From chippewa.com: “Obstacles don’t stop CVTC grad” — Scott Steenerson still isn’t sure he should have graduated from high school. Struggles in reading and math due to learning disabilities resulted in poor grades. But that was back in 1997. On Thursday, July 24, he graduated from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) as a top student in the Manufacturing Engineering Technologist program, a member of the College’s honor society, and the student speaker for the commencement ceremony.

Steenerson was one of 129 graduates to receive degrees and diplomas in 26 different programs in CVTC’s summer graduating class. Welding and Radiography programs had the most graduates, with 17 each, followed by Diagnostic Medical Sonography with 16.

Last spring, Steenerson received both the achievement and leadership awards among all Manufacturing Engineering Technologist students. He was the only one scheduled for summer graduation.

It’s not as if Steenerson’s learning disabilities magically disappeared since his days at Elk River, Minn. High School, but he learned to deal with them and got the help he needed at CVTC.

“In high school, they didn’t have a lot of programs that helped with it,” Steenerson said. “There were a handful of classes I did pretty well in, but I think that had a lot to do with good teachers.”

Steenerson ended up settling in Hammond and holding a well-paying job at Andersen Windows. “I had a couple of people at Andersen who took me under their wings, and I started to catch on to things better,” he said. “That gave me the opportunity to work with the manufacturing engineers.”

When he became a victim in large layoff, two weeks after his second child was born, Steenerson knew he’d have to do better in the future to support a family of four. Eligibility for a federal program for displaced workers allowed him to enroll at CVTC. He started off scared.

“Considering my grades in high school, I was really concerned about whether I could pull off college-level classes,” Steenerson said. He had two tough ones right away in chemistry and math. “I was extremely nervous. Looking at the other students, half of them seemed young enough to be my kids.”

But Steenerson says he had two great teachers, Ron Keyes in chemistry and Dave Vollmer in math, who knew about his learning disabilities and gave him the extra help he needed. Steenerson also got help from the CVTC’s Academic Services Center. Success followed.

“When I got my final grades, I shocked myself, particularly in my math class, where I got an A when I had struggled so much in high school.”

More success followed. On Vollmer’s recommendation, Steenerson became a math tutor. When he started his program courses in manufacturing, Instructor Tom Vanderloop drew him into the student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, where he rose to a leadership position. Twice he represented CVTC with other team members at international competitions and was the team leader in one.

His exposure to lean manufacturing at Andersen Windows made him a valuable student. Instructor Hans Mikelson would bring him in to help with workshops on the subject.

Steenerson explained that, knowing his limitations, he was never hesitant to ask for help. When he got it, he shared it. “I’d grab some of the other students and explain it to them and we’d work out problems together.” Steenerson helped in efforts to extend tutoring programs to CVTC’s Gateway campus.

In addressing his fellow graduates, Steenerson said he feels a sense of sadness leaving CVTC because it has made such a difference in his life. “I’ve loved every one of the instructors I’ve had at CVTC,” he said.

Steenerson is already getting some job offers, but he’s hoping to lands something close to his current home and at a company where he can work to improve manufacturing procedures.

Like Steenerson, faculty speaker Jon Leenhouts had high praise for the teachers he learned from in his life. “Over time, I’ve remained interested in my own career, and have actively kindled new opportunities and have been willing to try new things – because of the type of teachers I’ve been fortunate to have had,” said Leenhouts, an award-winning trainer and consultant with CVTC’s Business & Industry team.

Commencement speaker Kathy Otto, medical assembly operations manager at Phillips Medisize, spoke of the skills gap with a different perspective. She told of a recent meeting with CVTC and business community leaders to identify training needs in the community.

“But in the end, one man stood up and summed up the gap for the entire business group: ‘We just want people that care – care!’ Every business leader in the room immediately agreed,” Otto said.

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From jsonline.com: “MATC student conquers brain injuries, limitations to graduate” — By Karen Herzog – There must be a reason why she survived two major head injuries decades apart, says Roane Simkin, who will walk across a stage Wednesday with her service dog, Ice, to accept two associate degrees from Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Simkin, 53, is adapting to what her body and brain can no longer do.

At age 22, she had to learn again how to stand, walk and do many other basic things most take for granted after a horse she was riding reared up, fell on top of her, and rolled over her. After a rehab and healing period of about nine years, Simkin rebounded as much as possible.

