by jamesc 6/10/2014 9:07:52 PM --
O’NEILL – Northeast Community College board members, administration, local dignitaries and others on Tuesday celebrated reaching the goal of a capital campaign to construct a new extended campus here that will not only offer college transfer course work, but provide technical skill training and the opportunity for area residents to pursue upper level undergraduate and graduate level courses and programs. The "Celebration of Success” was held in the O’Neill Community Center.
“Through this project, Northeast Community College will be able to meet regional education and training needs in areas such as industrial and applied technologies, nursing, agriculture, and general education and academic transfer, as well as credit and non-credit courses in face-to-face and distance learning settings,” said Dr. Michael Chipps, Northeast president. “This new extended campus will provide exceptional educational experiences for area residents with new classrooms, labs, and other wonderful learning spaces. It will also provide additional choices for students to align Northeast courses and degrees to bachelors and masters degrees provided by Bellevue University.”
Northeast recently met its $2.8 million capital campaign goal to launch construction on the 15,075 square foot extended campus facility. The extended campus will have state-of-the-art classrooms, high technology computers, advanced health and science labs, and an attached technical training wing that will accommodate welding, industrial, and agriculture-related courses. It will replace the use of a 76-year-old former elementary school building that Northeast has used for a number of years.
“I wish to thank everyone who contributed their time, treasure and talents to the capital campaign,” Chipps said. “We would not be here without everyone’s support. Every contribution, large or small counts, because for some it was a stretch no matter the gift.”
Chipps commended the volunteers and the Northeast staff who worked on the capital campaign. “Thanks go out to the campaign team who worked tirelessly alongside each other and ran this effort all the way up the flagpole. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for a job well done and personal congratulations for achieving the goal.”
“This new extended campus is going to change lives for generations to come," said Larry Poessnecker, a senior member of the Northeast Board of Governors. "Community colleges respond to the immediate needs of the communities. The O'Neill extended campus of Northeast Community College will enable many young families to take advantage of being close to their classes. As we have emphasized, local taxes were not used in any phase of this campaign, but it will enable us to provide so many more services to this area.”
Poessnecker credits Dr. Chipps and his administrative team, especially Dr. Tracy Kruse, associate vice president of development and external affairs at Northeast, in the success of the campaign.
"During the height of the campaign, Dr. Chipps and his staff almost lived in this area. Dr. Kruse had only been employed at the college for a short time when this began and she hit the ground running. Failure or rejection was not an option for her and I appreciate her leadership as well as everyone else who worked on the campaign for a job well done."
Poessnecker, of Atkinson, calls this one of the most rewarding times for him while he has served on the board. "I never got tired of people asking me about the progress of the capital campaign or any phase of the time frame. It has been so great to share in the enthusiasm and excitement for this area to see the completion of this capital campaign and the anticipation that construction will soon begin."
William Price, mayor of O’Neill, recalled conversations with college officials several years ago for the need for more classroom space, upgrades in technology, and the expansion of educational services. “I could see the importance for the City of O’Neill to be involved in making this vision a reality,” he said. “When Dr. Chipps came to meet with me for the first time and we discussed the need for programs being offered through the O’Neill facility and the vision of the extended campus project, I told him the city would help in any way we could. The LB 840 initiative has afforded the city the opportunity to be a part of this exciting and much needed expansion. We are so thankful for Dr. Chipps, the Board and the staff for their commitment to secondary education in our region.”
“Making the decision to go back to school was a big one for my family and I, but knowing I would be able to take a good portion of my classes just 20 miles from home was the deciding factor for me to pursue my nursing career at Northeast, said Angie Schaaf, of Atkinson.
“As a student taking classes in the current (O'Neill) facility, I strongly agree it is time for a newer, updated college center. The current facility has served its purpose well over the years giving students like myself the opportunity to earn a degree without leaving the area," she said. "I look forward to furthering my education at the new facility and I hope to encourage my children to start their (college) education there also."
Nicole Sedlacek, Holt County economic development executive director, calls the new extended campus a game changer for North Central Nebraska. "Affordable higher education has been available to us already from Northeast Community College, but with this new facility, the environment in which to learn is what is going to make the difference. I truly believe that real economic development is becoming more people focused. It’s about investing in people, it’s about keeping people here, it’s about bringing people back to rural Nebraska."
Sedlacek asked those at the celebration to envision what things will look like in North Central Nebraska with the new extended campus. "I see vibrant downtown districts. I see new homes and development happening across the region, new jobs in our communities, an educated workforce, and an increase in student population in our schools. I see all of this because of what I think the impact of this project will be on our region. And it would only be possible because of the generous support from all of those who have helped make this facility possible."
Merri Schneider, director of the extended campus in O’Neill, said in addition to offering college transfer course work, Northeast will provide a variety of non-credit workshops and classes such as business, computers, supervision, regulatory, compliance, and personal interest, as well, as technical skill training in a number of different areas. Adult education, GED, and English as a Second Language will be offered too.
She said Northeast is also partnering with Bellevue University through the new extended campus. Bellevue will work with Northeast students by providing additional coursework and opportunities to earn bachelor and masters degrees all while staying closer to home.
“Since we draw students from a 75 mile radius around O’Neill, the centralized location of this new extended campus will be convenient for a wide range of people,” Schneider said. “Through the efforts of a great many volunteers and donors who have helped us get to this day, I really believe that we will be well-positioned to offer something for everyone in the North Central region of Nebraska.”
“An integral part of our economic vitality is found right here in North Central Nebraska,” Chipps said. “We are here to educate a workforce capable of supporting, attracting, and sustaining economic growth and to empower all individuals in building workforce skills essential for our rural areas to be sustained and to thrive.“
Chipps cited statistics to prove the point. More than 2,300 Northeast Community College graduates live and work in the north central region of Nebraska. He said over the past five years, 254 new Northeast graduates have obtained employment in the region, and 64-percent of those graduates are employed in Northeast’s 20-county service area – many in North Central Nebraska.
Beckenhauer Construction of Norfolk is the contractor for the O’Neill project, which will be located on the east edge of O’Neill at 507 East Highway 20. Construction is scheduled to begin later this summer with completion in time for the start of classes in Fall 2015.
Members of the Northeast Community College Board of Governors and Dr. Michael Chipps, president, (front row, center) are pictured at a “Celebration of Success,” Tuesday in O’Neill. The event was held after the goal of a capital campaign to construct a new Northeast Community College extended campus in the Holt County community was met recently. Joining the group (front row, beginning second from right) are Merri Schneider, director of the O’Neill extended campus, student Angie Schaaf, Atkinson, Nicole Sedlacek, campaign co-chair, and William Price, mayor of O’Neill. Recent weather conditions forced the event inside to the O’Neill Community Center.