SUCCESSFUL START THROUGH BMCC
Story and photos by Gary Fletcher of The Observer
In the years since 1989, the Blue Mountain Community College contracted service in Wallowa County has grown, now serving more than 500 residents per year.
"All of our EMTs are products of the BMCC Wallowa County program," said Bruce Womack, Wallowa Memorial Hospital EMS coordinator, adding that it is an integral part of emergency services in Wallowa County.
The local office trains more than 100 students per year in first aid, CPR and automatic external defibrillation or AED.
Those classes are taught by Rita Warner, who has been an EMT for 10 years. Warner received her EMT training through BMCC, where she is now taking prerequisite courses to become a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree.
Providing students with their prerequisites for the RN nursing program has been one of BMCC's most successful programs, according to Kate Barrett, director of the local office.
Several nurses working at Wallowa Memorial Hospital got their start at the Wallowa County campus of BMCC.
Several more will graduate this year, Barrett said.
"The state requires all EMT training be done through community colleges. If it were not for BMCC, our three ambulances would no have EMTs," Warner said.
"I was able to go to college because of BMCC's distance learning program. I could not have done it any other way, because I live and work in Wallowa County," Warner said.
"And Kate is an excellent resource. She helps guide new students along the way," Warner said.
That sentiment is echoed by Lori Cornett, RN. "Kate is really great. She really helped me. I'm not sure I could have done it without her," Cornett said.
Cornett is the nurse in charge of the care of 25 residents at the Wallowa Valley Care Center. On her shift, she oversees four certified nursing assistants and a bath aid.
Cornett has been a registered nurse since 2002. She said that she has an associate degree in nursing, which provided more hands-on and clinical experience. "We all took the same boards," she said.
"It was great to be able to stay in my home and work in this community longer by being in this program," Cornett said.
Susie Borgerding, is administrative assistant at Wallowa Memorial Hospital.
"I'd highly recommend the program. It's a fabulous opportunity for someone looking to further their education, especially single moms," she said.
"There's money out there to help pay for your education," she said. Some of those that helped her include grants and scholarships from the Rotary Club, the Elks, BMCC and the Wallowa High School Alumni.
Borgerding said that she did most of her school work on the Internet, and was therefore able to stay at home with her children. She graduated four years ago, and within four days had a job.
"Kate really helped me," she said.
Next, through distance learning, she wants to earn a degree as a rural health information technician.
But Borgerding and Warner's next degrees will be earned through other colleges.
Each year 20 to 30 students are enrolled in college credit classes. Many of these students go on to get degrees either through BMCC, Treasure Valley Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Eastern Oregon University or Oregon Health and Science University.
The local program provides testing, financial aid assistance and hands-on assistance with getting a successful start. Students can select from 60 distance learning courses and usually one or two local classes per term.
The office can also help students enroll in more than 700 distance learning classes through the Oregon Community College system.
Placement testing is available, and local college prep classes can bring students up to college level in math and writing.
A complete associate of arts transfer degree is available through online classes at BMCC in Wallowa County, said Director Kate Barrett.
The center also provides GED tutoring. Many students have received the assistance necessary to go on and complete a GED after working at the center, Barrett said. This program is available for a small fee, which can be waived if the student does not have the means to pay.
Other BMCC programs include administrative assistant, human services and criminal justice.
Through a partnership with Fishtrap, BMCC has provided Friday College classes to 55 high school students over the last two years. These students have completed six college credits in Freshman English.
The college hopes to expand this program, and is working with local high schools in providing quality education in a time of dwindling student population, which in turn means less state funding, fewer teachers and larger class sizes.