The Parkland College Blog

Changing Lives: Highway Construction Careers Training

Join the HCCTP by attending a free orientation session in January

  • Aaron Geiger |
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In just under four months, local residents Frankie Hernandez and Dylan Trimble have transformed their lives.

Last winter, they decided to join the Highway Construction Careers Training Program at Parkland College after attending an orientation session. HCCTP, a state program, offers free critical skills training and education in the highway construction trades to women, minorities, and disadvantaged individuals, but the program is open to anyone.

In early July, on the day before Hernandez and Trimble officially graduated, we spotted them working, on Mattis Avenue, and stopped to talk. While an apprentice’s pay is good, they remarked, their employer decided to give them over $7/hour more than they expected.

“Yeah, we are getting the full rate of pay,” Hernandez said. Trimble nodded and extended his hands outward.

“It’s awesome,” he said, referring to either the pay or the job, or both.

One of the seasoned workers on the crew stepped out from the shade of a nearby tree and looked directly at me, adding, “These are good guys. We’re glad to have them.” In fact, if you had just passed by the crew, you would never have guessed who the new guys were. They were focused, working, and part of the team.

So how did Hernandez and Trimble get here? Like many of our HCCTP students, every story is different, but they both wanted to make a lasting change.

“It’s good work. It’s real work,” said Hernandez, standing half in and half out of a square hole their crew had cut out of Mattis Avenue, his gloved hands resting on his waist. “I’m really glad to be working.” Hernandez had attended one of the three orientation classes we offer that inform potential students of the expectations of the HCCTP: Show up on time and do your best.

Students have to have a high school diploma or equivalency, and they must pass a drug screening test. They must be at least 18 and have an interest in the construction trades.

During their first six weeks, Hernandez and Trimble learned math-specific skills for the industry; life skills; construction site safety; equipment training (aerial lift, scissor lift, skid steer, backhoe/end loader, crane safety and rigging, crane signaling, extended reach fork lift, and fork lift); and flagger training. For the following nine weeks they performed hands-on general-construction and skilled-trades training, including stick welding, basic plumbing, electrical work, and sheet metal work.

“The math skills really helped me,” Hernandez said. “I improved a lot in that area so I could do my job.” Trimble had a different takeaway from the experience.

“I like the big machines,” he said, laughing.

Before their first working gig on Mattis Avenue, both men were paid to learn skills to enter the trades. The HCCTP also provides pens, pencils, paper, books, work boots, tools, etc. All students have to do is make sure they wear jeans that are free from rips or tears and be punctual, ready to work, and ready to learn.

Anyone interested in joining the Highway Construction Careers Training Program must first attend an orientation session at the Business Training and Community Education office, 1315 N. Mattis Avenue in Champaign. Our upcoming sessions take place Jan 29 at 2 p.m. and Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Please call 217/351-2235 for more information, or apply online.


[This blog post first appeared July 11, 2018.]

Freshmen Trio Named NJCAA All-Americans

Verdun, Warfel First Team, Norder Honorable Mention

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Parkland College Cobras Volleyball freshmen Rachel Verdun (19), Ryleigh Warfel (2) and Brooke Norder (20) were named 2018 NJCAA Division II All-Americans on Tuesday afternoon by league's governing body.

Verdun and Warfel earned First Team recognition, while Norder was selected as Honorable Mention. The freshmen All-American trio marks the first time Parkland Volleyball has had three freshmen selected in the same season.

"I'm thrilled for Ryleigh, Rachel and Brooke that the NJCAA saw in these three young women what I saw throughout the year," said Head Coach Cliff Hastings. "The three of them made a solid nucleus for our team and grew as players and teammates throughout the entire season. Ryleigh stands out for her court presence and her high-level play in all facets of the game. Rachel stands out for her decision-making and ability to redefine what a setter is by being heavily offensive as well. Brooke brings outstanding ball control and one of the toughest serves we saw all year.

