May 2023 Central Connection

May 2, 2023

Central Community College students who attended the Phi Theta Kappa All-State Academic Team luncheon were Jessica Goodrich of Kearney and Brandon Berger and Allison Durkop, both of Columbus.

Students named to all-state academic team

Six Central Community College students were named to the 2023 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Nebraska All-State Academic Team April 12 in a ceremony at the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln.

The all-state academic team is an effort sponsored by PTK, an international honor society for two-year colleges, and the Nebraska Community College Association to honor students for academic achievement, leadership and community service.

The team included the following CCC students:

Brandon Berger of Columbus is an information technology networking major at the Columbus Campus where he is vice president of scholarship for the PTK Chi Sigma chapter, vice president of the SkillsUSA chapter and an information technology tutor. He has been named to the president’s honors list for earning a 4.0 GPA each semester and received the Exceptional Student Award for information technology and systems. He will enter Wayne State College this fall to pursue a degree in network engineering.

Challen Edwards of Hastings is enrolled in the drafting and design technology program at the Hastings Campus where is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. He has earned a place on the president’s honors list the last three semesters for earning a 4.0 GPA. After he earns his degree, he plans to move to Lincoln where he will start a job at Olsson, an engineering firm.

Allison Durkop of Creston is enrolled in the academic transfer program at the Columbus Campus where she is active in the PTK Chi Sigma chapter, serving as its vice president of service, and as earned a spot on the dean’s and president’s honors lists. She also is an active volunteer in her community. She plans to attend Wayne State College this fall to pursue a degree in elementary education.

Jessica Goodrich of Amherst is enrolled in the nursing program at the Kearney Center and is a member of the PTK Alpha Tau Tau chapter and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She has been named to the college’s Dean’s list for earning a GPA between 3.5 and 3.99 for four semesters. She volunteers for various activities in Minden with her family. After graduating from CCC, she plans to work toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Aaron Hernandez of Hastings is enrolled in the automotive technology program at the Hastings Campus and is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. He has maintained a high GPA for the past five semesters at CCC. He plans to move to Lincoln and work at an automotive dealership.

Zaya Stuart of Henderson is enrolled in the academic transfer program at the Hastings Campus where she is a member of the PTK Beta Alpha Delta chapter. She has maintained a high GPA throughout her time at CCC. She plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to work toward a degree in business administration.

CCC commencements to be held May 5

Central Community College will hold commencement ceremonies at its Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings campuses on May 5.

CCC will livestream all three ceremonies at

The keynote speakers will be this year’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipients.

Grand Island Campus

The Grand Island Campus commencement will begin at 10 a.m. at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island.

Jannelle Seim of Aurora will be the keynote speaker.

She received an associate of arts degree from CCC-Grand Island in 2001. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Bellevue University in 2005 and a master’s degree in management from Doane College in 2008.

Seim’s career first focused on social service work with South Central Behavioral Services, CCC-Hastings and Nebraska State Probation-District 5. In 2016, she made a change and went to work at Hamilton Telecommunications where she is the chief administrative officer. She is part of the executive team that supports the company’s strategic initiatives and works closely with its board of directors and shareholders.

A passion for economic development led her to serve as president of the Aurora Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) and Aurora Construction Enterprises since 2018. She worked with Hamilton County community leaders to establish a $2 million revolving workforce housing fund, made possible by $750,000 of local donations and $1.25 million in grants from the 2020 Rural Workforce Housing Fund and Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. To date, the fund has resulted in a 59-lot subdivision, eight townhomes and 12 single-family homes in Aurora, Hampton and Phillips.

In 2023, AHDC raised an additional $500,000 in funds and applied for an additional $1 million in Rural Workforce Housing Funds, which if funded, will expand rental properties in Aurora, continue building single-family houses in Phillips, and start focusing on housing in Hordville.

Seim and her husband, Anthony, have two sons.

Hastings Campus

The Heartland Events Center in Grand Island also will be the site for the Hastings Campus commencement at 3 p.m.

Brent and Andrea Winfield of Hampton will be the keynote speakers.

Both Winfields graduated from CCC-Hastings in 2009 with associate of arts degrees. Andrea went on to also earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Hastings College.

