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Jun 23
Eclipse specialists need help from the public


As if witnessing a natural phenomenon wasn't enough, people in the path of the total solar eclipse will also have a chance to help record history on Aug. 21. 

When eclipse specialists from the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory visit North Platte next week, they will be promoting an Eclipse Megamovie Project. 

The goal of the project is to produce a high definition, time-expanded video of the eclipse that will allow scientists to analyze the sun's corona for years to come. 

The video will be created using thousands of images taken by citizens at various points along the eclipse path. Those images will provide continuous datasets far exceeding what any one person could capture from a single location. 

It will add a new dimension to the study of the sun's faint outer atmosphere, the corona, by showing how the corona changes over time. 

Scientists have been able to observe rapid variations of the corona using radio wave studies, however, the Megamovie Project will allow them to study such processes directly using visible light – thus enriching their knowledge of the sun's dynamic atmosphere. 

The experiment will be repeated when another total eclipse crosses the U.S. in 2024. That will show how the sun has changed after a period of seven years. 

People can learn how to participate in the project during a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the McDonald-Belton Theater on the North Platte Community College South Campus. 

"In addition to talking about the Eclipse Megamovie Project, the specialists will discuss the science of eclipses and what to watch for during an eclipse," said Lisa Burke, executive director of the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau. "Those who attend the presentation will gain a better understanding of eclipses and learn how to get the most out of their eclipse experience." 

The presentation is free and open to the public. It is being hosted by the Visitors Bureau and NPCC's STEM Club. 

According to, the last time North Platte experienced a total solar eclipse was 310 AD. Another one is not expected to happen in the area until 2744. 

Jun 22
Pinning ceremony planned for LPN students


Twelve students will graduate from the Mid-Plains Community College Licensed Practical Nursing program on June 30. 

The public is invited to attend a pinning ceremony at 11 a.m. in the McDonald-Belton Theater, 601 W. State Farm Road in North Platte. 

LPNs are the eyes and ears of registered nurses and physicians. They provide hands-on care for patients – whether that be changing dressings, administering medication or simply taking the time to listen and reassure. 

Pinnings represent a significant step in the process to becoming a LPN. Only graduates of approved nursing programs are eligible for licensure in Nebraska. 

Brandy Bielicki, Stephanie Montes, Amanda Schrock and Brittany Jordan will be the student speakers for the pinning ceremony at MPCC. 

All of the following graduates will be recognized: 

Broken Bow - Baily Kirkpatrick 

Culbertson - Brittany Jordan 

Hildreth - Karen Paitz 

Litchfield - Amanda Schrock 

McCook - Neyva Flores, Taylor Matson, Stephanie Montes, Courteney Mosley 

North Platte - Brandy Bielicki, Jude Okparaejesi, Cindy Skinner 

Palisade - Christina Patten

Jun 21
Fernandez finds new beginning through Bridge Grant Program



Jessica Fernandez walks during NPCC commencement ceremonies in May. Fernandez graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Office Technology with a medical emphasis.

Jessica Fernandez doesn't know where she would be without the Bridge Grant Program at North Platte Community College - probably not reaching her full potential. 

"I know I wouldn't be where I am right now, that's for sure," said Fernandez. "The support system that comes with the program is so amazing – I can't even explain it." 

Fernandez moved to North Platte specifically to enroll in the Bridge Grant Program. She's originally from Fort Pierre, S.D. 

Jessica and family.jpg

Jessica Fernandez went back to school to set an example for her three children. Pictured left to right are Mia, Jace, Jessica and Alexa Fernandez. 

Fernandez graduated from Stanley County High School in 1997 then attended Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D. for about a year and a half. 

"I just took generals," said Fernandez. "I didn't really know what I wanted to study. I went to college because that was the thing to do." 

A few relocations, a stint in cosmetology, a marriage and three kids later, Fernandez found herself in Alliance. She was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years – until 2014. 

"My marriage fell apart, and I knew I needed to do something," said Fernandez. "That's when I started looking into schools to see what my options might be. I learned about the Bridge Grant Program through a post on Facebook." 

Jessica PTK.jpg

Jessica Fernandez holds up the certificate she received for being inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society in March. Making it into PTK was a personal goal for Fernandez. 