"They are very deserving of this prestigious award, and probably the best part about each of them, is that they would immediately point to their teammates as deserving of the award as well. Shelby's leadership, Gabby's work ethic and the list of high-level attributes each of them brought to our team this year made us the successful group we were."
Of the 11 freshmen selected among the 30-player Division II All-America team, three wore the Green and Yellow this fall, including two of the four freshmen First Team selections.

The Parkland freshmen trio made waves in their first collegiate seasons, helping lead the Cobras to a National Runner-Up finish and Champions of District J and the Mid-West Athletic Conference. Totaling the most single-season wins in program history, these freshmen also extended the Parkland streak to six straight seasons with at least 50 wins.

Together, Verdun, Warfel and Norder mark the third time Parkland volleyball has had three All-Americans in the same season, each coming in the last four seasons under Coach Hastings. The First Team accolades for Verdun and Warfel mark the second duo of freshman All-Americans in program history, joining the 2015 pair of Laura Gross and Sofi Kelemete. Verdun and Warfel also extend the Cobras' streak of multiple First Team All-Americans to five straight seasons, dating back to 2014.

Verdun, the Region 24 Player of the Year, quickly put herself among the best setters in the country and the only freshman setter to be selected as an All-American. Hailing from Edwardsville, Ill., and Edwardsville High School, Verdun led Division II in total assists (1,611) and ranked second in assists per set (11.11), while also sprinkling in 1.31 kills per set. Also contributing defensively, Verdun led the Cobras with 19 double-doubles – each coming with double-digit digs – and ranked in the top-60 in the NJCAA DII with 76 block assists. Averaging 11.9 assists per set in the NJCAA Tournament, Verdun was named to the NJCAA DII All-Tournament team. Verdun's All-America honor marks the third straight year a Cobra setter has been selected, joining Leah Anderson (2017) and Jamie Johnson (2016).

Verdun's biggest beneficiary, outside hitter Warfel, ranked among the best terminators in her first season at Parkland. With 463 kills on the year, Warfel ranked in the top-20 nationally, while her 3.38 kills per set ranked in the top 35. However, the Downs, Ill., product saved her best volleyball for the season's final month, as she hit .329 in the month of November. At NJCAA Nationals, the first-year Cobra averaged 14.4 points per match and 4.25 kills per set on her way to being named to the NJCAA Championships All-Tournament team. Highlighting her weekend was 17 kills in the National Semifinal against No. 3 Johnson County and her 15th double-double of the season in the National Championship match against No. 1 Coffeyville. Overall this season, the six-rotation outside hitter led the Cobras in kills, kills per set, total attacks and points, while also finishing second on the team in digs and third in service aces. Warfel joins 2017 First Team All-American Fiapai'pai Willis and 2015 Second Team All-American Lizzy Bernard.

Rounding out the three Cobra honorees, Norder becomes the first Parkland libero since 2010 (Suzie Jean) to earn All-American honors. One of two Cobras that hails from outside the Land of Lincoln, the Grand Rapids, Mich., product earned her Honorable Mention accolade as one of the best back-row defenders in the NJCAA. Finishing the season ranked third in total digs (834) and 12th in digs per set (5.91), Norder had 16 matches of 20-plus digs, including four with at least 30 digs, despite the Cobras winning 45 of its 59 matches in straight sets. After recording two 38-dig performances in the same September weekend, the first-year Cobra earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Two-Year College Defensive Player of the Week. In addition to her lockdown defensive work, Norder added a strong serve to Parkland's rotation, leading the team with 66 aces that placed her in the top-25 nationally. Both her work on defense and from the service line added up to being named First Team All-Region following Parkland's District J Championship.
Three Parkland Volleyball All-Americans in the Same Season:
2015: Laura Gross (1st), Sofi Kelemete (1st), Lizzy Barnard (HM)
2016: Laura Gross (1st), Sofi Kelemete (1st), Jamie Johnson (2nd)
2018: Ryleigh Warfel (1st), Rachel Verdun (1st), Brooke Norder (HM)

[Article by Chad Beyler]

Fall Greenhouse Plant Sale This Week

Poinsettias, kalanchoes, more, make nice holiday gifts

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Parkland College invites the public to its fall Greenhouse Plant Sale, Dec 5–7 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This annual event will include poinsettias, succulents, and house plants and kalanchoes. Plants can make great holiday gifts or make a home more inviting.

