Five Southeast Community College students were among the 25 community college students in Nebraska who were honored April 8 as members of the 2015 Phi Theta Kappa All-Nebraska Academic Team.
Wesley Bates from Hallam, Daisy Beltran from Lincoln, Joshua Johnson from Wilber, Samuel Palensky from Papillion and Aaron Schaecher from Battle Creek represented SCC on this year’s team.
Gov. Pete Ricketts was the guest speaker during the morning awards ceremony at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel in Lincoln. He congratulated all of the students and thanked them for their hard work and accomplishments.
“Today highlights the importance of our community college system in Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “We hear a lot in the news media the importance of education beyond high school. Nearly half of all Nebraska postsecondary students are attending a community college. I want to put an emphasis on career/vocational training and get it into our middle schools.”
One student from each of the six community colleges in the state spoke, three during the awards ceremony and three during lunch.
Johnson spoke on behalf of SCC.
“All of our community colleges excel at giving us the theoretical knowledge, but also the skills to succeed in the real world,” he said.
He read an article that said “Millennials lack skills but are well-educated.” He cited his run for a seat on the Wilber City Council as an example of another type of learning experience.
“I didn’t win, but it was a good experience,” he said.
Johnson, who is in the Office Professional program at the Beatrice Campus, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but moved to Wilber when he was 2. He is a 2013 graduate of Wilber-Clatonia High School. He said he was “pleasantly surprised” to learn he’d been selected to represent SCC.
“When I was originally told about the team, as a person who doesn’t boast often, I wasn’t sure whether my credentials I included in my application would make the cut,” Johnson said. “After having finished the application process, I waited for what seems to have been a month or two before receiving the news that I had made it. I was very excited and was quick to tell all my family, friends, teachers, and other professional contacts.”
The first-generation college student added, “I certainly thought it was possible, but again, I wasn’t sure whether my credentials would meet the cut during the application process. I tend to be a confident person, but for something like this, I just wasn’t sure. I’m very glad I did.”
Johnson chose SCC for a variety of reasons.
“One of the first things to cross through my head was how close it was to my home, as I had been talked into running for (Wilber) City Council shortly after graduating from high school by my (Saline) county Republican Party and needed to stay in Wilber,” Johnson said. “The second thing that I considered was the cost. SCC is one of the few colleges where one can attain a quality education for a relatively low price. I also considered the hands-on learning environment SCC has.”
Johnson praised SCC for developing him as a person.
“I have made great connections and developed the skills I’ll need in an office environment in the future,” he said. After graduating this September, Johnson said he’ll most likely work at the company in which he completes his cooperative experience.
“After a few years of doing that, I can see myself settling down for the long-term at a government office or law office,” Johnson said.
Bates, an adult learner at age 49, is in the Computer Information Technology program at the Lincoln Campus.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this team, and I feel privileged,” he said. “You look at the diversity of all of the other students, and I feel honored.”
Bates said he eventually would like to work in the information technology field, perhaps Homeland Security or with the state of Nebraska.
Palensky, a member of SCC’s baseball team, is in the Academic Transfer program at the Beatrice Campus.
“I’m pretty excited and honored to be a member of this team,” he said. “This is a pretty big deal and something to really be proud of. I’m happy to get to experience something like this.”
He said he hopes to continue playing baseball at a four-year school. Right now he’s looking at the University of Nebraska at Omaha or North Dakota State University.
“I knew I wanted to play baseball, and it was a positive atmosphere when I came to visit,” Palensky said.
Beltran is in the Academic Transfer program on the Lincoln Campus. She plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall.
“I want to study microbiology,” she said. Beltran also serves as activities chair for the Lincoln Campus Student Senate, and she is president of the PTK chapter.
Schaecher is in the Building Construction Technology program on SCC’s Milford Campus. He plans to return to Battle Creek after graduating from SCC to work in residential construction and possibly cabinetry. He is president of the SCC Milford Campus Student Senate and is a resident assistant in a residence hall.
PTK is the international honor society for two-year colleges, symbolizing excellence in higher education and a commitment to students. To be eligible, students with a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher may join PTK.