April 2024 Central Connection

April 2, 2024

CCC reaches Bellwether Award Top 10

By Scott Miller
College Communications Senior Director

Central Community College was a top 10 finalist for the prestigious Bellwether Award, which was presented at the 2024 Community College Futures Assembly on Feb. 27 in San Antonio, Texas.

The Bellwether Award focuses on innovative programs, efficiencies or practices worthy of replication at other community colleges across the country. Annually, only 10 community colleges are selected as finalists in the workforce development category from applicants in the United States and its territories.

CCC competed with its project, Hands-On Independent Mechatronics Education Curriculum, which focuses on training future workforce in areas such as bioscience, automation and instrumentation. The project consisted of CCC offering four courses from its mechatronics associate of applied science degree program in secondary schools. CCC designed the program to be supported online with local hands-on labs to allow flexible scheduling for students, schools and adjunct mechatronics instructors from industry. For the 2023-24 academic year, 13 area high schools are participating with CCC providing professional development or trainers to secondary and postsecondary teachers from 11 states.

“We are very proud of our staff, instructors and industry partners in helping us be recognized for this program that is offering students in rural Nebraska an opportunity to prepare for high paying mechatronics-related careers with over 800 average job postings each month,” said CCC President Dr. Matt Gotschall.

The four mechatronics courses CCC and its industry and community partners include portable trainers that were built for a fraction of the cost of those typically purchased from vendors. Additionally, two local businesses sponsored their local high schools to ensure each student had their own trainer and some help with the cost of instructional fees. A certified teacher guided the students through the semester. This allows students to earn both high school and college credit. Each facilitator attends 15 days of professional development during the summer.

“Introducing high school students to mechatronics courses at an early age will have a profound and lasting impact on our ability to cultivate a skilled workforce,” said Mick Yrkoski, director of machine and facility engineering for Behlen Manufacturing.

Since the program began in fall 2021, 275 students have enrolled and some 30 percent went on to attend CCC, with nearly 60 percent continuing in mechatronics. Several students received full scholarships from business and industry.

“Three years ago, I was in high school taking dual credit mechatronics courses,” said Ivan Varela, mechatronics student. “I am currently on a full-ride scholarship with Cargill and enrolled at CCC while working part-time as a mechatronics technician.”

Same place, new name
The Central Community College-Grand Island crime house will become the Hornady Crime House in a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on April 18. Also planned are an open house at 4 p.m. and Business After Hours at 5 p.m. at the Riverside Golf Club.

New diploma, certificates at CCC

Central Community College will begin offering a new diploma and four new certificates in the 2024 fall semester.

These are an addiction studies diploma and a behavior technician certificate in the human services program, a phlebotomy certificate in the medical laboratory technician program and retail pharmacy and sterile compounding in the pharmacy technician program.

The human services diploma has two specializations: generalist and drug and alcohol counseling. Paige Denman, human services instructor, said the diploma is geared toward generalist students. Previously, students who pursued the drug and alcohol counseling specialization had to take extra classes and pay for them on their own.

“That didn’t seem right to us, so we took out some of the generalist requirements and added the addiction studies’ requirements so that students could still get this award,” she said. “There is a huge need for drug and alcohol counselors in Nebraska, especially bilingual counselors.”

Denman said the behavior technician certificate is significant because while there are bachelor behavior analyst programs in Nebraska, there are no associate programs. Once the 12-credit-hour course of study is complete, behavior technicians will be prepared to assist the analysts.

The goal of the program is two-fold. “We want to offer a well-rounded education about behavior change and qualify the students for the certification tests,” Denman said. “We also hope to help people have a better quality of life.”

The phlebotomy certificate comes at a critical time as there is a shortage of qualified workers, according to Kerri Dey, associate dean of health sciences. She added that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted the need for phlebotomists would grow by 17 percent from 2019 to 2029.

“And we are finding that as we listen to our industry partners, they are having less time to train on the job, so they are looking for people to help train employees for this field,” Dey said. “This certificate would be the steppingstone into the medical laboratory technician program. Most med lab techs are going to be phlebotomists as well.”

The retail pharmacy certificate will provide the hands-on experience and basic skills required in a retail pharmacy setting. Dey said this certificate is well suited for students in the Grand Island Public Schools pathways program and for those who currently work in a retail setting.

The sterile compounding certificate focuses on the necessary training in preparing medications.

“One of the reasons we started the sterile compounding certificate is because there might be people working in retail who would like to work in a hospital pharmacy but do not know where to find the necessary training,” said Dey. “Another reason is that hospitals could hire retail pharmacy technicians and have them earn certification through CCC’s program.”

News briefs

Colon-Rodriguez honored

Luz Colon-Rodriguez, counseling and prevention education services director at Central Community College-Columbus, was one of four people recognized at the BigIron Realty First Responder and Medical Professional Appreciation Contest.

More than 100 nominations were submitted by Nebraska residents for a first responder or medical professional who touched their lives or who continues to advance in their field.

The honorees each received a $250 gift card.

Rates to stay the same

Central Community College students won’t see an increase in tuition and fees for 2024-25 because the CCC Board of Governors voted to keep tuition at $96 per credit hour and fees at $16 per credit hour during its March 21 meeting.

