Spring 2018 Community Connection

June 13, 2018

Showcasing a Partnership

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Welcome ... from Cheri Beda, CCC's Alumni Director

Dear CCC Alumni,

Each year I have the pleasure of meeting more Central Community College graduates and one theme comes to mind: resilience. Resilience comes in many forms and often surfaces when we are facing failure. In this issue of the Community Connection, you will meet some amazing people who put a face to the word “resilience.”

I’m not a stranger to overcoming the odds. As the old adage goes: where there’s a will, there’s a way! I decided to go to college at the age of 30. I had a pretty good job but I realized that was all it would ever be and I needed more. I was also a single parent who wanted to set the bar high for my daughter.

Because neither I nor my family members had been to college, the initial experience was overwhelming. I finally got the courage to walk into my local community college and I am so glad I did. With the support of many departments, I went from being afraid I would fail to knowing I would succeed.

My college career is still going strong 11 years later. I’ve lived in four different states, moved five times, got married and had two more children. The resilience and perseverance driving me are skills I learned in community college.

I can’t think of a higher honor than working at a community college, I have a career I love and the amazing privilege to learn about our graduates and share in their accomplishments.

Now that I’ve told you a little bit about myself, I hope you will return the favor.

Inspire someone with your college experience. Share your story.

Nominate a CCC graduate for the Outstanding Alumni Award. Nominations are accepted June 1 through Feb. 1, and the next awards will be presented at the 2019 commencement.

Did you get a new job? Add to your family? Celebrate a milestone? Update us on all your life events.

Grand Island: A New Campus Entrance

One thing that can be said about the new entrance at Central Community College-Grand Island is that it stands out, and that’s meant in a good way.

“I really like the marquee,” Campus President Dr. Marcie Kemnitz said. “It signifies who we are, and once the landscape grows, it will be really pretty.”

The entrance sets the stage for the remodeling that also went on inside the building. Visitors now step into a professional, upbeat area that includes admissions, registration, student accounts, student activities and financial aid.

The departments gained an additional 4,000 square-feet, doubling the amount of space they previously had and giving staff room to work with students, whether they’re applying for admissions, registering for classes or submitting forms for financial aid.

“It was a two-fold project that included both remodeling and updating,” Kemnitz said. “It was focused on making a one-stop shop with a prominent main entrance to enhance the student experience.”

The $1.9 million project was started in October 2016 and completed in October 2017. “It was well worth the wait,” Kemnitz said. “What we had before is nothing compared to the space we now have.”

She commended all the displaced staff who spent that year working out of a space meant for meetings and conferences. “It says something about their dedication,” she said. “It speaks volumes on why they work here. It’s their commitment to students.”

The new entrance and one-stop student services area may be the most noticeable change, but the inside of the Center for Industry and Technology has been getting some updating as well.

Space was remodeled to make a lab and classroom for the new pharmacy technician program which will begin this fall. It’s one of the first projects in the vision for the CIT building over the next few years.

“We want to decide what programs work best in there,” Kemnitz said. “We’ll leave OTA (occupational therapy assistant), welding and nursing assistant alone, but we’re looking at that big open space in the middle part and how we can maximize it.”

In addition to making the most of the space inside, the CIT’s outside will receive a new front façade that ties into the main building.

A smaller project worth seeing is the facelift of the computer lab in the 200 wing of the main building. It now feels more inviting with freshly painted walls and new furniture. A display case houses years of information technology history, including such items as a cassette and a 5 ¼ floppy disk to highlight where the program has been … and how far it has come.

 “We want our interiors to match what we do here, what we teach here,” Kemnitz said. “These latest improvements have enhanced the campus and show what we can do with the space we have.”

Story by Joni Ransom; photo by Mike Garretson

Kathy Fuchser: A New Campus President
Hanging out and having fun on the Columbus Campus during the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Clockwise from front: Staci Prellwitz, Chadric Harms, Steve Donohoe, Heidi Wilshusen, Kathy Fuchser (in black dress) and Heidi Acton

Central Community College-Columbus came under new leadership in January when Dr. Kathy Fuchser was named campus president.

She succeeds Dr. Matt Gotschall, who became college president at the beginning of 2018.

Fuchser had served as dean of instruction for academic education since July 2014. In this capacity, she oversees college-wide academic programming and instruction, serves as the liaison between CCC and other institutions in developing transfer opportunities and agreements, oversees and supports the coordination of the library resource center across the college and serves on numerous college and external committees.

“It is a privilege to continue serving the students, staff and faculty as president of the Columbus Campus,” said Fuchser. “Since our founding, leaders at CCC have cultivated strong partnerships with schools, businesses and organizations in Columbus and the surrounding communities. I look forward to continuing our strong tradition of collaboration.”

Fuchser served as an education professor and secondary program coordinator at Midland University from 2005 to 2014, which included time as an undergraduate program coordinator. In her roles, she represented the program on various state teacher education committees and councils. Additionally, Fuchser assisted in developing, marketing and launching Midland’s master of education degree in leadership in teaching and learning.

She also has teaching experience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Central Community College and high schools in Nebraska and Missouri.


“Kathy has a strong passion for student and community success,” said Gotschall. “Through her positive experiences across the state and community, I am confident she will serve as an effective leader for the campus, divisions and college.”

Originally from Lebanon, Mo., Fuchser graduated with a doctorate in educational studies from UNL, a master’s degree in education from Wayne State College and a bachelor’s degree in education from William Jewell College.

She and her husband, Dean, are the parents of three children. Claire is an elementary teacher for Columbus Public Schools. Carson is a member of the Nebraska National Guard and attends the University of Nebraska at Kearney, while Callan attends Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus.

“Kathy has excelled in her capacity as dean of instruction and established positive enduring relationships both at CCC and in the Columbus community,” said retired CCC president Dr. Greg Smith. “Her caring attitude and focus on student learning and welfare will serve her well in her new position. CCC is fortunate that Dr. Fuchser has accepted this new challenge.”

As campus president, Fuchser is responsible for the overall administration of the Columbus Campus as well as overseeing the divisions of academic education, extended learning services, and training and development.

Story by Scott Miller; solar eclipse photo courtesy of Kathy Fuchser

Learning and Teaching Go Hand in Hand

Diego Gamero believes there’s nothing like immersion in a country’s culture and language.

He should know.

The Lexington High School teacher was almost 20 years old when he moved with his parents and brother from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Nebraska.

Like his dad, he went to work at Tyson Fresh Meats where a friend told him about the adult education program at Central Community College-Lexington. He enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for adults in 2006 and began what would become a long-term relationship with CCC. After about two years of ESL courses, he earned a Nebraska high school diploma through the GED program and then took credit courses at the Lexington Center.

His desire to earn a degree led him to enroll in the medical laboratory technician program at CCC-Hastings. After a semester, though, he realized the program wasn’t for him. He received an associate of arts degree from CCC-Hastings in 2012 and then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Kearney where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education in 2014.

“CCC was a great start. The credits I generated from CCC easily transferred to UNK,” he said.