The Bridge Grant Program targets non-traditional students, low-income individuals and GED recipients. The idea behind it is to prepare adults for entry or re-entry into the workforce by teaching them specific skill sets that improve their chances of obtaining employment or increasing wages. 

"I thought the program sounded interesting and could be a good option for me," said Fernandez. "At the time I enrolled, in 2015, the program was offering training for a certificate in Business Office Technology with a medical emphasis. I've always had an interest in the medical field, so the Bridge Grant Program allowed me to pursue that." 

The decision to go back to school wasn't just for her, however. 

"I have three kids to set an example for," said Fernandez. "I tell them it's never too late to follow their dreams." 

Jessica Fernandez.jpg

Jessica Fernandez was selected as NPCC's Business Student of the Month in November.

Once in the Bridge Grant Program, Fernandez fell in love with it. One of the biggest benefits is that the program allows students to transition into a college setting gradually. It begins with a summer class, during which students learn about expectations and form a support group with their peers. 

"The other girls in my group were amazing," said Fernandez. "We were all there for each other. The support of coordinator Teresa Piccolo was fantastic as well. She always told us that we could do it. She gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves." 

Among other things, Fernandez was required to attend study groups, job shadow and create a résumé, which she did not have prior to entering the program. 


Jessica Fernandez receives a hug from NPCC business instructor Kathleen McCune during an Honors Convocation last spring. Fernandez went back to school after spending 12 years as a stay-at-home mom.

"All of that was so helpful," said Fernandez. "If I had a question about an assignment, I could ask someone in the study group. Job shadowing was an eye-opener because I was able to really see myself in certain professions as opposed to others. Best of all, I realized I loved learning." 

Soon, receiving a certificate wasn't enough. Fernandez wanted an associate degree. 

A goal-setter by nature, she pushed herself to make the Dean's List. In November, Fernandez was named NPCC's Business Student of the Month, and in March, she was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society. 

"Even when I didn't have school, I was at the college all the time," said Fernandez. "I just enjoyed it so much. Most of my classes were online last spring, but I still went to the campus every day because I could." 

Fernandez graduated from NPCC in May and now has her sights set on a bachelor's degree. She will transfer to Peru State College later this summer to pursue Business Administration. 


Jessica Fernandez, far right, was one of several business students recognized at NPCC's Honors Convocation.

"With the credits I earned at MPCC and Northern, I only have three semesters left until I can receive a bachelor's degree," said Fernandez. "I definitely credit the Bridge Grant Program for bringing me so far. I may have continued schooling without it, but only a class here or there." 

Once finished with college, Fernandez hopes to land a job in a hospital or clinic setting. She loves working with billing and insurance. 

"Regardless of where I end up, the Bridge Grant Program has changed my life for the better," said Fernandez. "I don't have any regrets. Some days I think I could be working, but where would I be working? That's the question. If you have the chance to reach for the stars – why not take it?" 

On a side note: 

The 2017-18 Bridge Grant Program will allow students to earn a Medical Office Technology certificate in just 10 months. 

The Medical Office Technology certificate provides the necessary entry-level requirements in business, office technology and interpersonal communication for a career as a medical office assistant. 

Eligible participants may receive financial assistance with tuition, fees and books. 

The deadline to apply is July 15. More information is available by contacting Teresa Piccolo at 535-3700 or

Jun 20
MPCC Rodeo Team returns from nationals

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MPCC team roper Chandler Comfort heels a steer at the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo. Comfort finished the season fifth in the nation. (Photo courtesy of Dan Hubbell)

Mid-Plains Community College cowboy Chandler Comfort is fifth in the nation, following a week of competition in Casper, Wyo. 

Comfort, of Gem, Kan., was the number one team roping heeler in the Great Plains Region heading into the College National Finals Rodeo on June 11. 

He and his roping partner, Samantha Jorgenson, of Black Hills State University, stretched their steer out in 6.9 seconds during the first go-round of the CNFR. 

Their time was 12.6 seconds in the next go-round, 6.7 seconds in the third go-round and 11.5 seconds in the short-go. It was enough to put them into the Top Five as the 2016-17 college rodeo season drew to a close. 

"Chandler was a little disappointed in that he only roped one leg in the second round," said Garrett Nokes, MPCC timed event coach. "The only difference a two-leg catch would have made is that he would have ended up in fourth place instead of fifth. But, it's rodeo. Team roping was one of the toughest events, and Chandler really competed well for us." 