The board also voted to keep the same rates for food and housing as well as early college for high school students.

Jim R. DeBord Scholarship

Skyler Kent of Hastings and Colton Woodis of Kearney have each received a $1,000 Jim R. DeBord Scholarship. They are students in the heavy equipment operator technician program at Central Community College-Hastings.

The scholarship recognizes Jim DeBord, who worked in the heavy equipment field for more than three decades.

In tribute: West, Thornton, Wiehn, Kranz

Teresa West

Teresa L. West, 67, of Grand Island died March 15 at CHI Health-St. Francis.

Services were March 29 at All Faiths Funeral Home.

She was born on Oct. 7, 1956, in Holdrege to Robert Anderson and Nyla Potratz. She was then adopted by Dean and Joy Potratz but always maintained a strong relationship with her birth mother.

She graduated from Grand Island Senior High and earned two associate of applied science degrees in business and technology from Central Community College-Grand Island.

She was married to Jimmy Bell, with whom she had two sons, Kenny and Timmy. They divorced and she married Gerald "Ray" West on Dec. 29, 2002.

She worked in the drycleaning industry for many years before starting her job in human resources at CCC in 1993.

She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church and also belonged to its sewing circle.

Survivors include her husband, sons, eight grandchildren, six great grandchildren, three brothers and two sisters.

Online condolences may be left at www.giallfaiths.com. Memorials are suggested to the family for later designation.

Barb Thornton

Barbara L. Thornton, 81, of Phillips died March 17.

Services were March 21 at Phillips Cemetery.

She was born on Jan. 7, 1943, in Grand Island to Cecil and Irene (Buechler) Perrel. She graduated from Grand Island High School in 1961.

She was married to Gaylord Hansen and they had two children. Her husband later died. On April 29, 1989, she married Larry Thornton.

For over 22 years, she was employed as the purchasing agent for Central Community College.

Survivors include her son and daughter, Jeff Hansen and Chris Drummond, seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

All Faiths Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. Memorials are suggested to plant new trees in the Phillips Cemetery.

Cathy Wiehn

Cathern “Cathy” Wiehn, 74, died March 18, at home.

Services were March 22 at St. Anthony Catholic Church with interment in St. Bonaventure Cemetery.

She was born on Sept. 18, 1949, in Columbus to Joseph and Hilda (Holtorf) Hoffman. She graduated from Scotus Central Catholic High school in 1967.

She married Robert O. Walters Sr. on Aug. 31, 1968. He died in 1990. On May 22, 1992, she married Kevin H. Wiehn.

Before moving to Columbus, she worked in Thermopolis, Wyo.; Yankton, S.D.; and Nebraska City. In Columbus, she worked for United Parcel Service and CCC.

She was a member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Catholic Daughters. Previously she was active with the 4-H Horse Club and The American Miniature Horse Association.

Survivors include her husband, son, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, step-son, step-grandchildren, brother and sister.

McKown Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be designated to St. Anthony Church, St. Bonaventure Church or Scotus Central Catholic High School.

Joe Kranz

R. Joe Kranz, 88 of Grand Island died Feb. 29.

Services were March 13 at St. Mary’s Cathedral with burial in the Grand Island Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 5-7 PM Tuesday with a Christian Wake Service at 7 PM at All Faiths Funeral Home. Memorials are suggested to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

He was born on Feb. 29, 1936, in Grand Island to Roy and Marie (Boehl) Kranz. He graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1953 and received his bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in 1957 and his master's degree in education from Kearney State College in 1972.

He married Kathy Murphy on Aug. 6, 1955. They had seven children. They lived in Omaha, Norfolk, Chadron and Crawford before moving to Grand Island in 1963.

In his early career, he worked in radio advertising and as a newspaper photographer. He was an instructor at CCC-Hastings and chairman of the business office occupations division in Grand Island. He retired from CCC following 22 years of service.

He was a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Toastmasters, and the Elks Lodge for 61 years.

Survivors include his wife, seven children, 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Employee news

Administrative Office

Amy Kinney has joined the staff as the application programmer and database administrator in the information technology services department.

Columbus Campus

Susan Dudley has been promoted from residence life and student engagement director to associate dean of students.

The library resource center has two new employees: Shannon McDonald, supervisor, and Sara Pedersen, assistant.

Grand Island Campus

Joan McCarthy of Hastings has retired as career and employment services director.

Prior to joining the CCC staff in 2014, she worked for 12 years as associate dean of students at Hastings College.

McCarthy grew up in Indianapolis and attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where she earned a bachelors’ degree in government. She went on to complete a master of divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School.

She was employed in full-time church service for 15 years before moving to Hastings with her husband, David, who had accepted a position as religion professor at Hastings College.

The McCarthys have two grown daughters.

After her retirement, McCarthy will join her husband in Belgium, where he is serving as pastor of the International Protestant Church of Brussels.

Hastings Campus

Alexander Bray has been hired as a mathematics and physics instructor. He will begin his employment at CCC on July 1.

Charly Lufkin has resigned as residence life coordinator.