It also provided him with the foundation he needed to earn not only his bachelor’s degree but a master’s degree in Spanish education in 2017 from UNK and to start working toward a second master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in ESL.

In the classroom

His education also prepared him to work for Lexington Public Schools (LPS). He did his student teaching at LPS and his first job in the system was teaching in both Spanish and English in the dual program at Bryan Elementary School as a second-grade teacher. The following year he transferred to Lexington High School as a full-time Spanish instructor and is able to teach college credit courses for high school students who come mainly from the dual language program.

“We need more teachers who teach in their native language,” Gamero said. “It motivates the students and they see their potential to succeed.”

It’s his knowledge of people who come to the U.S. with their parents, with older siblings or by themselves that makes him see a broad role as a teacher. “They see us not as teachers but as mentors,” he said. “We can provide help and give advice they may not receive at home. We want them to be physically and emotionally healthy so they can learn.”

His concern for students doesn’t depend on their age. In the fall of 2016, he responded when CCC advertised a need for evening ESL instructors at the Lexington Center. “I believe in giving back,” he said. “When I was taking courses, the instructors made me feel comfortable in learning and in practicing. I wanted to do the same thing.”

He called it a “great opportunity” to teach children and adults. It also gave him an appreciation for the differences between the two groups. “Some kids aren’t motivated, but if adults are in the classroom, it’s because they want to learn. They know how important an education is,” he said.

With Azucena at his CCC graduation

In addition to being a teacher, student and mentor, he might also be a role model. Both his brother and his wife, Azucena, earned degrees from CCC and UNK and are employed in education. His brother works at Lexington Middle School and is working toward a master’s degree in student affairs.

Gamero met Azucena in college and they married in June 2017. She is now employed by Educational Service Unit No. 15 in McCook where she works with the migrant community and is also a substitute teacher in Lexington.

All in all, life seems to be full and fulfilling for Gamero, but he isn’t resting on his laurels.

In June, he will take 25 LPS students to Costa Rica, a country he has been to twice. Travel is something he’d like to do more of during the summers.

He thinks about getting a doctorate in Spanish education or Spanish language because learning remains important to him. So does encouraging others to further their educations.

“I never was a traditional student,” he said. “I like watching kids grow and giving them the skills they need. I want them to know it’s possible to graduate as long as they have the desire and put in the effort. No matter what career they choose, I’ll be proud that I was a little bit of their success.”

Story by Joni Ransom; commencement photo courtesy of Diego Gamero; classroom photos courtesy of IdeaBank Marketing

Building Stronger Industries

The Hamilton Building at Central Community College-Hastings houses both the advanced-manufacturing design technology and welding programs. Since being constructed in the 1940s as part of the U.S. Ammunition Depot, it has only received a few minor construction upgrades.

In recent years, the demand for a skilled and qualified workforce in the Hastings area has grown significantly. To address this need, an idea and partnership to “grow our own” was formed through the area Manufacturing Pathway Advisory Team, which consists of economic development, industry, education, community and nonprofit leaders, to expand CCC’s current advanced manufacturing design technology and welding programs.

As both programs have grown to meet the demand of industry, the Hamilton Building is bursting at the seams as every square inch of available space is utilized.

“If any of the students’ projects are bigger than a wheelbarrow, they are stored in the walkway or pulled inside at the start of class and taken outside at the end of class,” said Craig Boroff, CCC facilities and construction manager.

Those days are coming to an end.

Plans are in the works for a 17,000-square-foot wing addition to be built on the south side of the Hamilton Building and the advanced manufacturing design technology program will move there. The welding program will stay put and a major renovation of the existing facility will give it more than 15,000 square feet. Both wings will feature two classrooms and project areas that will significantly cut the congestion and increase productivity.

“That will give the students even more hands-on experience without having to sit there and wait while another student keeps working,” said Boroff.

Both programs will see an increase in equipment. For advanced manufacturing design technology, there are currently six manual mills and five manual mills and with this project, there will be 10 of each. The number of CNC mills will increase to 16, and additional surface grinders and EDMs will be brought in.

Once the renovation is complete in the welding wing, there will be 56 new welding bays comprised of 28 multi-process stations, 20 oxyacetylene stations and eight TIG stations.

When complete, both sides of the new-and-improved Hamilton Building will feature significant natural lighting, a consistent feature in many recent CCC construction and renovation projects.

As for the financial aspects, the total cost of the Hamilton Building addition and renovation is $10.3 million. While the price tag is significant, the plan to pay for it is equally significant. Central Community College will invest $5.3 million from capital with no long-term debt after the project is complete. The Central Community College Foundation will provide the remaining $5 million and the good news is that $3.2 million has already been raised.

“The grow our own concept, through the collaboration of business, industry and education along with the pathways in the region, has been strongly supported by the donors,” said Dean Moors, CCC Foundation executive director. “The level of gifts has been awesome.”

Rolling up its sleeves and getting to work is nothing new for the CCC Foundation. The Kearney Center opened in 2017, nearly one year ahead of schedule, in large part because of the CCC Foundation’s fundraising efforts and assembling a top-notch executive leadership team.

The executive leadership team for the Hamilton Building project is comprised of key leaders from the Hastings area whose experience and community involvement will be invaluable. The roster includes Colleen Adam, a longtime Hastings resident and community volunteer; Dr. Lavern Franzen, past CCC president; William Hermes, Dutton-Lainson Company president; Craig Kautz, Hastings Public Schools superintendent; Ann Martin, IdeaBank Marketing president; Doug Oakeson, Oakeson Steiner Wealth and Retirement; Rhonda Pauley, Pauley Group and CCC Foundation Board; Dave Rippe, Nebraska Economic Development director; and Bob Wilson, retired from Flowserve.

“It has been so gratifying to experience the support and active involvement from our partners in business, industry, and education as well as the Hastings Area Manufacturers Association,” said Bill Hitesman, CCC-Hastings president. “The grow our own concept and the development of a Manufacturing Pathway Advisory Team and establishment of AMDT and welding pathways with area high schools are working to address the skills gap.”

Story by Scott Miller

Developing STEM Skills

Central Community College has received a $648,844 grant from the National Science Foundation.


The five-year award is funding “Growing Pathways to STEM: Project GPS” at the Columbus Campus. The project is designed to help students succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) so they’ll be prepared to transfer into a baccalaureate degree program or enter the workforce.

Project GPS is focused on enhancing student engagement, enrollment and persistence in STEM, especially science and engineering, said biology instructor Dr. Lauren Gillespie, who manages the project along with biological sciences instructor Steve Heinisch.

“The project’s immersive, tailored activities will expand a student’s ability to think critically and evaluate evidence,” she said.

One way the project will accomplish this is by using a cohort model, which means students take the same courses together, allowing them to support each other as they learn in the classroom and explore service, research and workplace activities.


“Extensive partner collaboration and integration of industry needs with STEM education is a distinctive program feature,” Heinisch said. “Project GPS will contribute to a growing generation of scientifically literate citizens, address area employment needs, and provide opportunities to students who are underserved while closing the education and training gap in the area.”