But then she suffered another head injury at age 46 when a motorist plowed into the back of her Saab while she was stopped at a red light.

“The weird thing isn’t that this happened to me,” she says. “It’s that I keep walking away. Obviously, I’m here for something.”

Simkin will be among more than 1,400 MATC graduates who will receive degrees during a commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Cellular Arena. Walking across the stage will mean more to her than the average graduate.

Doctors told her after her first brain injury that if she hadn’t been a well-trained dancer before her accident, she likely never would have walked again.

“Your brain reboots when you have a brain injury — how you process information and interact with the world,” she explained of the recovery process.

Simkin already has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English, and a master’s degree in human factors engineering — “literally the study of work,” she said. She enjoyed a lucrative consulting career as a human factors/ergonomics engineer — also known as business analyst — before her 2007 car accident, she said.

Through her studies the past three years at MATC, she has figured out how to still do the work she enjoys — helping people better interact with software and other technology — but in a different way.

She can no longer travel as a contractor because of mobility challenges and an inability to function well under fluorescent lights because they interfere with her ability to receive, process, recall and share information. So she has developed new skills such as web design that she can use without having to travel from workplace to workplace and deal with the lights.

Simkin double-majored at MATC in individualized technical studies and visual communications, also known as interactive media. The individualized technical studies program is customized to meet specific educational needs not served by other degree programs, combining skills and knowledge from different disciplines.

Wisconsin’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation helped her get back on her feet by paying for her education, she said.

“It behooves people who have disabilities,” Simkin said. “Do the mourning you have to do, get over it and start to do something. Use what you have. Start with what you want to do and figure out whether there is another way to do it.”

She doesn’t have the luxury of looking for a dream job when she graduates.

“I have to ask, ‘Will you accommodate my disability so I’m not in so much pain,'” she said, referring to headaches and confusion she experiences when she works in a room with fluorescent light. At school, Simkin wears a hat in classrooms with that type of lighting. Natural light from windows poses no issues.

Simkin is excited about the prospects of continuing to do the type of work she loves.

“I like putting information together that empowers people,” she said, adding that she may explore teaching at a community college at some point.

She joined MATC’s student government to regain social skills she lost after her 2007 accident. She’s the outgoing district governor for the state student government, an association of all 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin. She also works as a tutoring associate and develops websites for MATC.

Simkin lost part of her temporal lobe, including muscle memory for balance and orienting, so her service dog, Ice, helps her with both. The rugged Anatolian shepherd dog also helps her walk on ice and snow, and carries things for her in a bag.

She has trouble adding long strings of numbers, which never was a problem before the 2007 accident. While working as an executive assistant prior to the accident, she could keep track of $30 million in a business, she said.

“To have had it and lost it is devastating,” she said.

Her body and different parts of her brain were affected by the second head injury. But ironically, she regained some abilities after the car accident, like “imagining forward” to do technical writing, which she struggled with after the first accident, she said. She also regained muscle memory to cook, which she couldn’t do after the horseback-riding accident, she said.

“One theory of memory is we retain everything; we just can’t access it under certain circumstances. I lost abilities, some of which I was able to reroute. It was like going through a maze. After two major brain injuries, I just remember what I can.”

From chippewa.com: “CVTC graduates love the caring, excitement of nursing” — EAU CLAIRE — Kensie Hughes of Chippewa Falls likes caring for people, but she also has a bit of a weakness for excitement in her life. Nursing seemed like a natural choice, and she’s hoping someday to work in emergency medicine.

Hughes and 79 other nursing students took big steps toward fulfilling their dreams Friday night when they were among 621 graduates in 44 academic programs receiving degrees and certificates at the spring commencement of Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Nursing had the most graduates at the Eau Claire campus, followed by business management with 38 graduates, and electrical power distribution with 30.

Hughes, a 2008 Chippewa Falls High School graduate, originally completed training as a certified nursing assistant and worked at the Chippewa Manor before starting the nursing program, then taking some time off to start a family. Completing her associate degree in nursing now puts her in line for a long career in health care.

“I always enjoyed helping people,” Hughes said. “I just like being around people. Everyone’s so different and it’s never the same every day.”

