People make the difference

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As Mother Nature struggles to figure out just what she wants to do with the remaining days on winter's calendar, we at North Idaho College have no difficulty in knowing what to do.

This last week we held our third annual Employee Day on campus. Employee Day is designed to recognize our incredible faculty and staff for the amazing work they do on a daily basis. It also serves as a day of professional and personal development. Our 1,100 employees were able to attend classes on topics including personal finance and health as well as professional topics such as the learning management system used by our eLearning team and legislative changes to disability law and how we assist our students. It's the one day a year when we are able to say to our employees: "Thanks for a job well done and thanks for what you contribute to our community and our college."

Just what are they doing? In addition to delivering stellar education and support for students, preparing them for transfer opportunities or a career, NIC employees give back to their community. Many volunteer at the food bank and other community organizations. Last fall a number of employees participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Run held on campus. We even have employees who have been recognized nationally for their community service by Soroptimist International. Additionally, many of our students participate in alternative spring breaks in which they forego their traditional week away from classes and homework for a week of swinging hammers and pulling saws building homes for Habitat for Humanity.

It's not just philanthropic and service activities that have NIC faculty, staff and students making a difference. It's the level of engagement in our outreach activities as well. We are very proud of our Professional-Technical programs and even more so of the active advisory boards that work with each of the 39 programs to ensure that we are in sync with what industry and the community need. Our Workforce Training Center folks were some of the first to act in the Silver Valley upon the closure of the Lucky Friday Mine in Wallace. NIC faculty and staff customized welding programs to help Silver Valley workers gain the certifications they need to continue to work locally following the mine closure. This is enabling families and communities to stay whole. Further, we are working with the Qwest Foundation in creating a dual credit scholarship for students in rural areas. Dual credit enables students to earn college credit while they're enrolled in high school at a greatly discounted cost and it helps them prepare for the next steps after high school graduation, whether it's a certificate in a technical program or a two-year degree program that leads to a career or transfer to a four-year program.

People, our people, are changing lives each and every day. Our employees are some of the most talented, dedicated and passionate professionals with whom I have had the privilege to work and our students exceed the standard every day. I am proud of the difference they are making in our community and the region and proud to be the president of North Idaho College.

Priscilla J. Bell is the president of North Idaho College. For comments on this column, email her at PresidentsColumn@NIC.EDU.

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