Skip to main content

College News

Northeast holds summer commencement for PTA and paramedic graduates

Northeast holds summer commencement for PTA and paramedic graduates

NORFOLK, Neb. – Northeast Community College typically holds commencement ceremonies each spring to mark the conclusion of the academic year. However, there were two groups that were recognized for completion of their respective programs this summer.

On Monday, thirteen graduates of the College’s Physical Therapist Assistant and Paramedic programs were honored with a full commencement ceremony in Northeast’s Lifelong Learning Center on the Norfolk campus. The event was held after students in both programs completed their clinical and field experiences this summer, a requirement to be conferred their degrees.

The Physical Therapist Assistant program at Northeast prepares students to work as healthcare providers who are employable in any physical therapy setting. Students are trained with current technology and innovative exercise equipment to simulate realistic clinical settings. 

Speaking on behalf of the PTA program, Instructor Tere Karella said students participate in 16-weeks of clinical experiences that take place in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities across Nebraska and other states. 

“This summer I happened to run into a graduate from our program that I haven’t seen since he graduated in 2003. He told me he has worked at various physical therapy clinics and health care facilities these past 19 years,” Karella said. “Every facility he has worked at has raved about the quality of PTA graduates coming from Northeast Community College compared to other programs. He commented to me, ‘The program still stands out above the rest.’”

Northeast’s Paramedic program provides students with the required knowledge and skills to care for patients who are injured due to trauma or suffer from medical problems. Instructors not only teach but work as paid professionals in the paramedic field. 

Graduates heard from Scott Crawford, Northeast paramedic instructor who has 32-years of service in the field of emergency medical services, and Dr. Leah Barrett, Northeast president. PTA Fall 2021 Class President Alyssa Coufal, Howells, and Derek Salak, Columbus, accelerated paramedic graduate, gave the student addresses. Salak is a firefighter/EMT at the Columbus Fire Department. Coufal plans to stay in Nebraska to pursue her career. 

Commencement speaker Dan Kuester, director of Service Excellence at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk, congratulated graduates in both programs for their demanding work, dedication, and commitment to higher learning and in accomplishing one of their major life goals.
He shared a personal story of a family member who suffered a major life-changing health crisis that changed her, and her family’s lives forever. He commended the paramedics who arrived on scene as the crisis unfolded. Kuester said the work of the emergency personnel that day serves as an example for the graduates as they are about to enter their careers.

“I want to thank you for following your heart and going into healthcare. You will be seeing people at the most uncertain times in their life,” Kuester said. “You will have the privilege to stand in that gap, in that time of need and provide compassion and hope. The things you will see and the stories you hear are not always easy but trust in your training. You've worked hard and you have the skills to make a positive, life altering impact on human life. Stand tall and be very proud.” 

Graduates include:

Associate of Applied Science - Paramedic 
David City – Kirsten Bell.

Associate of Applied Science - Physical Therapist Assistant 
Bancroft – Cydnee Bonsall.
Columbus – Laura Czarnick.
Dow City, Iowa – Jeremy Garrett.
Howells – Alyssa Coufal.
Norfolk – Cheyenne McBride, Elijah Rittscher.
O'Neill – Kaitlyn Pongratz.
Tilden – Courtney Harlow.
Wagner, So. Dak. – Tysin Arpan.

Diploma in Paramedic 
David City – Kirsten Bell. 
Columbus – Derek Salak.
Wayne – Jake Hoffman.

Students also received pins signifying completion of their respective programs.
Northeast’s PTA and Paramedic Commencement Ceremony was broadcast live by Northeast’s Media Arts- Broadcasting program. It may be viewed online at under the On Demand tab. 


                                                                                                        PHOTO CUTLINE 

Audience members congratulate graduates of Northeast Community College’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) and Paramedic programs during a commencement ceremony held on Mon., Aug. 8, in Norfolk. Thirteen students received their diplomas and program pins during the ceremony. The event was held after students in both programs completed their clinical and field experiences this summer, a requirement to be conferred their degrees.