Wesley Thorp and Cole Wheeler won the team roping at the CNFR for the second year in a row. Thorp, of Stephenville, Texas, is also a force to be reckoned with on the professional circuit. 

Last year, he claimed the championship at the Bob Feist Invitational, the largest one day open roping in the country. He then won a go-round and placed seventh at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. 

"When you're up against that type of competition, it's important to keep your head," said Nokes. "Chandler did that, and I think it was a great experience for him. He's a freshman, so I'm looking forward to being back at nationals with him again next year." 

MPCC steer wrestler Kris Rasmussen, of Riverdale, threw his steer in 5.0 seconds in the first go-round and won the third go-round with a time of 4.5 seconds. That put him 21st in the final standings. 

Bareback rider Rowdy Moon, of Sargent, finished 13th in the nation after riding his broncs to scores of 74.5, 63.5 and 65.5 respectively. It wasn't enough to forward him to the short-go. 

"The CNFR is a different animal all together," said Dustin Elliott, MPCC Rodeo Team rough stock coach. "The stock is better than we see all year. Rowdy got three horses covered but two shook him loose, and the scores reflected it. He was 13th, and they take 12 to the championship round. Nonetheless, it was a great season for a great kid." 

The rest of MPCC's qualifiers: bull rider Garrett Wickett, of Norfolk, saddle bronc rider Lane Kennedy, of Orleans and team roping heeler Wyatt Killion, of Ainsworth, didn't place at the CNFR. Wickett ended the season 17th in the nation, Kennedy was 34th and Killion was 38th. Additionally, MPCC finished 25th in the men's team standings. 

"Garrett and Lane drew really good animals," said Elliott. "Garrett's third bull he rode 5 seconds and started a great ride - just didn't finish. Had he, the score would have been pushing 90." 

Moon graduated from MPCC in May and will transfer to Chadron State College to pursue a bachelor's degree. Kennedy and Wickett, however, will be back at MPCC in the fall to try for nationals one more time. 

"They will have a year of maturity on them, and I look forward to better things next season," said Elliott. 

All results from the CNFR can be found at

Jun 19
Cowboy Kickball will raise money for MPCC Rodeo Team

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The Mid-Plains Community College Rodeo Team will benefit from the NEBRASKAland Days Cowboy Kickball competition for the third year in a row. 

The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Wild West Arena in North Platte. Proceeds from entry fees will go back to the MPCC Rodeo Team in the form of a scholarship. 

"Last year, the competition was open to anybody," said Bill Troshynski, NEBRASKAland DAYS board member and co-chair of the board's kickball committee. "This year will be a little different in that the teams consist of the Mid-Plains Community College team and NEBRASKAland DAYS sponsors. We decided to limit entry into the tournament this year as an added perk for our sponsors, who all provide so much support to our organization." 

As of Monday afternoon, 16 teams were signed up. 

"The event has really grown over the past two years," said Troshynski. "I would encourage everyone to come out and watch the action. There's no admission charge. It's just a great opportunity for families to enjoy the arena and have some fun while also supporting the MPCC Rodeo Team." 

Jun 19
Kilted Man to appear in Imperial


Imperial residents will have a unique opportunity on Friday – the chance to hear traditional Irish and Scottish music live and in-person. 

Matthew Gurnsey, also known as "The Kilted Man," will perform from 1-2 p.m. (MDT) at the Imperial Theatre. Admission to the concert is $5 per person. Reservations can be made through the Mid-Plains Community College Imperial Campus, (308) 882-5972. 


Gurnsey, who began performing at a young age, has appeared on stages around the world, delighting thousands with his Scottish swagger and homespun charm. 

He honed his Celtic skills while living in Scotland among the people and culture that are his heritage and the inspiration for his music. 

Through the marriage of wit and finesse, Gurnsey charms his audiences, sweeping them into tales of wayward voyages, unrequited love and the vibrantly colorful lives of the every-man beloved of many Irish tales. 

His talents with traditional Celtic instruments such as the concertina, bodhran, bones and mandolin add an air of authenticity to each piece, and Gurnsey's stirringly rich bass voice provides the foundation for hauntingly beautiful melodies. 


His performance in Imperial is co-sponsored by the Imperial Campus and the Chase County Area Arts Council. 

