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CLC brings nursing training, certification to Pine River

Since 2011, local movers and shakers have been trying to bring college classes to Pine River. In 2015, the group found success by offering nursing certifications.

Mary Gunderman practices "Assisting to Dine" with Lydia Krecklau at the CLC Sattelite Nursing Training location near the PIne River-Backus School. Photo by Travis Grimler
Mary Gunderman practices "Assisting to Dine" with Lydia Krecklau at the CLC Sattelite Nursing Training location near the PIne River-Backus School. Photo by Travis Grimler

Since 2011, local movers and shakers have been trying to bring college classes to Pine River. In 2015, the group found success by offering nursing certifications.

In the early years, Central Lakes College (CLC) joined forces with the Cass County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Pine River-Backus (PR-B) School and other interested parties to bring a variety of courses to a small building on the outskirts of the PR-B property. Morale was high, but the first few programs weren't well attended.

"I'm not sure they all took. We had some really good PR and good feedback from those involved, but not quite enough to fill the classes. That was a concern," said Gail Leverson, Cass County EDC executive director.

It took some time, but the group worked together to identify a program that was locally in demand. With the local nursing homes and clinics, it turned out many residents from Pine River to Hackensack, Longville, Pequot Lakes and Walker had an interest in bringing nursing training closer.

Pair that demand with scholarships funded by donations to the program on behalf of local businesses and residents, and the PR-B site immediately began cultivating full classrooms of students working to complete prerequisites for Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) training, as well as earning full Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification and training for Home Health Aide.

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This CLC satellite location brought in some students who might never have pursued the education if they had to drive all the way to the main CLC campus in Brainerd.

"I think we want to address the needs of individuals in those communities and cut down on drive time. Traditionally the course offerings were only in Brainerd," said Pam Thomsen, executive director of the CLC Foundation. "Some of those folks could be driving over an hour just to get to their coursework and then an hour on the way home. We are hoping to have a satellite like in Pine River-Backus so we can serve the residents all the way to Hackensack and Walker as well, whereas, if the offering were only in Brainerd, we wouldn't be able to do that. Travel would have been very prohibitive."

"I live in Pine River and the fact that this class is five seconds away from where I live is a big bonus. If it was in Brainerd I would not be taking it," said Amber Tima, a Pine River resident working at a local group home and earning her CNA.

Pequot Lakes resident Caramia Thompson is working on LPN training at CLC. She is able to meet her prerequisites at the satellite site. The local program helps her save gas on days when she doesn't also have classes in Brainerd.

"It's a lot closer, that's why I chose it. I'm already driving to Brainerd three times a week for school. It was easier to at least have two days of the week that aren't as far," Thompson said.

Tima has nothing but praise for the program and its instructor.

"I'm having a blast. I really like it. I've made friends. The teacher is great. She is really taking the time to make sure we have what we need to know. She's putting in a lot of effort," Tima said. "She is going to make sure we know what we need to know. She's patient. She's kind. She's a pretty awesome teacher."

The satellite location seems to have found its niche. The first full class of CNA students celebrated the completion of their certification Tuesday, Feb. 10, and there are more students ready to start. Thomsen said there is another nursing assistant class running until March 18. A class runs from Jan. 13 to March 3. A home health aide class runs March 17-19.

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The ultimate goal of the satellite location is to bring training to the Pine River area, so local residents can get the training they need for jobs.

"Job creation and unemployment are highly related to the educational attainment of residents," Leverson said. "People who have more education are more likely to be able to find a job and be employed. So, we started working on this when the economy was quite poor. We decided there were other ways of looking at economic development and unemployment."

With the success of the program, area organizers hope to keep the nursing training going in the area.

"We tried different things and this has been very successful, so we are going to continue to give these types of offerings," Thomsen said. "It really depends on residents and what they are interested in in course offerings. It is really driven by that region."

With the help of scholarships, those completing the nursing program were awarded funds covering 68 percent of tuition fees. Thomsen and Leverson said those funds are reserved for those taking the course at the Pine River satellite location. The program, and the scholarship, was made possible through the work of many interested parties.

"Economic development doesn't happen through one person. It always happens through a group of different people who want to get things done," Leverson said.

Those interested in contributing to the scholarship fund can contact Thomsen at 218-855-8129.

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Mary Gunderman practices "Assisting to Dine" with Lydia Krecklau at the CLC Sattelite Nursing Training location near the PIne River-Backus School. Photo by Travis Grimler
Mary Gunderman practices "Assisting to Dine" with Lydia Krecklau at the CLC Sattelite Nursing Training location near the PIne River-Backus School. Photo by Travis Grimler

Related Topics: CLC
Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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