They are owners of Aurora Meat Block, which they bought in January 2014. It is a custom processor and retailer of meats and specialty products, and they have continued to grow the business every year they’ve owned it.

In June 2020, they purchased a food trailer and opened Winfield Sweets N Eats, which offers baked goods and a variety of meal options as well as catering.

Both businesses stay busy throughout the year. So do Brent and Andrea, who not only thrive as business owners but also as the parents of three daughters, 5 and 3 years old and nearly 11 months old.

Columbus Campus

The Columbus Campus commencement will be held at 7 p.m. in the Physical Education Center.

Marci Ostmeyer of Osceola will be the keynote speaker.

She earned an associate of arts degree from CCC-Columbus before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade administration from UNK.

She began her career as a fourth-grade teacher but later made the transition into teaching middle school and high school mathematics.

Today, Ostmeyer is the professional development director at Educational Service Unit 7 in Columbus and coordinates its efforts in supporting the 19 public schools in the ESU’s service area. As the ESU’s math specialist, she also helps school district teachers and administrators improve the teaching of mathematics and select high quality instructional materials.

She has been active at the state level as a member of the 2009 and 2015 Nebraska Math Standards revision teams and several Nebraska Department of Education committees. Since 2009, she has held numerous positions as a board member for the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics. Nationally, she was tapped to serve on committees for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is the chair of its Membership and Affiliate Relations Committee.

She received the 2008 Pinnacle Bank Teacher of the Year at Cross County Community Schools and the 2019 Donald W. Miller Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the improvement of mathematics education in Nebraska.

She and her husband, Rance, have three children and five grandchildren.

Pure poetry

Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason visited Central Community College on April 3 to share his writing. Through the U.S. State Department, he has run poetry programs in Botswana, Romania, Nepal and Belarus. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Nebraska Arts Council. His work can be found in The New York Times and American Life in Poetry and on NPR’s Morning Edition. Mason’s fourth book, “At the Corner of Fantasy and Main: Disneyland, Midlife and Churros,” was released by The Old Mill Press in 2022.

Christensen receives award from PTK

Dr. Kelly Christensen of Kearney, vice president of community and workforce education at Central Community College, was one of 30 individuals from across the U.S. to receive the Distinguished College Administrator Award from Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society.

The award was presented at the PTK annual convention April 20-22 in Columbus, Ohio. It recognizes college administrators who work directly with student leaders to solve problems on campus and in their communities. They have taken an active interest in supporting high-achieving students and developing student leaders.

“These college administrators are beloved on campus – they know students by name and by circumstance,” PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner said. “This award is special because it comes directly from the students, and it is evidence of the gratitude they feel for the support for them and students like them.”

During his 24 years of experience at CCC, Christensen has served as an associate dean of instruction, associate dean of extended learning services, dean of training and workforce development and most recently as administrator of the college’s Kearney Center.

He is a graduate of Leadership Nebraska, Leadership Hastings and Leadership Kearney and is a member of the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, University of Nebraska-Kearney Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development Advisory Council and Nebraska Safety Center Advisory Board.

PTK is an international honor society for students in two-year colleges that is dedicated to helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. It has more than 3.8 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 countries.

Columbus chamber gives Rieger a (standing) Ovation

Karin Rieger, associate dean of community and workforce education at Central Community College-Columbus, received the Ovation Award April 27 at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce annual celebration.

The award is given annually to a woman who supports the goals of professional women and provides assistance on their behalf.

At CCC, Rieger has been instrumental in the growth of the Early College program and co-founded several events, including the Women’s Conference, Tomorrow Leaders Today and Community Builders, a regional effort to share learning among communities.

Her community service has included board terms for the Columbus Public Schools Foundation, Platte Valley Humane Society Endowment and the Center for Survivors. She has served in many roles at Peace Lutheran Church and has reached emeritus status as a Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Commodore.

She co-chaired Taste of Columbus in 2020, she served as activities co-chair for the Cattlemen’s Ball in Columbus in 2021; and was part of a volunteer team that raised over $1.57 million to fund cancer research at the Fred and Pamela Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha.

