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032016-blm-spc-1commentary-widmer

Heartland Community College instructor Daryl Menke helps physical therapist assistant student Kyle Lanier of Clinton evaluate range of motion in student Samantha Ludwig of Towanda during a spring 2016 lab session at the campus in Normal.

As Heartland Community College marks its quarter-century milestone, there is much to celebrate. Most notably, Heartland Community College is where lifelong learning happens.

The first 811 Heartland students who enrolled in fall of 1991 attended classes in churches, high schools, and numerous other facilities across the district. In 2016, at Heartland’s campuses in Normal, Pontiac and Lincoln ,nearly 5,000 credit students can choose from more than 70 programs of study.

Some programs are designed as career and technical training to enter the workplace immediately upon completion. Others provide the core education enabling students to successfully transfer to four-year colleges or universities. Actually, learning opportunities at Heartland exist for kindergarten age to retired seniors.

Active collaboration with our K-12 institutions has been vital throughout Heartland’s history.

From middle school through high school, students come together on our campus. Hands on Science and Math, and Students Involved in Technology events are held each year in HCC classrooms. During the summer, Youth Enrichment Programs feature unique and fun learning opportunities. While pursuing their diplomas, high school students within the Heartland district earn college credit through HCC College NOW. This valuable program saves students time and money on their college education.

If variety is the spice of life, Heartland’s Continuing Education programs offer seasoning for every taste. Annually, more than 14,000 residents participate in an extensive variety of personal enrichment classes and experiences that instruct, challenge, strengthen and engage students at every age.

We are grateful for the community’s support — in all arenas. For 25 years, businesses, educational institutions, civic organizations, and community leaders have recognized Heartland Community College as a vital community resource. Partnering with them has enabled HCC to address prominent interests as well as pressing needs within our community.

The Challenger Learning Center has served more than 31,300 K-12 students and more than 700 business employees since becoming a vital part of Heartland Community College. The center is a notable example of partnering that kept a valuable educational asset in our community.

This local jewel, one of more than 40 across the country,  provides a unique science, technology and math learning opportunity and a national connection to the U.S. space program. 

Heartland also has contributed to the economic success regionally. Most of our more than 13,000 graduates remain in the area and are engaged citizens and employees. Our region’s health care, business and technology industries are rich with Heartland trained graduates. Locally, Heartland students contribute to the economic health and prosperity of our region.

Heartland has always been about “the possibilities.” Increasing students’ financial support, serving veterans, supporting student creativity, and being inclusive for a range of academic abilities are examples of possibilities that have been realized.

Through the generosity of businesses, community leaders and Heartland staff, a recent HCC Foundation Major Gifts Campaign reached over $7.7 million, helping support student scholarships and various academic programs.

A Veterans Center assists our student veterans. The McCauley Gallery provides exhibit opportunities for faculty and students. Creating the Halo Program for students with developmental disabilities has allowed a new group of students to attend college and learn new skills.

“Success is earned one achievement at a time.” This motivational message greets students, parents and visitors in the hub of Heartland’s Admissions Center at the Normal campus.

Heartland is proud to have fostered the success of so many students throughout our relatively short history, and welcomes the continuing support and partnerships that have made these achievements possible. Thank you. We look forward to the next 25 years together.

Widmer is president of Heartland Community College.

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