Alan Brenner, Cuiaba, Brazil; Melissa Cruz-Saldana, Sioux City, IA; Domingo Franco, South Sioux City; Walker Wolff, Cody; and Chelsea Wortmann, Crofton, joined 19 other all-state team members from Nebraska’s five other community colleges in a ceremony at the Embassy Suites hotel.
The all-state academic team is sponsored by PTK – an international honor society for two-year colleges – and the Nebraska Community College Association, to honor students for academic achievement, leadership and community service.
Dr. Laura Ebke, Nebraska state senator representing the 32nd District from Crete, told the honorees they have proven themselves at a “high level” by being named to PTK’s All-Nebraska academic team.
“You have joined a long tradition of community college students who have demonstrated a love of not only learning while in their community college, but also continue to learn throughout life, whether in the academic arena or in advancing their skills in their chosen field of occupation.”
She said academic excellence requires commitment and hard work, especially when work and/or family obligations are added on to it.
“For some of you, you return to school after a few or many years away. For others, this was the natural extension of your high school years. But no matter what road you took to get to the place you are today, I hope you all take a little bit of time to be proud of your efforts and be proud of the academic successes you have had. Be proud of the opportunities your academic excellence will help open for you in the future.”
Ebke told the students they join a distinguished list of PTK alumni - from an astronaut to a United Nations ambassadors to Olympic gold medalists to successful businessmen and journalists.
“I suspect some of you will turn up in a search in 20 or 30 or 40-years from now when someone else researches who are Phi Theta Kappa alumni,” she said. “You have already proved you have accomplished big dreams. A lot of us are going to be watching to see what you do next.”
The 24 honorees were each introduced and presented Nebraska All-State Academic Team medallions and certificates.
Brenner is an agri-business/marketing major at Northeast in Norfolk. He plans to transfer to Wayne State College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agri-business with a focus in marketing.
Brenner is president of the Student Leadership Association and a tutor in the accounting program. He was awarded the Student Excellence scholarship, PTK scholarship from Northeast’s Tau Chi Chapter, and has been named to the College’s President’s List for academic excellence.
Brenner said he would like to pursue a career in a multinational, agriculture-based company.
“I believe that my international perspective, combined with my American academic knowledge through my classes, such as international agriculture and introduction to commodity marketing, can provide me with great resources that will allow me to thrive in my career.”
Cruz-Saldana is an academic transfer student at Northeast Community College in South Sioux City. She will continue her education at the University of South Dakota. She is a tutor, is active in taekwondo, and has been named to the President’s List for academic excellence.
Cruz-Saldana said attending Northeast has not only allowed her to earn a degree, but it has eased the transition of transferring to a four-year university.
“You get a real feel of going to college without the big and scary atmosphere. Community colleges, like Northeast, are smaller, so in some ways you connect more with your teachers. There are also smaller class sizes so it doesn’t feel as intimidating … and the instructors can focus one-on-one with students and make sure (students) can and will be successful.”
Franco is a business administration major at Northeast in South Sioux City. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in Spanish, followed by a master’s degree at Wayne State College.
He is a member of PTK, is a supplemental instruction lead for algebraic courses, and been named to the Dean’s List for academic excellence.
Franco said he strongly feels that he has attained the same level of education at Northeast as he would have at a four-year college or university.
“All of my classes thus far have been relatively small in size which has made it easier to have relationships with my instructors. A smaller classroom setting has a definite advantage. Another benefit is financial. With tuition being much lower than a major university, I feel I have made a smart decision by not burdening my family with financial stress in the future.”
Wolff is a building construction major at Northeast in Norfolk. He plans to return to the family ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills and start a construction business.
He is a member of the Northeast Building Construction Club, has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, the Norfolk Area Home Show, and the Norfolk Lions Club Annual Pancake Feed. He has been named to the President’s List for academic excellence.
Wolff said a significant achievement for him while he attended Northeast was building a wheelchair ramp for his grandfather at his new home after the man’s previous house in Pilger was destroyed by a tornado in June 2014.
“I worked on the ramp every night after school while successfully completing my homework. I enjoyed applying what I learned in building construction classes to complete this project for a very deserving person. In addition to building a beautiful wheelchair ramp for my grandfather, I developed a relationship with him that I know I would have never had the opportunity to do otherwise.”
Wortmann is a business administration student major at Northeast in Norfolk. She plans to transfer to Wayne State College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis in management and marketing.
She is a student ambassador, peer advisor and serves on the Student Services Standing Committee. She has been named to both the President’s and Deans’ List for academic excellence and is the recipient of the President’s Scholarship.
Wortmann was one of the students selected to speak at the Lincoln event. She said the leadership groups and organizations that she has been affiliated with during her time at Northeast have shaped her into the person she is today.
“The atmosphere at Northeast and the affordable costs at the postsecondary level offer an unlimited amount of growth and achievement for students. It is benefits like these that help students achieve their future aspirations and career goals.”
Wortmann said she is thankful for her education and experiences at Northeast.
“I highly encourage high school students to consider a community college. Each year Nebraska community colleges enroll approximately 70,000 students and I can only see that number growing in the upcoming years with the interest that community colleges continue to attract. A community college has allowed me to excel in the classroom, gain leadership and life experiences, work with wonderful people, and has built a foundation for me.”
Phi Theta Kappa, two-year college presidents, and community college state associations co-sponsor All-State Academic Team recognition programs in 32 states. All-State Team members receive special recognition including medallions, certificates, and oftentimes stipends and scholarships.
Each two-year college in Nebraska may nominate two students intending to transfer to a four-year institution and two students going directly into the workforce per campus to the All-USA Academic Team. Students from Nebraska nominated to the national team comprise the All-Nebraska Academic Team. Nominations are based on outstanding academic performance and service to the college and community.
Northeast Phi Theta Kappa Tau Chi Chapter sponsors are Colleen Barnes, criminal justice/sociology instructor, and Andrea Suhr, physical therapy assistant instructor.
PHOTO ID: Domingo Franco, Chelsea Wortmann, and Alan Brenner. Not pictured: Melissa Cruz-Saldana and Walker Wolff.