Rieger was in the inaugural class of Leadership Columbus and is is the current chair of the Columbus Days “Running of the Frankfurters Dachshund Race.”

In 2021, she received the League of Excellence Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College in recognition of her involvement in the National Endowment of the Humanities grant, Central Honors Institute camp for high ability learners and the Verizon Innovation STEM Learning grant.

She was recognized for her community engagement as Queen Isabella in 2018,  received the Charles Farnham Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016 and was named the 2015 Columbus Area United Way Outstanding Volunteer and the 1997 CCC-Columbus Employee of the Year.

Spirit Award goes to Hill

Amy Hill of Lexington has received the 2023 Spirit Award at Central Community College-Grand Island.

The award recognizes Grand Island, Holdrege, Kearney and Lexington employees who make a significant contribution to CCC, focusing on service above and beyond what is considered a normal part of their job description.

Hill is regional director of community and workforce education at CCC-Lexington, but she works with many college departments and divisions, including Early College, Adult Education, student services and enrollment services. Her responsibilities include probationary students, Follett Campus Bookstore and even snow removal.

“And she does it all with a thoughtful, collaborative, serving attitude,” a nominator said. “At the Lexington Center, they do a lot with a little.”

“Amy Hill wears many hats at Central Community College,” another nominator said. “She works with students from all different backgrounds, many where English is not their first language and works tirelessly to help them navigate our college.  Her impact on the college and our students is widespread.”

Freelend, Friesen to retire

The end of the spring semester at Central Community College also marks the beginning of retirement for the following employees:

Nick Freelend

Nick Freelend of Marquette is the student activities director and an academic advisor at CCC-Grand Island.

He started work at CCC on Jan. 5, 1988, as an admissions counselor, with responsibility for student activities soon following.

His work experience includes a year at Wolbach High School where he taught history and six years at Kenesaw Public Schools where he was a guidance counselor. He also helped with high school football and basketball and junior high basketball and taught English, social studies and physical education classes.

Freelend is a Central City High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and history education from Wayne State College and a master’s degree in counseling from Kearney State College.

His community activities have included chairing the Hall County Relay for Life, organizing the Scholarship Scramble and volunteering for the Nebraska State Fair. He also is an active member of Heartland Evangelical Free Church in Central City.

At CCC, he’s proudest of Santa for Central, the Giving Tree, Warm Coats for Warm Hearts, and the food and hygiene pantry, all of which benefit students in need and their families. Of the Halloween Kids Party, he said: “It’s been going on for 35 years. It’s been fun to see these people grow up and then come back with their own kids.”

Freelend and his wife, Becky, have three children.

Gene Friesen

Gene Friesen of Hastings has been a manufacturing drafting and design technology instructor at CCC-Hastings since Aug. 20, 1999.

Prior to joining the CCC staff, he had worked for 19 years in industry. He was a drafter at Behlen Manufacturing in Columbus and then at Century Manufacturing in Aurora and finally a toolmaker at Fu-Tek Machine and Tooling in Alda.

Friesen is a graduate of Henderson High School who went on to earn two associate of applied science degrees from CCC-Hastings, the first in drafting and the second in machine tool technology. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Bellevue University.

In retirement, he plans to pursue his favorite pastimes: hunting (especially bow hunting), fishing, camping and traveling. His goal is to get a summer job, perhaps in 2024, at Yellowstone or Teton national park.

News briefs

Good Grief!

Charlie Brown (Jonah Felix of Alma) and Lucy Van Pelt (Natalie Kuehl of Loup City) bicker as only they can in the Central Community College-Columbus production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” April 13-16.

Heartwell Renewables funds scholarships

Heartwell Renewables, a partnership between Cargill and the Love’s Family of Companies, has made a $100,000 donation for scholarships for students in career and technical sciences programs at Central Community College-Hastings.

Heartwell Renewables is building a processing facility adjacent to CCC-Hastings that is expected to be operational by the summer of 2024. Once open, it plans to employ nearly 100 people and produce 80 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel each year.

“As neighbors, not only do we share a property line, but we also share a commitment to advancing innovation and knowledge in the Hastings community and beyond,” said Rocky DeMello, Heartwell senior operations adviser. “We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to continued collaboration in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

“Heartwell Renewables has been a great partner to work with and we are looking forward to a collaborative relationship for many years to come,” said Hastings Campus President Dr. Chris Waddle.