Hughes plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future after she begins working in the field, a typical strategy for CVTC nursing graduates. She also has her eye on emergency room work.

“I love adrenaline. I was a volunteer firefighter for the Chippewa Fire District for a while,” Hughes said.

Liking the caring as well as the excitement in nursing is something Hughes has in common with fellow graduate Jamie Smith of Cornell.

“I really liked my transition experience at Mayo Health Systems,” she said. The transitions part of nursing training involves 80 hours in the field working with cooperating health care providers.

“I was able to respond to level one trauma in the emergency room, and help people who came in with neurological problems and brain trauma,” Smith said.

She started her nursing education at Western Technical College in La Crosse, but came to Chippewa County, where her husband William works at Chippewa Concrete. She transferred to the CVTC program.

“I always wanted to be a nurse. It’s been my passion since I was a little girl,” she said. “I like caring for people, and there’s always diversity in what you do.”

Graduate Ashley Weiss of Menomonie, who is originally from Gilmanton, was the student speaker and urged graduates to have confidence that they can achieve their goals and overcome their failures.

“If you want something bad enough, what you have accomplished here today should be enough to show you that you can absolutely reach any goal you set your mind to,” she said. “But don’t be afraid of failure on your way there. Sometimes those failures are what motivate you to do better and push yourself harder.”

The guest speaker was Jeff West, president of Bear Down, a company that helps companies effectively implement their strategic plans. West was the co-founder and CEO of Silicon Logic Engineering, a company he sold in 2006. West told the story of good employee A and disgruntled employee B.

“I hope each of you someday take the leap and start your own business. There’s nothing else like it in the world,” West said, acknowledging that many have either taken jobs or will soon.

“Every business you work for, no matter the size today, at one point was started by someone with a dream. They put their heart and soul and probably most of their worldly net worth into getting going,” West said. “So the question is, which employee are you going to be? A or B?”

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Column: Ring in a New Year with MSTC” — By Sue Budjac, president of Mid-State Technical College — I hope you had a joyful holiday season and wish you a happy New Year. This time of year is a culmination of sorts for many Mid-State Technical College students. An impressive class of 142 graduates gathered Dec. 19 for fall semester commencement ceremonies to celebrate a transition from their MSTC hands-on college education to new beginnings and enhanced opportunities in the workforce.

The solid reputation of this college and the impressive skill set of MSTC graduates are well documented. Nearly nine out of 10 MSTC graduates are employed within six months of graduation, and 95 percent of employers who hire MSTC graduates are satisfied or very satisfied with their education, training and skill set. These are some of the reasons why nearly 9,000 people make MSTC their preferred choice for education and training each year.

Yet statistics alone will not ease fear of the unknown. Anxiety sometimes can hinder our desire to achieve the skill set that enhances our career options. Fear ultimately “… holds us and binds us and keeps us from growing.”

However, success is often driven by a willingness to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The following stories show how two students faced fear, made sacrifices, rolled up their sleeves and tackled the unknown.

Nancy, a 27-year-old mother of three from Stevens Point, was a small-business owner before undergoing an organ transplant, forcing her to give up her business to focus on her recovery. While taking classes on Stevens Point campus in spring 2012, she realized she wanted to pursue a career that empowered her to help others feel good about themselves; cosmetology was a natural fit. She graduated in December with a technical diploma in cosmetology and is currently readying to take her State Board licensing exam. Nancy isn’t going anywhere though; she plans to continue taking classes this semester in MSTC’s business management program.

Dan also stepped away from the status quo. While still a senior in high school, Dan completed paramedic technician program classes at MSTC. Dan since has finished his paramedic core courses, passed his National Registry exams and became licensed in Wisconsin as a paramedic — all before celebrating his 19th birthday. He subsequently was hired as a full-time paramedic, where he works today.

Maybe you know someone who needs encouragement overcoming a fear of trying something new, someone who will benefit from enriching skills they need to be successful in the local workforce. MSTC is the first stop on a path to a new or enhanced career. Our helpful and caring employees provide the custom support and assistance each person needs.

Ring in the New Year with small class sizes, hands-on instruction and engaging faculty with real-world experience. It’s not too late to register for MSTC’s spring semester — classes start Jan. 13. Stop by any of our four locations, call 888-575-MSTC (6782), or visit www.mstc.edu to learn more.

 

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