Ages four and up are welcome to attend. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Gurnsey will also perform at Broken Arrow Cellars in Imperial from 6-7 p.m. on Friday. Tickets for that can be purchased by calling (308) 882-7772.

Jun 19
MPCC instructors bring home BEST Awards

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Eight MPCC business instructors have received BEST awards from the Nebraska Department of Education. Pictured back row, left to right, they are: Kathleen McCune, Angie Chittick, Janet Stalder and Jimi Cole. Front row, left to right, are: Renelle Mooney, Cathy Nutt, Jean Condon and Lorrie Mowry.

Eight business instructors from Mid-Plains Community College have been honored with Belong, Excel, Study and Travel (BEST) Awards from the Nebraska Department of Education. 

Kathleen McCune, Renelle Mooney, Angie Chittick, Jimi Cole, Jean Condon, Lorrie Mowry, Cathy Nutt and Janet Stalder were recognized during a Nebraska Career Education Conference in Kearney on June 7. 

McCune received a 10-year award, and Mooney was a first-year award winner. All were identified as being instructors whose professional activities influenced business and marketing education in Nebraska over the past year. 

BEST Awards are given to business teachers who demonstrate superior qualities such as dedication to students, community outreach and continual classroom improvement efforts. All of the MPCC instructors were recognized for contributing to the quality of education in their communities and the state. 

Additionally, they demonstrated significant involvement in professional associations, community and school activities, professional leadership development and service to the business education profession. 

"I just want to congratulate my colleagues on their accomplishments," said Jean Condon, MPCC Business and Technology Division Chair. "I'm proud of all of them and consider myself very fortunate to be able to work with such a great group of professional educators. Their hard work, dedication to education, diligence and high standards contribute to the success of our students." 

Jun 16
Eclipse specialists set their sights on North Platte


Eclipse specialists from the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory will make a stop in North Platte on June 27. 

They will speak during a forum at 7 p.m. in the McDonald-Belton Theater on the North Platte Community College South Campus. The event is free and open to the public. 

NPCC's STEM Club and the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau are hosting the group. The purpose is to educate civic leaders and public service providers about the eclipse and to prepare them for a possible influx of out-of-town visitors. 

Solar scientists and educators will also address the science of eclipses, discuss how the public can participate in the Eclipse Megamovie Project and share curriculum, activities and resources for teaching about the eclipse and viewing the eclipse safely. 

The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is the first to go from coast-to-coast across the continental U.S. since 1918. The natural phenomenon will not happen again until 2024 and will not stretch from coast-to-coast again until 2045. 

The event prompted Multiverse at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory to launch an "Eclipse MegaMovie Awareness Tour," a series of town hall and science education meetings in the fall of 2016. 

"We want everyone to know about the natural wonder, scientific importance and social impact of viewing a live total solar eclipse," said Dr. Laura Peticolas, Multiverse director. "It is truly a transformative, life-changing experience, and we want to prepare people for that." 

The tour targets communities along the path of the total solar eclipse. North Platte is one of the final stops. 

Jun 15
2017 MPCC raffle car headed to Gering


The 2017 Mid-Plains Community College raffle car, a 1965 Chevrolet Impala, will be on display in Gering this weekend. 

It will be at the Rock-N-Roll Father's Day Classic Car Show at the Five Rocks Amphitheater on Friday and Saturday. 

The Impala is the 13th vehicle restored and modified by students in MPCC's Classic Car Restoration (CCR), Automotive Technology and Auto Body Technology programs. 

Every year, the students disassemble, modify and reassemble a classic car. They begin by reducing the vehicle to a shell then sandblasting the body and frame down to bare metal. 

From there, they embark on the long and challenging process of transforming the vehicle into a work of art. The project requires them to study and merge both traditional and modern engineering and technology. 

"They learn about everything from chassis, electrical systems, drivetrains, engines and the replacement and refinishing of sheet metal to plastic, fiberglass and upholstery," said Don Wilson, Auto Body instructor and supervisor of the CCR Program. "When you have to merge analog systems with digital technology, it can get complicated. There isn't a book or instructions when merging them, and our students must know both before they can make the various systems work properly and look amazing." 