Project GPS will also work to build the links between secondary and postsecondary STEM programs. “The growth of students in the rural Midwest who receive and value quality higher education is imperative at a time when scientific and environmental literacy are critical to global and public health,” Gillespie said.

A final and integral key to the program are the scholarships available through the grant. Sixty percent of the money is dedicated to scholarships and will fully fund 25 students over the grant’s lifetime.

To qualify for the Project GPS scholarship, individuals must meet four requirements: financial need as determined by FAFSA, academic ability and potential, citizenship and full-time enrollment in a qualified program at CCC-Columbus Recipients will be part of the first cohort group that will start in the 2018 fall semester.

Story by Joni Ransom

A Thirst for Travel, An Eye for Photography
In Africa with friends

When Catrina Gray took her first long road trip to Kearney in 1996 because her friend had family there, she knew one thing:

“I said I would never live here. Never,” she said.

And yet it’s now the place where she’s lived the longest.

It’s not that she really had anything against Kearney. It had to do more with staying in one place, putting down roots.

See, Gray grew up in the Air Force. She was born in Germany, and her family moved every two to four years. They were living in the U.S. when she graduated from high school in Knob Noster, Mo., and then went to Globe College in Woodberry, Minn., to become a veterinarian technician. After she graduated, she joined the Peace Corps.

“I loved it,” she said of her two years in Zambia, Africa, where she lived in a mud hut with a grass roof, used a bike for transportation and helped build ponds and grow and harvest fish. “You see life in a different view. I thought I could change the world, but I found out I can only change an opinion. What’s important is if I impacted someone’s life, whether I ever know it or not. I just hope it’s in a good way.”

Gray returned to the U.S. and worked as a restaurant manage and enrolled in classes at a community college in Missouri. But then her youngest sister, who lives in Kearney, had a stroke and almost died. Gray left behind her job and education and returned to Nebraska to help.

At a favorite Kearney locale for photo shoots

Although she didn’t remain in Nebraska after her sister’s health improved, she found herself back in the state two years later. The year was 2009, and she got a job at Picture Me Studio which hired for her management skills, not her photo skills.

“Still I found I had those skills, that I had an eye for photography,” she said. “The studio encouraged me to go out and open my own business when they closed as a company. That’s when I found out I knew nothing about photography.”

The answer to this problem was the media arts program at Central Community College-Hastings. The small classes and the ability to adapt her education to her life as a single mom made CCC the right choice for Gray.

For two years, she drove two hours to Hastings so she could get her degree. “I was willing to make the time and I was dedicated to my goals,” said Gray, who also found the perfect mentor in media arts instructor John Brooks.

“He opened my eyes up to what is out there,” she said. “I learned about different photographs from portraits to sports to journalism.”

While she nixed journalism because she didn’t like to write, Gray got more engaged with what she did like. “What I loved about CCC is I went straight into my program, and the classes are engaging,” she said. “At CCC, I was able to get all my gen eds and then start expanding and growing my skills.”

She received her associate of applied science degree in media arts from CCC in 2014 and was prepared this time to really run her own business: Simply Unique Images by Catrina Gray.

She takes portraits of seniors and families as well as lifestyle photos where she goes to subjects’ homes and photographs them in their surroundings.

“I eventually even came to like weddings, but that took a while,” she said, explaining there’s only one chance to get them right. “After my first wedding, I said never again, but now it’s my main thing.”

She wasn’t neglecting her education either. After graduating from CCC, she enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Kearney where she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2016 and a master’s degree in student affairs in 2018.

“I want to help students be successful in their career choices and in life,” she said. “I want to guide them to the right field. They may think this is the field they want, but if they start looking further, they may decide maybe it’s not.”

Catrina's daughter, Aria-Lara

In addition to raising her daughter, continuing her education and running her photography business, she is a success coach supervisor at UNK and teaches photography for both CCC and the Girl Scouts.

“I love it,” she said of teaching. “I try to make it as simple as I can. Just knowing the elements is complicated, and if you don’t know the verbiage, it can sound like a foreign language.”

With all the demands on her time, it would seem unlikely that Gray would get restless feet, but the urge to travel is deeply ingrained. She has taken her seven-year-old daughter, Aria-Lara, to Africa and the United Kingdom, and they have begun visiting some of the 48 states Gray has already seen.

Whatever the future may hold, Gray knows one thing. “It takes determination, dedication and discipline. With all three, any goal can be accomplished,” she said. “But if it hadn’t been for CCC, I wouldn’t be where I am now, doing what I am now.”

Story and Kearney photo by Joni Ransom; Africa and Aria-Lara photo courtesy of Catrina Gray

What's the Buzz?
Many willing volunteers helped plant - in one day! - the 1,460 plants and shrubs that inhabit the Columbus Campus’ pollinator garden.

Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from spending time at Central Community College. So can bees and other insects.

That’s because the Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings campuses all have pollinator gardens designed to provide food and shelter for them.

Although bumblebees are what come to mind for most people when there’s talk of pollination, in fact there are 20 different species of bees native to Nebraska. Other pollinating insects include wasps, butterflies, moths, a fly that looks like a bee and a variety of beetles. The ladybug not only eats pollen but also kills pests.

“Plants and pollinators have evolved together over 350 million years to survive,” Environmental Sustainability Director Ben Newton said. “They’ve been around a lot longer than us, and one-third of the food we eat depends on them. It’s important to have pollinator gardens due to a decline in pollinator insects because of habitat loss and environmental contamination. We have to recreate habitat we have lost through large-scale agriculture and turf grass.”

That means creating island resorts in the middle of farm country that contain such insect-attracting plants as shrubs, native grasses, sedges and perennials. In 2017, all three CCC campuses stepped up to do their part.

Native plants don’t die as easily as other plants. They are less susceptible to cold and drought and require little water and no fertilizer. That also makes them low-maintenance, only requiring drip irrigation to get the plants established and very little weeding. With the right choice of plants, the gardens can provide a constant food source to insects as well as beautiful blooms from spring through fall.

Ryan Brentzel, a former environmental sustainability
intern, waters the Hastings Campus
pollinator garden, which he largely planted, too.

The Hastings Campus became the first to create a pollinator garden when it received a CCC mini-grant in summer 2017. The garden is on the east side of the Dawson Building and was largely planted, watered and weeded by former environmental sustainability intern Ryan Brentzel.

The pollinator garden also will attract bees to the adjacent culinary garden, which is used by the hospitality management and culinary arts program.

“An added bonus is the beautification of an area that was unnoticeable before but attracted a lot of visitors during the 2017 growing season,” said Ronnie O’Brien, a hospitality management and culinary arts instructor.

The Columbus Campus added its pollinator garden in August 2017, thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. It covers about 7,200 square-feet and is located south of the facilities management offices and near the orchard trees.

