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WNC establishes veterans’ center

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
David Johnson, a retired Navy chief petty officer, is the new veterans' center director at Western Nevada College Fallon.
STEVE RANSON / LVN |

A new veterans’ center opened Monday on the Western Nevada College to serve 24 students currently enrolled on the Fallon campus and to work with those servicemen and women who are planning to begin their education in the near future.

Sherry Black, WNC Fallon’s director, said 17 men and seven women are currently enrolled in classes. The center is in addition to WNC and Naval Air Station Fallon establishing a mutual agreement of understanding for the college to offer courses at the military installation.

David Johnson, a Navy veteran and retired chief petty officer who deployed numerous times to the Persian Gulf, said he has the experience to assist young veterans who do not understand what benefits are afforded to them.

“If I don’t know the answer, I know who to call,” said Johnson, who fell in love with this area after serving a tour from 2006-09 at the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center.

Johnson, who is studying for his second Associate of Arts degree, said he was asked if he wanted to help veterans and show them how to receive education benefits. His predecessor felt Johnson was the right person to carry on.

“Most vets’ mindsets differ in the transition from military life to civilian life,” Johnson said. “A lot of veterans are here, and I try to get them more involved.”

Johnson also said a veterans group in Churchill County helps former and current military men and women with their concerns.

Johnson’s office is located in Pine Hall, and he may be reached at775- 423-7565. His extension is 2247.

The veterans’ center is one of a handful of improvements implemented at the Fallon campus for the fall semester. Speaking at the semi-monthly meeting of the Restore Our College Campus Committee, Black said remodeling projects are either underway or finished. Workers have finished remodeling a science lab except for some storage areas, and a computer lab opened on Monday.

“The library will be completed in November, and we’ll have an open house in December,” she said.

WNC Fallon is gradually growing after seeing major declines during the Great Recession from 2008-2013 when many classes were either eliminated or shifted to the Carson City campus. Black said WNC Fallon is offering 86 courses, and that translates to a seat count of 1,123 or 422 individual students.

“Our FTE (full-time equivalent) is up 12 percent,” Back said, adding that equals 222 students.

Among the success stories are nine students taking an accelerated welding class, and an increase in the number of high-school students enrolled in the Jump Start program. The Jump Start program allows juniors and seniors from Churchill County High School and Oasis Academy to take university-level classes. Black said, for example, some Jump Start classes begin at the high school, but then the students come to WNC for other courses.

Black also said WNC Fallon is expanding its Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes and offering instruction in technology, occupation safety and computer skills courses.

“We’re working with the high school to offer CNA and EMT (emergency medical training) classes through their HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) program,” Black added.

HOSA enables students to learn more about the health science field through high-school classes.

A successful program offered over the years has been the Specialty Crop Institute. A workshop was held at WNC and its three campuses.

WNC President Chet Burton said Congress is looking at HR 2962, which would offered free tuition for students taking community college classes. Tennessee currently offers a free-tuition program.

Burton, though, said he would rather see students contribute some investment in their education because when something is handed to them, he doesn’t think the education means as much.

With that said, however, he added the school district and Oasis Academy are paying their students’ tuition for the Jump Start program.

Overall for WNC, enrollment is up 2 percent, but Burton said he was wishing for more students.

“The unemployment rate in Northern Nevada is quite low right now,” he said. “Community College enrollment is quite cyclical to the job market.”

He said the slight student increase comes from the Jump Start program being offered at a number of high schools in the WNC service areas.

“Fallon is up considerable due to 60 plus students from Oasis, all full time,” he added.

While WNC received $1.1 million in bridge funding for fiscal year 2016, which helped expand Jump start, he said only $850,000 is allocated for the next school year.

Two programs based in Carson City that will help job seekers in western Nevada are manufacturing and the applied technology program.

“These classes are in response to the demands we are seeing with the Tesla,” he said.

Retired WNC Fallon dean and county commissioner, Bus Scharmann asked Burton more questions on health care Tesla and its growth.

Scharmann said he would see more desire from Allied Health to look at and partner with hospitals, cities and counties to install some career tracks.

Scharmann said as dollars became tight, dollars became tight. He would like to see more thought put into expanding technical programs in Fallon and keep students in Fallon so that students are “not on the highway” going to Carson City to take classes.

Furthermore, Scharmann would like to see Fallon reap some benefits from the Tesla plant construction.

“Tesla may not necessarily impact Fallon but it may make other industries look at Northern Nevada as a home … such as Churchill County,” Scharmann said. “It may not be a 6,500-employee business like Tesla but business with 65-70 employees.”