This year's raffle car is a true SS-meaning a Super Sport model. The drivetrain consists of a stock 8.1 liter late model fuel injected GM engine. It uses the latest in computerized technology and incorporates a modified computer chip. The power plant is coupled to a 700R4 automatic transmission and a stock GM rear end. 

"One of our goals is to build a car that the general public can drive," said Bryan Herrick, the Automotive Technology instructor connected to the CCR program. His students were responsible for the drivetrain on the Impala. 

The Auto Body students were in charge of stripping the body, fixing rust and any sheet metal damage, power coating the frame and adding a tilt wheel, new American Wheels and GT tires.  The car's finish, "Golden Globe," has an added gold flake effect and was chosen from the 2014 General Motors Cadillac base coat/clear coat paint system. 

Other features include a vintage air conditioning system, a tubular front suspension and front wheel power disc brakes. 

The Impala received a boost from a number of local businesses who either donated cash, parts or discounts toward its restoration. Those include Dave Smith Signs, JM Parts & Equipment, E.J.'s Outdoor Sports, Cohagen Battery and LKQ Corporation-Keystone Automotive.

The car will tour the state over the summer, making appearances at car shows, parades and cruise night events. 

A total of 10,000 raffle tickets are up for grabs at a price of $10 each. Proceeds will be used for scholarships for students in the Automotive Technology and Auto Body Technology programs and to help offset the cost of producing another raffle car next year. 

Tickets will be sold everywhere the vehicle is displayed. A schedule is posted on the college's website,  

Tickets can also be purchased at the welcome centers at any of MPCC's campuses in North Platte, McCook, Broken Bow, Imperial, Ogallala and Valentine. 

Additionally, a number of businesses, organizations and individuals will sell tickets. In North Platte, those include: North Platte Buick GMC, Cohagen Battery Store, Grandma's Memories Antiques and Collectibles, Isabelle's Auction House, A.J. Janas, Pat Smith, Jody's Auto Sales, Larry's Barber Shop, Modern Tire Pros, Twin River Body Shop, Keystone Automotive and E.J.'s Outdoor Sports. 

Tickets may also be purchased at Rex's Refrigeration in Ogallala and at the Curtis Collision Center in Curtis. 

The drawing for the Impala will be at 3 p.m. during the Colonel Cody's Cruise Show and Shine in downtown North Platte on Sept. 9. 

Jun 15
Last chance to take Free Youth ATV Training


There are only two opportunities left to take Free Youth ATV Training this summer. 

The Business and Community Education department at Mid-Plains Community College will offer the training at the Chase County Fairgrounds in Imperial on June 21 and at the Nebraska Department of Roads in Ogallala on July 8. 

"The need for quality rider safety training is becoming more of a necessity every year as we continue to see serious injuries attributed to ATVs," said Crystal Welch, Business and Community Education coordinator. "We are happy to offer this very important training to our area youth." 

There will be two sessions to choose from at each training: 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Classes will be divided by age group, 6-9 and 10-16. Six students from each age group will be allowed in each session. 

The curriculum, developed by Central States Safety Driver Training, will consist of a combination of safety instruction and guided, hands-on ATV operation. Participants will practice turns, stops and terrain navigation. 

Instruction topics will include ATV injury and fatality statistics, how ATV size can contribute to rollover injuries and fatalities, the dangers of carrying passengers and material on ATVs, risks of traveling on public roads and safety procedures and practices. 

Those who complete the program successfully will receive a certificate that aligns with insurance company requirements. 

ATVs in different sizes will be used during the trainings. Parents of children younger than 10 must stay for their child's class. 

Other requirements include:

  • Closed-toe footwear (preferably over the ankle)
  • Long, non-flare pants
  • A long-sleeved shirt or jacket
  • Approved eye protection (will be provided if a participant does not have any)
  • A helmet (will be provided if a participant doesn't have one) 

Space is limited in all classes. Pre-registration is required by calling (308) 535-3678. 

The trainings are possible thanks to a grant from the CHS Foundation, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn. The money is administered through the North Platte Community College Foundation.

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Heather Johnson
Area Communications Specialist

Heather produces and distributes press releases for the college. She began work at MPCC in 2014. Prior to that, she spent five years as the news director/web manager for Eagle Radio in North Platte. From 2009-2014 she worked as a reporter/photographer for The North Platte Telegraph. Heather has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chadron State College.

Brent L. Cobb
McCook Community College News Bureau Coordinator​