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KC officials say new Vandalia Campus is exceeding their expectations

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

As they traveled throughout the Kaskaskia College district to hear the comments and opinions of residents, the KC president and chairman of the board of trustees have basically heard only one concern.

The only concern that we have heard so far is that we need more space, that people in the district want more course offerings which is good to hear, Jim Beasley said while attending a breakfast program at KCs Vandalia Campus on Wednesday morning.

Beasley, as chairman of the KC Board of Trustees, and Dr. Jim Underwood, the KC president, were on hand to talk about recent advancements and accomplishments by the college, as well as field comments from local residents.

What the comments about a shortage of space mean to Beasley is that people are using the KC facilities and taking advantage of the course offerings, and that theyre also interested in additional opportunities for improving themselves.

The two men are on the colleges inaugural round of breakfast programs on the main campus in Centralia and at centers located in Vandalia, Greenville, Salem, Nashville and Trenton.

We are soliciting comments and discussion, Underwood said, talking about the reason for he and Beasley canvassing the district.

While thats the main purpose, Beasley said, We also like to hear personal stories.

We had one woman tell us how we helped change her life, he said, and thats our purpose we are in the business of changing lives.

KCs new Vandalia Campus has been open only three months, but Beasely said, It has exceeded our expectations.

Were already to the point that we wish we would have built a bigger building, he said.

During the program, Underwood reinforced that KC still has plans down the road to expand the campus, but that that growth is dependent on state monies that were already promised by the General Assembly.

That $5.5 million that has been pledged by legislators would be used to construct a second building on the 42 acres of the Vandalia Campus grounds.

Beasley said that he and Underwood are hearing from district residents that they want more courses in health care areas.

Were the first to say that we also want to offer more courses, but we are limited as to the number that we can offer by the ICCB (Illinois Community College Board), Beasley said.

The biggest cry is for programs in allied (health) services, Beasley said. The demand is there and the jobs are there.

The nursing program, he said, is a prime example of how Kaskaskia College is meeting the needs of the people.

Were right at 100-percent placement (of the colleges nursing students), he said.

Mary Lou Whitten, dean of the KC nursing program, told those at the breakfast that the program is producing both quantity and quality.

She told of just recently receiving an e-mail from a supervisor at Barnes Hospital about a recent KC nursing grad. She said that she was the best shes ever had, Whitten said.

Mary Schulze, Vandalia Campus coordinator, said that within three days of new certified nursing assistant courses being opened for registration, they were full.

Whitten said she could name a (nursing) graduate in every state, as well as a missionary and one working with her husband in Iceland. Currently, she said, 96 percent of the graduates from the nursing program are employed.

Those nursing grads, she said, are going into all types of facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, and that many go on to earn advanced degrees.

Some of those people earn advanced degrees so that they can go into management, but many others do so to allow them to become teachers of nursing classes.

They have learned the value of an education, and they want to pass that on to others, Whitten said.

Underwood noted that in addition to teaching occupational skills, KC instructors focus on teaching their students the importance of a good work ethic. That has become increasingly more important for businesses and industries that are both looking for new employees and enhancing the skills of current employees.

Beasley said he has seen that KC certainly has gained a reputation for success and that success brings more success.

Speaking about the colleges Even Start program, Underwood said that local residents who have chosen to go the community college route after high school have seen a total tuition savings of close to $250,000 over the past three years.

That (savings) is significant, but more important, in my opinion, is giving the students a jump start toward more education, better jobs and a better life.

Underwood praised the local residents who were part of the campaign that raised about $3 million for the new campus building in Vandalia.

This community understands better than any how a campaign such as this can enhance this area. Everyone involved in the campaign believed that, had that passion to improve their community, he said.

Beasley said, We would never had had a facility like this if it hadnt been for those people.

We truly are here because the people wanted us to be here, he said.

Underwood said KC set the goal of serving 1,500 of people within the first year of the new Vandalia Campus. We will surpass that, he said.

To that comment, Schulze added, We are higher than that, with our community education courses.

We have exceeded our expectations for the first year, Beasley said, and I think we are just going to explode because we are convenient, accessible and affordable