“With the help of many volunteers, the CCC staff planted 1,460 plants and shrubs in one day,” said Kim Garretson, campus facilities management director. “The project came together due to many willing people that included the Nebraska Forest Service, UNL Extension, Columbus Master Gardeners, CCC Facilities, Environmental Sustainability, Science, Ag, our grant writers, and others. There are more changes and improvements planned along with educational components as we move forward.”

“In addition to the Columbus Campus pollinator garden, another space filled with wildflowers near the east entry will add to the beauty of our campus once again this summer,” said Columbus Campus President Dr. Kathy Fuchser.

This goldenrod plant in the Grand Island pollinator garden
will attract many native bee species.

The Grand Island Campus received the same grant as the Columbus Campus and added its 6,000-square-foot pollinator garden in September 2017. It can be found on the east side of the Center for Industry and Technology building and has an ADA-compliant, wheelchair-accessible, crushed-gravel winding path. With more than 25 different types of native plants, phase one of the Grand Island pollinator garden has been completed. In May 2017, the campus also was named a Bee Campus, one of only 29 in the U.S. and the only one in Nebraska to get the certification, and now the new garden will also help support the beehives.

The second phase will include adding an outdoor classroom area with a podium, pergola, bench seating and solar lighting with informational signs.

Dr. Marcie Kemnitz, president of the Grand Island Campus, called the garden a good example of collaboration since the garden is the result of coordinated efforts by the Extended Learning Services, environmental sustainability and campus facilities departments.

 “We hope to add trees and benches and tie it into the hike and bike trail,” she said. “We hope people spend time there, and the garden continues to grow.” She mentioned using the outdoor space for campus or community events.

The pollination gardens also may lead to a second service learning e-badge. These badges show the student has demonstrated knowledge and skills in sustainability in their field or study or through a personal application. The first e-badge is in environmental stewardship with a second possible one in pollinator habitat.

CCC students, employees and individuals outside the college can choose among multiple options, including credit courses, community education courses and other experiences.

“The combination of e-badge proficiencies creates opportunities for learners to become change-agents for an environmentally sustainable future and can give e-badge earners a competitive edge in their field of study,” Newton said.

Story and Hastings photo by Joni Ransom; Columbus photo by Kim Garretson; Grand Island photo by Scott Miller

How Sweet It Is ...

Ah, the sweet blend of ingredients. The precise calibration of machines. And the beauty when the two are combined.

At Central Community College-Hastings, that combination comes in the form of a partnership between two programs: advanced machine and design technology (AMDT) and hospitality management and culinary arts.

The partnership began with AMDT instructor Troy Davis, who has attended regional and national HTEC (Haas Technical Education Center) conferences the past several years.

“At all these conferences, we get a take-away,” he said. “It’s usually an aluminum nameplate holder or desk set.”

With the fourth annual conference slated for the Hastings Campus in April 2018, Davis had in mind a different kind of take-away for the 50 or so people who would be coming to Nebraska from across the nation.

Student Brianna Beatham spreads chocolate into molds.

What was on his mind?

Chocolate bars.

But what does chocolate have to do with the AMDT program?

Well, the students would make the molds, of course.

But somebody needed to make the chocolate, and the answer to that dilemma was in the Platte Building, a nice walk from the Hamilton Building where the AMDT program resides.

“Last spring (in 2017), I was approached by AMDT about a potential partnership,” said Lindsay Higel, hospitality management and culinary arts program director, who agreed to commit her students to the project.

And so began a partnership that would offer both new opportunities and challenges and, ultimately, satisfaction in a job well done.

The process was important for both programs. While the culinary arts students were striving for perfect chocolate, the AMDT students were striving for perfect molds.

Student Carly Prochaska removes chocolate bars from their molds.

Chocolate, for example, must be melted, held and then reheated at the proper temperatures. This process controls the formation of sugar crystals and is called tempering.

Properly made chocolate should pop out easily once it has cooled, and it should be shiny and not melt in your hands.

Generally, students aren’t successful the first time they make chocolate, but once they master the process, they can use one of the two chocolate tempering machines the college bought with Perkins grant funds. These machines can hold the chocolate much longer at the optimal temperature.

“I like chocolate,” said Brianna Beatham, a second-year student from Exeter. “It’s taught me patience. You can’t rush chocolate.”

Carley Prochaska, a second-year student from Prague, has enjoyed taking the chocolate portion of the confections and decorating class under the instruction of Dustin Schmidt. “But tempering the chocolate by hand was a challenge. I liked it when I earned the right to use the machines.”

The other necessary ingredient for a well-made candy bar is the mold. In this case, it was eight different molds designed and fabricated by eight AMDT students.

“The appearance of the finished mold is important in making the candy bar look good,” Davis said. “If there are defects in the surface finishes, those defects will transfer into the chocolate.”

The trickier part was the packaging.

The candy packaging also was designed by the AMDT students.

“We did revisions where we could, but other things we had to just do differently,” Davis said. “For example, the hinges don’t line up (on the plastic packaging), so we cut the hinges off and then assemble the packaging together. The devil is in the details, but doing this has allowed the students to be creative with the end project, not just the process.”

Several of his students agreed. “It was different to be able to take an idea, make a design and then turn the design into a mold,” said Bryan Moody of Gothenburg. “I really liked the technical aspect of it.”

“The best thing was the realization that I could think completely different and come up with something completely different,” said Matt Conway of Hastings.

For Micah Magnuson of Kenesaw, the process was all about “testing limits and seeing what I could do with lettering.”

The end result of both programs’ efforts are beautifully made candy bars and candy coins. That result is built upon the students’ visiting each other’s labs, on their gaining an understanding about what the other program did, and listening to and working with each other.

“The students think it’s great,” Higel said. “They get to experience a piece of the bigger campus and see what other students are doing.”

The big question now is whether the two programs would do this project on a larger scale. Both Davis and Higel said they’re open to this possibility, but some issues would have to be resolved.

Student Micah Magnuson shows off the mold he designed.

For one thing, there would be need for a lot more molds.

“From start to finish, using one mold, it takes 15 minutes. That’s one batch of six candy bars so right now, it takes us the better part of a day to get a small sample,” Higel said. “To do more capacity, we would need 20 molds so we could have 10 in the fridge and 10 to work on.”

“Maybe we can be Hershey on a smaller scale,” Davis said, “but we’ll have to learn how to make the process stable and less time-consuming.”

In the meantime, both Davis and Higel are pleased with the success of the partnership between their two programs.

“We’ve had great support from the administration, and the students, too,” Davis said. “They all see the benefit of working across departments.”

“This has been a great partnership,” Higel said. “It’s been really exciting and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Story and photos by Joni Ransom

Coaching the Players and Having a Ball
Central Community College's head coaches: (from left, front row and then back row)
Billy Perkins, Mary Young and Dave Silva; Britt Blackwell, Jerry Drymon and Jack Gutierrez

Six head coaches and six assistant coaches lead six varsity sports at Central Community College and each one possesses a wealth of talents. Each coach has a unique story about how they got into their profession and what they love about their sport.