More than 50 career and technical science students will benefit from the scholarships over the next three years. Preference will be given to students in financial need or who are first-generation students or single parents.

CCC Foundation announces challenge gift

The Central Community College Foundation has announced a $250,000 challenge gift for the Pirnie Inclusive Playground at Ryder Park project in Grand Island. Two anonymous donors provided the funds to be matched dollar for dollar by community donors. When the full amount is reached, fundraising for the $2.6 million project will be complete.

“I know our community will step up to match the $250,000 anonymous gift,” said CCC Foundation executive director Traci Skalberg. “We are so close to making the Pirnie Inclusive Playground at Ryder Park a reality for Grand Island.”

Groundbreaking for the 27,000-square-foot playground is scheduled for late July and expected to open in the fall. The playground will offer experiences for three stages of development. The concept originated with CCC occupational therapy assistant students, who were challenged to design a community project that would increase the mobility and quality of life for individuals unable to participate fully in daily activities due to physical or psychological limitations.

In addition to the CCC Foundation, project partners include the City of Grand Island and the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation.

Culinary students involved in a Mingle with Cultures event included Maddie Crome of Greeley and Ella Collins of Hastings.

Event offers chance to sample cultures

More than 12 different cultural food items were on the menu for students and employees to sample April 20 at Central Community College-Hastings.

The “Mingle with Cultures” event was planned and created by hospitality management students Taylor Henderson of Grand Island and Tina Park of Hastings. As part of the event planning program, they applied for and received a mini-grant, and hospitality management and culinary arts instructors Kimberly Milovac and Ronnie O’Brien helped them line things up.

The food was paired with several activities. FOCUS hosted La Loteria for prizes, broadcasting students did a live broadcast over the 88.1 radio station, and the hospitality management students held “find your surname” and map pinning activities.

“It was a successful event,” Milovac said. “We had food and candy from all over the world and students had the opportunity to learn about other cultures.”

Pictured are other Mingle with Cultures participants Hayley Fitzgerald of Kenesaw and Coby Ward of Nelson (in the left photo). Event planners were Taylor Henderson and Tina Park (in the right photo).

Employee news

Columbus Campus

Larry “Pudge” Ray Funkhouser, 85, of Shelby died April 16 at Annie Jeffrey Memorial County Hospital in Osceola.

Services were held April 22 with inurnment in the Shelby Cemetery. Military rites were provided by Shelby Legion Post 296.

He was born Nov. 14, 1937, to Clarence E. and Edna K. (Mahnken) Funkhouser on a farm in rural Shelby.

After graduating from Shelby High School, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1956. He was stationed in Argentina and Newfoundland where he served as an electronics technician. He received a Good Conduct Medal and was honorably discharged in 1962.

He had worked as a section man for the Union Pacific Railroad and as a radar technician for McDonald-Douglas in St. Louis before coming to work in 1988 as a building service technician at the Columbus Campus. He retired in from the college in 2000.

He married Carolyn L. Hartig on June 20, 1984, in Osceola.

He was a member of the Shelby Legion Post.

Survivors include a stepson, sister, two step-grandchildren and four step-great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, parents and three brothers.

Dubas Funeral Home of Osceola and Stromsburg was in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be given to the family to be designated later.

Grand Island Campus

Rachel Brown has resigned as a mathematics instructor.

Criminal justice instructor Michael David has been named director of the criminal justice program.

Jamie Dennis has shifted positions from Library Resource Center assistant to admissions technician.

New full-time employees include Alexandria “Allie” Remm, admissions recruiting coordinator, and Pamela Swinarski, student accounts scheduling technician.

Hastings Campus

Jennifer Arlt-Nikkila has joined the staff as Academic Success Center coordinator.

Jason Davis, associate dean of community and workforce education, has been approved as a new member of the Board of Directors for the United Way of South Central Nebraska.

Gail Huffman has resigned as a custodian and is beginning her retirement.

Alex Rodriguez has shifted positions from truck driver trainer and heavy equipment operator to full-time truck driver trainer.