Lakanwall and Tanai have found a new home in Lexington.

Tanai likes the fact it’s a smaller town. “It’s not so hard to find a clinic or things you need,” he said.

For Lakanwall, Lexington provides a lot of opportunity for working and studying. “Our skin, our ideas are a little different,” he said. “But we are human, not something different.”

(The additional photos for this story show Afgans in the classroom at CCC-Lexington. One class is learning their ABCs while the other class is learning when to use “There isn’t” and “There aren’t.” Photos by Angela Elfgren)

Campus efforts earn arboretum’s praise

Central Community College-Hastings has received the 2022 Affiliate Excellence Award from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA).

The award recognizes excellence in plant collection diversity, maintenance practices and community engagement among NSA’s Arboretum and Landscape Steward Affiliates.

The Hastings Campus grounds- keeping team is overseen by groundskeeping supervisor Aaron Thiessen. His team consists of Brodey Hinson, Sheila James, Brandon Karmazin, Steve Kulek and Riley Larsen.

The award will be presented at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 4 at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln.

Individuals attending the Mid-Nebraska Tree and Landscape Workshop on Oct. 18 at Central Community College-Hastings learned about tree selection, establishment, health and diseases; multipurpose landscapes; plant identification; and drought-tolerant lawns. (Photo by Jordan Janssen)
Left: Isaac Lopez from Branching Out Tree Service in Hastings begins his climb at an Arborist Safety Training Institute on Oct. 17 at the Hastings Campus. (Photo by Jordan Janssen) Right: Groundskeeping staff member Riley Larsen and supervisor Aaron Thiessen plant an Aescus Galbraith tree (also known as an Ohio Buckeye) on Sept. 28 near Greeley Hall. It is one of 10 free trees the campus received through a grant from the Nebraska Forest Service and Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. (Photo by Travis Songster)

Turnout was strong for the Central Community College-Columbus production of “Charlotte’s Web” Oct. 20-22 in the Fine Arts Theater.

The play, under the direction of theater instructor Stephanie Tschetter, was adapted by Joseph Robinette from E.B. White’s book. It’s about the friendship Charlotte the spider forms with Wilbur the pig after he is shunned by the other barnyard animals. When Wilbur discovers he is being raised for slaughter, Charlotte sets out to save his life by weaving words and short phrases praising the pig into her web.

In the top photo, Natalie Kuehl of Loup City and Brayden Rocha of Schuyler portray the budding relationship between, respectively, Charlotte and Wilbur. In the other photo, Jonah Felix of Alma plays the trickster rat, Templeton.

Other cast members were Johnathan True of Arcadia; Brianne Steager of Brainard; Julia Davidchik, Christa Eschliman, Jazmine Gdowski, Landri Haferland, Conner Heesacker, Caitlin McKee, Jessica Reiff and Parker Wilshusen of Columbus; Kris Retzlaff of Elba; Jakob MacCann of Fairfield; Bailey Rhynalds of North Bend; Eli Noyd of Rising City; and Lilli Reisser of Enger, Germany.

Crew members were Ayanna Morales of Columbus, Jayden Bollig of David City; Jackson Pedersen of Greeley; Christian Montague of Lincoln; and Taylor Sizemore of Omaha. Cast members Jonah Felix and Jessica Reiff also served on the crew.

Employee news

Columbus Campus

A bit belatedly: Karl Anderson was promoted to a full-time position as director of plastic injection molding this summer. He had worked part-time at CCC since 2019.

Three employees have shifted into new positions: Doug Hann, from information technology services specialist to events coordinator; Lora Hastreiter, from health programming director to admissions director; and Amy Mahoney, from registration and assessment technician to adult education coordinator.

Grand Island Campus

Dakota Jones has joined the staff as a media producer.

Hastings Campus

Dirk Charlson, agriculture instructor, and Sheila James, groundskeeper, have resigned.

English instructor Monica Goodell has transferred to the same position at the Kearney Center.

Brett Wells has joined the staff as the Scott Pathway director.

Pat Sinnard of Hastings has retired as an administrative assistant in the Student Success Center.

She began work at CCC in 1979 as a part-time secretary for the dental hygiene program and was promoted to full-time in 1982. She worked as an administrative assistant for the health occupations department until three years ago.

Prior to joining the CCC staff, she was a homemaker.

She is a graduate of Grand Island Senior High School and earned an associate of applied science degree in secretarial science from CCC.

Sinnard is a member of the First United Methodist Church. She served as secretary on the Hastings Federal Credit Union Board of Directors for 18 years.

She has three sons, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Her husband, Jack, died in 2003.

Kearney Center

Katie Holmes has been promoted from receptionist to student services specialist.