Men’s Basketball

Jerry Drymon, head coach

How did you get into coaching?

To be honest, I got talked into it. When I graduated from college, I had an inside sales job with an international company. That summer, my former coach called me because an assistant left. I didn’t want to do it because I had a good job. He finally talked me into trying it for a year and now it has turned into 21 years.

What is attractive about coaching?

I enjoy the strategy aspect as well as the chance to impact a person’s life.

Steve Donohoe, assistant coach

What do you like best about basketball?

It’s the tool that I use to communicate life stuff. It’s the easiest way to talk to kids.

Jack Johnson, assistant coach

What do you love about coaching?

I love the challenge of teaching skills and watching the kids improve, especially shooting.

Men’s Golf

Britt Blackwell, head coach

How did you get into coaching?

While interviewing for the accounting instructor position, I was asked what my hobbies are. Having played golf since high school, I naturally included golf. I later received a call from athletic director Jack Gutierrez asking if I’d be interested in the vacant coaching position for the golf team. I welcomed the opportunity, even though I had no formal training.

What is attractive about coaching?

It is extremely rewarding to watch a player improve over the season and the gratification they receive by seeing their hard work pay off.

Men’s Soccer

Dave Silva, head coach

How did you get into coaching?

During my first year as a high school teacher, almost 15 years ago, I coached JV softball. I didn’t know much about the sport, but it was a great experience. Later on, I started coaching soccer and was hooked.

What is attractive about coaching?

Coaching is a great way to share your experiences with others. I feel great joy knowing that I can help my athletes pursue their goals, both academically and athletically.

Luis Pulido, assistant coach

What do you like about soccer?

It’s just a beautiful game. It’s more than just kicking a ball.

Women’s Basketball

Billy Perkins, head coach

How did you get into coaching?

My first job was teaching high school Spanish in Texas and the athletic director approached me about being the head tennis coach and I accepted. I then coached freshman girls’ basketball. I had a great mentor during my first five years of coaching and that drove me to find a passion for the game.

What is attractive about coaching?

Watching young people become successful on and off the court.

Celesta Perkins, assistant coach

What is it like coaching alongside your husband?

His drive and personality make each day enjoyable and each challenge bearable.


Jack Gutierrez, head coach and athletic director

How did you get into coaching?

When I was in high school, I either wanted to be a coach, a sporting goods salesman or a sports reporter. With the coaching, I did all the training with education and did some part-time stuff while I was going to college.

What is attractive about coaching?

The wins, working with young people, trying to mold character as well as talents and watching kids develop from one year to the next.

Heather Colby, assistant coach

What do you like about being an assistant coach?

I just love working with the kids and being able to share my knowledge with them.

Colby Donohoe Jack Johnson
Jared Johnson Perkins Pulido


Mary Young, head coach

How did you get into coaching?

While working at a rehab hospital, I heard about an open coaching position at CCC and both my brother and Jack Gutierrez encouraged me to apply. A few days later, I returned to campus to visit my history instructor Dave Fulton. He also encouraged me to apply and even walked me over to Jim Fisher’s office and made me take an application. Eventually, I got the job and thought I would only stay for a couple of years. However, the more I got into it, the more I realized that I like helping people.

What is attractive about coaching?

You’re always in the hunt for achieving more and trying to be the very best you can be.

Jared Johnson, assistant coach

What do you like best about volleyball?

I like that multiple people have to play a role successfully for the game to work out. The rewards are so much greater when you accomplish something with others.

Interviews and photos by Scott Miller 

Soaring Through the Sky, Landing in the Plains
In the cockpit

Hussam “Sam” Alsmadi’s conversations are often peppered with aviation-related sayings.

Perhaps that is appropriate. He traveled a great distance to be where he is right now – an economics instructor at Central Community College-Hastings.

Oh, and he actually used to be a pilot.

In fact, it was his desire to learn aviation that brought him to the U.S. He was 19 and spoke no English when he landed in St. Louis.

“In Arabic, you read right to left so I had to get used to reading left to right. It was very hard,” he said. “To put a sentence together, I had to translate in my head and then spit it out.”

Those days of struggling with the language are long past, and now Alsmadi loves to talk, and he does it fluently.

He tells of growing up in Syria, the youngest of seven kids. “I was a guinea pig for the rest of them,” Alsmadi said.

He related an incident that happened when he was three years old. His oldest brother convinced him to stick his finger inside a box of matches laced with gunpowder. Then his brother lit it up.

“There were fireworks,” said Alsmadi, who lost a tip of his finger. “My oldest sister attacked him. ‘What have you done to baby?’ she demanded and smacked him. She was fantastic, tough.”

She probably had to be. Alsmadi and his four brothers and two sisters were raised by a single mother, who made bridal dresses for a living.

“She was a handy seamstress,” Alsmadi said. “Her dresses came at a premium. People would travel a long distance to have her make their wedding dresses. She often was booked a year in advance because she couldn’t do more than one dress a month.”

As a kid (he's the one saluting) with his mother, brothers and sisters
outside their home in Syria

Still, even with her income, the family lived in a very poor area in a house with two rooms and a front yard. The bathroom and kitchen were separate from the house.

“There was no electricity or water,” Alsmadi said. “We would take our books out and study under the streetlight. We raised rabbits for meat.”

Everybody in the family studied ... and worked. At 11 years of age, Alsmadi went to work at an engineering firm where he cleaned, greeted customers and brought food and drinks. “I was very responsible,” he said.

School was based on the French system and was tough. “It was all essay. I never saw multiple choice, not even true or false. Teachers wanted you to explain yourself. In high school, the last year, they didn’t look at anything you did all year. For the final, you were assigned to another school and there were eight questions for you to answer, that could be about anything you’d studied.”

Although Alsmadi was accepted to college in biology, he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his oldest brother and become a pilot.

So he came to the U.S., got his commercial pilot license, returned to Syria and spent five years as an inflight emergency supervisor for Kuwait Airlines. He then decided to go back to the U.S. where he became a certified flight instructor, working for seven years for Air Spirit Aviation and Archway Aviation.

“I remember my first student as flight instructor,” he said. “A FAA examiner was there and my student executed the maneuvers with perfection. The examiner said that was unheard of and he was looking forward to seeing more of me.”

He came to a point, though, where he realized he was at a dead end with aviation because he wasn’t getting enough hours to be hired by the airlines.

“I was 25 with only 2,500 hours,” he said. “I realized aviation wasn’t taking me anywhere and that it was time to change course. You’re going down, I thought. Where are you going to land?”

He landed at Southeast Missouri State University in St. Louis. It was there he would earn all his degrees: an associate’s degree in hospitality, a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in management and economics.

The hospitality and business degrees gave him the skills he needed to open a restaurant in Cape Girardeau that served Syrian cuisine. Since the Mediterranean Sea borders the west side of Syria, it shouldn’t be surprising that Syrian cuisine is essentially Mediterranean in nature. “It appealed to everyone,” Alsmadi said.