Parkland College's greenhouse is located on the west side of the Tony Noel Agricultural Technology Applications Center, on the west side of campus.

Cash or checks only, please. Proceeds support greenhouse operations and student activities. For more information, contact Theresa Meers at

Surgical Technology Program Earns National Merit Award

Program's 100-percent graduate participation, pass rate far exceeds national rate

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Parkland College Surgical Technology students have achieved perfect scores on the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting exam, far surpassing national averages and achieving the college's seventh consecutive NBSTSA Merit Award.

Parkland's Surgical Technology program earned the award for achieving a 100-percent graduate participation and pass rate on the national certification exam for surgical technologists during the 2017-2018 academic year. The national pass rate for the exam is around 78 percent, according to the NBSTSA.

Janice Grewatz, program director, said graduates receive the real-world experiences and expert training that lead to high-demand, marketable skills and career success.

"Parkland's program has achieved an overall pass rate of 95 percent since testing has been required," she said. "All of our graduates who sought employment so far this year are employed in full-time surgical technology positions in area hospitals and beyond."

Graduates passing the exam to become a certified surgical technologist (CST) demonstrate an understanding of the basic competencies for safe patient care in the operating room. 

The CST exam is the only fully accredited examination by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies for surgical technologists in the nation. Certification as a surgical technologist exhibits professional pride, the desire to be recognized for mastery of surgical competencies, and most importantly, an ongoing commitment to quality patient care.



Business Training and Community Education Debuts New Name, Look

"Community Education" resonates with noncredit students, reflects focus

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Parkland College Business Training and Community Education is debuting a new name and a fresh, new look in its brochure of spring 2019 classes.
The department's new name, "Community Education," encapsulates its overarching goal to provide high-value personal and professional development opportunities to all residents, from career-enhancing workshops and certification programs to educational travel, personal enrichment, classes for kids, and more. Programs are designed to work around busy schedules, with many online options. 
Director Triss Henderson said feedback from noncredit students and the community confirmed "Community Education" best resonates with Parkland College's district, reflects the department's focus, and includes both businesses and individuals.

"Community Education will continue its mission to engage the community in learning by providing personal and professional development opportunities to transform lives," Henderson said. "We are able to offer a variety of classes that make us unique to this community, something our customers value. If you are ever wondering if we have a particular class or are wanting to learn something new, more than likely we've got a class for that! We're here to offer rich possibilities for all ages and all stages of life."
In keeping with an upcoming new year, the Parkland College Community Education Spring 2019 Brochure is sporting a refreshed look, branded with help from local creative group Surface 51. As always, the brochure is chock full of brand new personal and professional development classes, including:

Flipping Houses and Property Management. Investing in real estate is a rewarding experience. Discover how to create a full-time career or a side gig before making the leap into your first house flip or purchasing your first investment property.

National Green Infrastructure Certification Program. Parkland College is the only licensed provider in the state of Illinois to offer the Water Environment Federation (WEF) National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP)! Learn to manage your natural water assets in a sustainable way and help shape the future landscape of Illinois and beyond!

Planting a Pollinator Garden. Learn why these hardworking insects are important to our ecosystem and which plants are best to draw them to your garden. 

Other favorites include:

  • Gentle Yoga

  • Couples Massage

  • Knife Skills for the Home Chef

  • Spanish in the Workplace

  • Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification

  • Chicago Ethnic Grocery Tour

  • High-Impact Facebook Ads

To register for a class or browse class selections, visit Residents may also register for classes by phone at 217/353-2055 or in person at Parkland College Community Education, 1315 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign.