To you, what is Valley County known for? Is it our local heroine Evelyn Sharp? Is it our historic main street districts? Is it our welcoming hospitality? To many other communities throughout the state, and throughout the nation, Valley County is known for our ability to collaborate to create community vitality. One of the greatest examples of collaboration sits one block north of the downtown square in Ord. That example is none other than the Central Community College Ord Center.
The Central Community College Ord Center, formerly known as the Ord Learning Center, has quite the history in Ord that only started after collaboration happened. In 2009, a community survey showed Valley County residents desired more opportunities for educational services. The results from this survey led CCC staff to begin discussions with Valley County Economic Development (VCED) and Greater Loup Valley Activities (GLVA) about how and where to begin offering services to the Ord area. It was decided that CCC would set up a center in downtown Ord, utilizing the former Ben Franklin’s retail store. This building, owned by GLVA, was the current home for VCED and the Ord Area Chamber. Housing the newest CCC center in the same location as other community resources opened the door for more unique partnerships in economic growth and workforce development. The Central Community College Ord Learning Center opened its doors in spring of 2010 under the leadership of sole staff and Regional Coordinator, Lu Lansman.
In 2011, Central Community College (CCC), in cooperation with the Nebraska Community Foundation and the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, submitted a grant proposal to the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative program. The CCC Ord Learning Center was selected as the grant recipient, receiving $175,105 with a matching grant from CCC for $175,248. The overall goal of the proposal, titled Regional Strategies for Growing Sustainable Communities, was to build community and economic capacity in the Loup Valley, which included Valley, Sherman and Greeley counties, as well as support future economic development and meet community needs. The three-year grant was completed in October 2014, serving over 600 individuals from all three counties. This grant expanded CCC’s offerings and created new opportunities for career and technical training, academic and career planning services, professional and continuing education classes, entrepreneur and business succession planning, youth programming and has provided easier access to higher education in the three-county region.
CCC continues to invest in Ord and their current location. Before their grand opening, a remodel project was completed, adding a new IP video system, smart board technology, projectors and surround-sound, and an upgrade on the fiber optics internet connection. In 2015, CCC gave the building an updated look with the installation of new carpet and fresh paint. In 2018, a complete renovation of the ceiling and lighting fixtures was completed to enhance the educational setting. The current Ord Center contains a large multipurpose conference room, two classrooms, and updated nine-station computer lab, a telecommunications classroom, a Nursing Assistant Training and Medication Aide classroom, and a GED studying and testing room. On any given day, you can see a variety of nonprofits and community groups utilizing the Ord Center, including Valley County Philanthropic Partners (Big Give organizers), SynoVation Valley Leadership Academy, VCED Board, Ord Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as various planning sessions and retreats and Open Houses for new businesses without a storefront. The facility is also available to rent for business and educational purposes.
CCC has also invested in the Ord Center by continuing to expand their services and staffing. In 2013, Dr. Crystal Ramm was hired as the first full-time staff and Regional Director who began incorporating summer learning camps and community education workshops into the Center’s services. These camps included Entomology, the study of insects, which utilized Dr. Ramm’s strengths as an Entomologist. In 2018, the Ord Center hired their second full time staff with Community Education Coordinator, Janet Eppenbach. Janet’s energy, connections and graphic design background have greatly expanded and continue to expand the Ord Center’s community education program. This year, the Ord Center offered a variety of summer youth workshops and camps, including Beginning and Returning Entomology, Coding & Robotics Camps, Babysitting 101 (includes pediatric CPR/AED/First aid), Safe Kids 101, Music Camp and Creative Writing & Illustrations.
CCC Ord Center continues to collaborate with various organizations to contribute to the vibrancy of Ord and the surrounding areas. One of those collaborations is by participating in, and formally leading, the annual Big Give to Valley County. Donations received through the Big Give go to supporting the accessibility of community education course by keeping registration costs low for children and families. Big Give Funds also fund the Ord Center Scholarship. Since 2015, this scholarship has supported 16 Valley County students by providing a $500 scholarship to further their education at CCC.
Another way the Ord Center provides community collaboration is through Career Discovery Day. Over the past 8 years, the Ord Center has hosted area high school juniors for this event to allow exploration into academic and career pathways, as well as allowing students to discover their interests, abilities, and values with a career advisor and/or mentor. This event utilizes local businesses leaders, creating a direct connection between businesses and future workforce.
In summer 2021, the Ord Center added a new community connection with the Student Internship Program. This internship provides the opportunity for a high school student to plan, teach and assist with summer camps and workshops. This $3,000 student internship was also funded entirely by Big Give donations. For two summers, Ord native and former kids camp attendee Grey Smith filled that role, adding his love for STEM to the summer camps with Coding and Robotics. “I love the opportunity to give kids the fun experiences that robotics and coding bring and be able to share that knowledge with them. I have been taking OLC summer camps for what seems like forever, and I am very happy to have the chance to still be a part of them now,” stated Grey.
The Ord Center also cares about the sustainability and natural beauty of our community. If you’ve ever walked the Aubles Pond Trail, you’ve seen this collaborative effort. The CCC Ord Pollinator garden was installed in Fall of 2019 and has gradually expanded each year. This garden features over 35 native perennial plants that not only add to the aesthetic value of our community, but also attract many different types of pollinating insects. Perfect when it’s time for entomology camps to learn insect identification! This garden is planted and maintained by Ord Center staff and the CCC Sustainability team, with assistance from the City of Ord Parks Crew.
The CCC Ord Center also collaborates with various community groups and instructors to bring educational classes to the Center for adults and business owners. The Ord Area Chamber regularly collaborates with the Ord Center to host lunch and learn courses for area Chamber members. In 2022/2023, the two groups will host courses with topics like Energy Efficiency for Your Business and Company Culture. The Loup Valley Childhood Initiative also utilizes the Ord Center to bring education courses required for early childhood education providers, such as the Navigating Difficult Conversations class on October 20, 2022 and Creative Spaces on December 3, 2022. The Ord Center utilizes the knowledge and talents of locals to bring community education classes, such as Kids Spooky Sweet Treats with Jubilee Events and Catering on October 25, 2022 and Pumpkin Painting on October 4, 2022. Their newest collaborative education event is Gardening in the Valley, where the Ord Center works with area green houses to provide an evening of gardening education and vendors.
The Ord Center offers a variety of course and resources for the Ord Area, including:
- 175 Certification, Diploma & Degree Programs
- Early College, Dual Credit Courses & Career Pathways
- Academic Advising & Career Counseling
- On-Site Courses via Telecommunications
- G.E.D Assessment, Study & Instruction
- Nursing Assistant and Medication Aide Training
- CPR/First Aid/AED Training
- EMT Certification
- Excel, QuickBooks, & Computer 101 Training
- NWEA MAP Assessment
- Community Education Classes
- Student Programs & Kids Camps
- ACT Prep: Monday evenings, beginning 9/12/22 through 10/17/22
- Student Proctoring
The CCC Ord Center is not only an essential piece of the vibrancy of Valley County, it is proof that when we identify a need and come together, great things can happen! If you’d like to learn more about the offerings of the Central Community College Ord Center, contact Dr. Crystal Ramm or Janet Eppenbach at (308) 728-3299 or stop in the center located at 1514 K Street in Ord. To stay up to date on all their activities, follow them on Facebook or Instagram.