Everything was running smoothly, but after nine or 10 years of the restaurant business, another moment of clarity came.

 “I was teaching part-time and working with the business, but I was missing out on my kids growing up,” he said. “I needed to change again.”

At CCC-Hastings

After spending most of his adult life in Missouri – about 33 years – he applied for and was hired as an economics instructor at CCC-Hastings. He sold the restaurant and he and his family moved to Hastings in time for the 2015 fall semester.

The move has been a good one. Nebraska has a similar climate to Syria and, although it is a tad bit colder than his home country, at least it isn’t as humid as Missouri. “Nebraska is perfect,” Alsmadi said.

He also enjoys the learning environment at CCC. “It’s a beautiful place. Laid back. We have this huge room and the space to implement ideas, to change things. That’s what I like best about this college. They trust you. If you stay in the guidelines, they’re very receptive to new ideas.”

His wife, Rowa, is taking advantage of CCC’s learning environment. She is enrolled in the medical laboratory technician program at CCC-Hastings and is almost finished.

The move also has given them the time they both desire to spend with their sons: Homer, 13; Faris, 11; and Laith, 8.

But the ultimate reward for Alsmadi? “Seeing students getting their degrees,” he said. “It’s beyond rewarding when I’ve helped move people from Point A to Point B.” 

Story and office photo by Joni Ransom; family and pilot photos courtesy of Sam Alsmadi

Turning Goals into Reality

Elizabeth Colclasure has always set high goals for herself and then worked hard to accomplish them.

Nowhere is that more evident than in her education, which she continued to pursue even when life handed her challenges.

Her relationship with Central Community College started when she enrolled in night classes at the Grand Island Campus in January 2011 – even though she was already balancing duties as the single mom of a three-month-old daughter, Karstyn (now seven years old) and employment as a full-time medication aide.

Her first major was elementary education, but that morphed first into nursing and then into business administration.

“Because of the many major changes, I set myself back a lot but I never gave up,” said Colclasure, who had her second daughter, Haidyn (now five years old), while she was a student at CCC. “I attended night classes, day classes and classes in Grand Island and Hastings.”

She was so determined to finish her associate of applied science degree that she took on a 16-credit-hour course load during her final semester, which she completed with a 3.8 GPA. When she attended the graduation ceremony in 2014, she was 38 weeks into her third pregnancy.

After she gave birth to her son, Alek (now three years old), she began working toward her bachelor’s degree at Bellevue University that September.

Three months into the program, her beloved grandmother died. “My grandma was a huge part of my life, and we were very close,” Colclasure said. “She was 54 when she got her bachelor’s degree and became a top exec at Lockheed-Martin. She was an inspiration to me.”

Six months after her grandmother’s death, Colclasure and her husband, Brandon, discovered she was pregnant.

“I was very upset because this wasn’t the plan,” she said. “While all of my classmates were planning graduation parties and getting promotions, I was trying to figure out how I was going to raise four kids at the age of 25.”

But she didn’t stop. She walked through the graduation ceremony on June 6, 2017, and claimed her bachelor’s degree two weeks after the birth of her youngest daughter, Penelope, who is now a year old.

The week before graduation, she began the MBA program at Bellevue University, but then was faced with the unexpected death of her mother.

Colclasure put grad school briefly on hold and began work at Essential Personnel in Grand Island as an employment consultant. Her responsibilities include writing ads; interviewing, screening and verifying clients; approving timesheets; and recruiting and managing clients in a 100-mile radius.

She returned to her master’s degree program in September 2017.

“School has always been an outlet and given me a purpose,” she said. “Whenever I accomplished a goal, it made me feel good about myself. Education also is something that can’t be taken away from you.”

Colclasure shares her struggles because she wants other adults to know that no matter where they are in life, they can overcome anything and get an education.

“I’m so thankful for CCC,” said Colclasure, who admits that sometimes she drives by the campus and just wants to come inside and sit in the hallway. “I was so young when I started there and I didn’t have anyone. For three years, Central Community College was my home.”

Story and photo by Joni Ransom

CCC's Graduate Advocates

Central Community College loves to hear from its graduates, which include the following two people who related their CCC experiences at Share Your Story.

Rebecca Helwick

Rebecca Helwick of Hastings began attending the Grand Island Campus in 2016 and earned an associate of applied science in occupational therapy assistant this year. She now works as a s certified OTA at Genesis Rehab.

She said she had the passion to increase the quality of people’s lives, and CCC gave her the knowledge and skills she needed.

Helwick singled out Dr. Callie Schwartzkopf, OTA program director, for influencing her to be a powerful advocate for occupational therapy and a strong voice for persons with disabilities.

“I have grown as a person and therapist assistant throughout my education. Dr. Schwartzkopf instilled the skills that I profoundly believe will allow me to improve the health and well-being of our community.”

Because of her educational experiences, Helwick also has the knowledge to provide science-driven therapeutic interventions for persons in need.

“I have always been a person who enjoys helping others, she said. “I am so excited to be a part of the occupational therapy field so I can continue my life’s journey of improving the quality of care for my community.”

Scott Horstmann

Scott Horstmann of Orchard began attending the Hastings Campus in 2009. He earned two associate of arts degrees: one in drafting and design technology in 2011 and one in advanced manufacturing design technology in 2012. He is now employed as an estimator and CNC programmer at Norfolk Iron and Metal.

“They brought me out of my shell that I had when I was in high school,” he said of CCC. “I wasn’t overly outgoing, but when I graduated, most people knew my name and we shared some memories together.”

Horstmann credits drafting and design technology instructor Gene Friesen and AMDT instructor Bruce Bartos for their encouragement and support while he worked to finish a dual major.

“They kept me on track in both classrooms to finish on time and with the credits that I needed to graduate,” he said.

“They prepared me in seeing that everything may not go your way, so you just need to step back and re-evaluate the path that is taken to get the job done effectively and efficiently.”

A Small Learning Center with a Big Reach


Nestled atop Central Community College’s 25-county service area in the town of Ord (pop. 2,112) is the Ord Learning Center. You may or may not have heard of it as it is not listed among the official CCC campus and center locations. Nevertheless, the Ord Learning Center is a valued part of the CCC family and the staff has an important message for everyone.

Crystal Ramm in her office

“We’re busy and we’re growing and it’s really exciting,” said regional director Crystal Ramm, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the learning center.

College credit courses are offered at the Ord Learning Center via IP classroom, online or web-blended each semester as with any other CCC center, including early college and dual credit for high school students. In community education (non-credit) courses, some are available each semester, while others are offered after an interest is shown and an instructor is hired. ACCUPLACER assessment testing and GED study is offered at all times. The student population is smaller, but the need to deliver a quality product is not.

“We work really hard for our students and our community,” said Ramm. “We are dedicated to giving them quality service and education and all of the opportunities that every other CCC center has. We have many partnerships with area schools with their students taking classes, whether it’s career pathways, dual-credit courses or early college coursework, so that they have more credits under their belt when they go on, whether it’s at CCC or another college.”

