It's a great place to start.
That's how Jody Hill feels about North Platte Community College. She's somewhat of an expert. Three generations of her family have gotten their start at NPCC.
"My mother received a degree in the [Medical Laboratory Technician] program, three out of four of my siblings and I received associate degrees and three of my four sons received associate degrees through NPCC," Hill said. "The college is important to my family."
The tradition began with her mother, Diane Olson. Although originally from North Platte, Diane went to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, back then it was called the Nebraska State Teachers College at Kearney, right out of high school.
"Got three semesters in, married my husband Francis, finished the semester then moved back to North Platte because my husband got a job at the railroad," Diane said. "After five children, I decided I wanted to continue on. I had always wanted to do lab work."
Diane was taking guitar lessons at NPCC at the time. Classes were in the old post office building downtown, currently the site of the Prairie Arts Center.
It was during one of those sessions that she ran into a former classmate from Kearney. He was teaching NPCC's med lab tech program. That connection was all Diane needed to convince her to enroll.
"It was so nice to have the college in town," Diane said. "Instead of driving back and forth to Kearney, I could continue to live in North Platte, raise my family, have a job and still go to classes."
Diane graduated from NPCC in 1979 with both an Associate of Applied Science degree and a Medical Laboratory Technician degree. She then went to work for Dr. Leland Lamberty doing lab work, X-rays and cardiograms among other responsibilities.
"Then in the '90s, it was decided that a license was needed to conduct x-rays," Diane said. "NPCC offered a nine-week limited x-ray technology program. So, I took it Friday evenings and Saturdays and got my license in that, too."
Francis eventually ended up at NPCC as well. He was employed in the signal department at Union Pacific Railroad and took three electronics classes to increase his skills. He later took German and Swedish language classes at the college with Diane and their daughter Carol Olson.
Carol was part of the second generation to attend NPCC alongside Hill and siblings Jeff, Chris, and Melissa Olson.
Carol earned an Associate of Arts degree from NPCC then transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she obtained a degree in physical therapy.
Jeff went through NPCC's Automotive Technology program and graduated in 1981. He qualified for the national Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, now known as SkillsUSA, competition both years that he was at NPCC. After college, Jeff worked for UPRR's car department in North Platte before relocating to Omaha about 15 years ago. He currently manages coal trains.
Chris earned credits for electronics by taking night classes at NPCC during his junior and senior years of high school. He then transferred those credits to UNL.
Similarly, Melissa took classes at NPCC for two years then transferred to Concordia University in Seward. She now works in registration in the emergency room at a hospital in Bella Vista, Ark.
NPCC was Hill's first choice when she graduated from St. Pat's High School in 1982. She had earned a scholarship that paid for 12 credit hours per semester for two years, which made the decision easy.
"NPCC was definitely the most affordable option, and at the time, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to go into," Hill said. "I figured NPCC was a good place to start. I could get some of my generals out of the way while living at home and working my part-time job."
She appreciated NPCC's one-on-one instruction, especially with tougher classes such as chemistry, and the college's friendly, home-like atmosphere.
"I met people during my time at NPCC that I'm still friends with to this day," Hill said. "It was a good way to ease into college. As an introvert, I didn't want to go directly to a big school."
NPCC also helped her develop a vision for the future. She had a clear plan in place by the time she graduated with an Associate of Science degree in 1984.
"I liked the sciences and was familiar with the type of work my mom had done, so I decided to go down that path as well," Hill said. "I transferred to UNL for a year then went on to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where I got a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology."
Hill hired on with Great Plains Health in January of 1987 as a medical technologist and has been there ever since. The past seven years she has served as the hospital's point of care coordinator.
Her career has taken her full circle as she often finds herself training students from the med lab tech program at NPCC. Some of them attended the college at the same time as her sons.
"We didn't really save up for our kids to go to college," Hill said. "With four children in three and a half years, saving was hard to do. NPCC was once again the logical choice because of affordability."
Her oldest son, Andrew Hill, earned an Associate of Arts degree from NPCC and is currently studying web design at Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, Calif.
The next in line, Kory Hill, received both Associate of Art and Associate of Science degrees from NPCC before moving on to DeVry University in Denver to pursue a degree in electronic technology. He is a test technician for Varian Medical Systems in Palo Alto, Calif.
Jody's youngest sons, Bryan and Ben Hill, are twins. Bryan took anatomy and physiology dual credit classes through NPCC while still in high school. He transferred those credits to the University of Nebraska at Kearney where he ran track and cross country and studied Spanish education. Bryan is now a Spanish teacher.
Ben also took dual credit courses in high school before enrolling at NPCC where he spent the first year concentrating on general studies.
"By the second year, I was taking voice lessons and acting classes and becoming more involved with the music and theater programs," Ben said. "NPCC was right for me because that's where I found what I really wanted to get into. It was good preparation for that next step of my educational journey."
Ben obtained an Associate of Arts degree from NPCC before following his brother to UNK and earning a bachelor's degree in music and theater. Ben has been in numerous musicals and other theatrical productions ever since.
"I just can't say enough good things about NPCC," Diane said as she reflected on all of her family members who have passed through the college's doors. "It's such an asset to have a college in this area that allows people to stay here, work here and further their education at the same time. For our family, it's been everything we could have ever wanted."