The actual facility that houses the Ord Learning Center also houses the Valley County Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce, meaning partnership opportunities are plentiful and many other business and community events are held in the building as well. The Ord Learning Center also coordinates a yearly career discovery day and business discovery day for area high school students and entomology camps during the summer.

In community education, the Ord Learning Center is alive and well with a recently completed drawing class that was attended by students ranging in age from eight to 60. Other offerings include health and wellness classes, essential oils and a new offering, piano and voice lessons.

“Karlee Severance is our new music instructor,” said Ramm. “When we hired her, she already had a full class of 10 kids and we already have people calling to get in with her.”

Diane Kaslon, who teaches the nursing and medication courses onsite, calls the Ord Learning Center a “blessing” to the community because before it opened, students had to go to Grand Island, Kearney or Columbus for coursework. However, the IP classroom makes it possible for the Ord students to mingle with instructors and other students in real time while remaining close to home.

“It gets the students to where they can have a job and make more money,” said Kaslon, who began teaching CCC courses in Ord in 2009 before the learning center came to fruition. “Hopefully, it’s a stepping stone for a lot of these students so they can go on and further their education.” 

Students in a nursing assistant class

One thing that is no different at the Ord Learning Center than at any other CCC center or campus is the many success stories of the students.

“Some of the students that I see started out with no self-confidence whatsoever,” said Kaslon, who received most of her nursing education through CCC. “As they go through the program, then pass the state exam and when they start working in the actual field, it opens their eyes to just how much they are capable of learning and growing.”

Margaret Seidel, who serves as a part-time lab technician and custodial worker at the Ord Learning Center, is also a longtime student as she has taken courses over the last five years to complete an associate’s degree in business administration. She believes that given the location of the learning center, the good things about the center largely go unnoticed by those in other parts of the CCC service area.

“I don’t know if they fully realize or grasp how much they offer here at the Ord Learning Center as far as leadership and training,” said Seidel. “There’s a lot going on in this little building. It surprises me. The nursing classes, the online classes and the IP classes. I’m grateful it’s here. It’s been a good thing.”

So, what is in the future for the Ord Learning Center? Given that Ramm is a visionary and that she has been with at the learning center since it was a partially grant-funded development, she is looking forward to the time when the word “learning” is taken off the title and it becomes the “Ord Center” holding the same status as all other CCC centers.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and I always tell people we are working on it,” said Ramm. “That is the goal, to become a full center with more people out here and continuously growing and offering more to maximize student and community success.”

Story and photos by Scott Miller


Three Central Community College graduates received the Outstanding Alumni Award at the 2018 commencement ceremonies.

Rob Collett

Rob Collett is a 1998 graduate of the Hastings Campus with an associate of applied science degree in media arts.

He entered the world of television broadcast news, first working for KHAS-TV in Hastings. He then had stints at KSNW-TV in Wichita, Kan., and KTUL-TV in Tulsa, Okla. before moving on to KARE-TV in Minneapolis, where he is currently employed. This past February, Collett covered Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.

While in Tulsa, he followed the story of five-year-old Ryder Herring, who had brain cancer. For almost two years, he helped viewers experience what Ryder and his family faced and followed the struggle until Ryder died in 2013. Collett’s stories raised money for the family and awareness of the disease.

Throughout his career, Collett has earned 18 regional Emmy Awards, two national Edward R. Murrow Awards, and the 2016 National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Ernie Crisp National Photographer of the Year. In November 2017, he was recognized as the CCC Alumni of the Year by the Nebraska Community College Association.

Collett volunteers with the NPPA by adjudicating competitions and critiquing student work. He meets with the photography and video classes at CCC whenever he returns to the area. He also gives back by sharing his work with CCC students, keeping in touch with the media arts program and providing input as the industry evolves.

Collett and his wife, Brianna, have been married since 2013. They have a son, William.

Danita Johnson-Beadle

Danita Johnson-Beadle of Kearney is a 1977 graduate of the Kearney Center’s practical nursing class. She later earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

As an instructor at CCC-Kearney, she has helped grow the certified nursing assistant program. During the 2017-18 academic year, high school students gained the opportunity to earn dual credit in a prerequisite class for pursuing a career in health care.

Johnson-Beadle’s nursing experience includes elder care, assisted living and long-term care. She served as a medical/surgical staff nurse and has ob-gyn, colorectal, plastic-reconstructive and surgical experience. She also worked with the Women, Infants and Children program and Easter Seals of Nebraska.

In the community, she serves on the Master Trauma Foundation Board, providing council to clients and their families for PTSD, addiction and traumatic events when court-mandated probation and counseling have ended. She also offers support, counsel and comfort to persons dealing with a cancer diagnosis. She has personal experience living through her own diagnosis and treatment of Stage IV ovarian cancer.

She and her husband, Kern, have five children and 10 grandchildren.

Denise Kracl

Denise Kracl is a 1993 graduate of the Columbus Campus who transferred to Wayne State College and the University of South Dakota where she earned her juris doctor degree.

Prior to her current appointment as Colfax County Attorney, she worked as deputy attorney for Colfax and Butler counties as well as in private law practice and as a Nebraska State probation officer.

She is an active member of the Nebraska Juvenile and Justice Association, member and secretary of the Regional Human Trafficking Committee and member of the County Attorney Standards Advisory Council of the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Kracl is an advocate for education. For Schuyler Community Schools, she created and wrote the grant that funds an afterschool program, started an intervention and truancy program, wrote and received a grant to provide a full-time truancy officer and partnered with Workforce Development in Columbus to create a program that replaces community service with employment training for first-time, nonviolent juvenile offenders.

She also is a member of the Local Behavioral Health Coalition which brings a licensed mental health practitioner to the high school and middle school.

She has been chair of the food and toy drive in Schuyler for eight years and is in her third six-year appointment to the Center for Survivors board and is its current president. She has led three mission trips to Alaska and is a past disaster committee member for the American Red Cross.

Other activities include serving on the Schuyler Economic Development Council and Columbus Business Technology Advisory Committee, working with the District 5 probation office to bring youth and law enforcement together through sports, and teaching U.S. government at CCC as an adjunct instructor.

She also created Schuyler is Home, which connects local residents with volunteer opportunities.

In 2015, Georgetown University named her a Center for Juvenile Justice Fellow, and in 2016, she was named the Schuyler Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year.

Kracl is the daughter of Twila Wallace who taught at CCC-Columbus from the day it opened in 1969 until her retirement in 2010. She also has a daughter, Kodie.

Alumni Notes


Michelle Batterman graduated from CCC with an associate of arts degree, computer information technology diploma and a health information certificate. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in psychology from Hastings College and a master of physician assistant studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. After working for several years at Hastings Orthopaedics, she is now serving Blue Hill and the Community Health Center in Hastings.

Rick Cheloha was recently recognized for 30 years of service at Loup Power District. He began work there in 1988, serving as a second assistant plant operator, first assistant plant operator, storekeeper and new business supervisor. He is a graduate of Columbus High School and earned an associate of applied science degree in business administration from CCC-Columbus. He became a certified energy manager in 1998 after completing the Association of Energy Engineers’ comprehensive training program. He and his wife, Patty, have four children and five grandchildren.

Daniel Flores of Lexington is a two-time CCC graduate who is enrolling at the University of Omaha to major in K-12 or special education. He has been working at Lexington High School as a special education para and plans on returning to the Lexington area to teach once he completes his degree.

Teri Garey of Grand Island is working at Goodwill Industries where she gives a helping hand to those in need as an employment specialist. She was a home nurse before being encouraged by her employer to enroll at CCC. She took classes in human services and started working at Goodwill immediately after she completed her program. In her position, she helps people who have been diagnosed with mental illness or have a substance abuse issue with the ultimate goal is to have them re-enter the workforce.

Peachis Mason is making a difference in the lives of many people at Hope Harbor as the service coordinator. A graduate of Grand Island Senior High School, she earned a degree in human services from CCC in 2010.

Rony Ortega, 2016 CCC-Columbus Outstanding Alumni Award winner, was hired as a district executive director for Omaha Public Schools. He has served the school district as a teacher, high school counselor and assistant principal and middle school principal. He and his wife have three daughters.

In Memoriam

Joel Bean, 52
Kearney, Feb. 6, 2018

Dennis Blinde, 68
Kearney, March 2, 2018

Randy J. Bohnart, 62
Grand Island, Nov. 28, 2017

Ryan Bouc, 34 (2010)
Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 6, 2018 

Greta Lea Chleboun, 84 (former CCC-Columbus nursing assistant instructor)
Columbus, Dec. 18, 2017

Mary (Wiles) Dubbs-Lore, 72 (1996)
Grand Island, March 7, 2018

Carla Englund, 59
Grand Island, Sept. 7, 2017

Tom Felton, 58
Ord, Nov. 30, 2017

Barb J. Frei, 62
Hastings, Dec. 2, 2017

Peggy Ginn, 57
Grand Island, Dec. 1, 2017

Bessie Haake, 88
Hastings, Sept. 14, 2017

James M. Hansen, 66
Central City, Oct.  13, 2017

Carolyn Holmquist, 80 (former board member)
Estes Park, Colo., Nov. 14, 2017

Jason R. Kasson, 39
Elm Creek, Feb. 23, 2018              

Kevin A. Klatt, 50 (1987)
Hastings, Jan. 15, 2018

Mark L Melvin, 62
Holdrege, March 12, 2018

Kody Collin Metzger, 31 (2007)
Hastings, Feb. 18, 2018

Andrew “Tiny” Mitchell, 28
Grand Island, Nov. 18, 2017

LoRee A. Mott, 97
Ewing, Nov. 15, 2017

Timothy Neemeyer, 64
Columbus, Dec. 9, 2017

Rae Osenbaugh, 68 (CCC adult computer literacy instructor)
Grand Island, Sept. 30, 2017

Mary O. (Miller) Parsons, 88 (1985)
Newman Grove, Feb. 22, 2018  

Beth Marie Petersen, 58 (former CCC learning center manager)
Axtell, Sept. 13, 2017

Gary E. Pichler, 70
Winside, March 1, 2018

Densel Rasmussen, 62 (former CCC Foundation board member)
Grand Island, Nov. 20, 2017

Dr. John Seberg, 96 (a founder of the CCC dental hygiene program and 2010 honorary degree recipient)
Hastings, Sept. 29, 2017

Rick Simpson, 56
Ord, Dec. 4, 2017

JoAnn Marie Skalka, 70
Deweese, Dec. 7, 2017

Darlene (Ahrens) Synek, 73 (former CCC-Hastings instructor)
Edgar, Oct. 28, 2017

Beverly Velene, 71
Grand Island, Nov. 18, 2017

Deborah Wallace, 52
Funk, Dec. 7, 2017

Billy G. Ward, 84
Grand Island, Jan. 10, 2018

Josiah H. “Joe” Woodward, 73 (former CCC-Hastings business and nursing departments chairman)
Kearney, Jan. 23, 2018

Joel D. Zuellner, 58
Campbell, Sept. 30, 2017


Kayla Faaborg (2013) and Kyle Peters

Hannah Fleecs (2016) and Ryan Bruna

Cheyanne Loeffler (2017) and Derek Ortmeier

Molly Elizabeth Paul (2012) and Dru Magill

Caiti Peters (2017; CCC administrative assistant) and Caleb Kuhfahl (CCC construction technology instructor)

Amber Schneberger (2015) and Kyle Meyer

Katherine Anne Smith (2005) and Nicholas David Miller

Tara Spiehs (2012) and Clark Kosmicki (2008)

Lance Vakoc (2015) and Katelyn Bellingtier

Michael Zerr (2009) and Katie O’Neill


Matt Gerdes (2015) and Mikaela Schroeder

Katilynn Schriner (2011) and Justin Zywiec

Kevin Louis Thomas Sabata (2003) and Lisa Ann VanderGriend

Nicole Jeanette Wademan (2013) and David Isaiah Ellis

Updates Benefit Info Tech Students

With a new Kearney Center, a major remodel at the Hastings Campus and the latest technology at both sites, Central Community College offers a cutting-edge education to students enrolling in the information technology and systems program.

Don’t live in or near Hastings or Kearney? No problem! Thanks to the very technology the ITS program teaches, CCC students at the Columbus and Grand Island campuses also can take advantage of the upgrades and prepare themselves for some of the most in-demand careers.

“Technology is the lifeblood of every modern organization,” said Brenda Licari, ITS instructor at CCC-Columbus, “and yet less than 30 percent of eighth-grade students are learning how to program and build computers. This could be why there is approximately double the amount of computer science jobs for every one computer science major in the U.S.”

She cited Glassdoor, a job search site, which states that a data scientist is the number-one job with a $100,000 salary, but that very few students are exposed to or even have the opportunity to take a data analytics course.

That’s where the ITS program comes in. Students can prepare for networking, tech support and developer careers in the information technology field and do it online. Associate of applied science degree, diploma and certificate options are available.

“You can get your two-year AAS degree via the web so that you can help fill the gap in the many exciting, challenging and rewarding technology career pathways,” Licari said. “With the college’s new facilities and upgrades, we can deliver a more robust program for students, especially in networking and tech support. The networking specialist classes, for example, are all available online.”

After completing their education at CCC, students also will be prepared to transfer to a computer science, security or other specialty four-year degree program. For students who choose the second option, CCC’s faculty advisers will guide their way.

The possibilities in the information technology field are endless. Just ask Clay Anderson, network support engineer, astronaut and former CCC student. “In this age of information saturation, the ability to learn on your own is a great skill to have; however, there were some things I just couldn’t pick up by myself,” he said. “Attending CCC allowed me to unite the clear industry standards and best practices taught in class with the technological skills I had already developed.”

Want more information? Check out our Information and Technology Systems page.

Story by Joni Ransom