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WNCC Powerline Students Turn a Helping Hand into Hands-On Education and Experience

June 20, 2017
Clean-up continues in Bayard, Neb. after a tornado struck the community last week. The entire panhandle has rallied around the community, including the Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) Powerline Construction & Maintenance Technology students.
According to Bayard Mayor Michelle Coolidge, who also serves as the administrative services coordinator at WNCC, stated the hit that the community took produced both challenging and positive outcomes.
"Almost immediately, Monday night, WNCC Powerline Instructor, Ed Salazar, was assisting with cutting trees," said Coolidge. "I reached out to Ed to add a set of hands with the appropriate experience for what we needed. He did not hesitate to say yes." 
"On Tuesday morning, when the sunlight revealed the true extent of damage, I simply can't explain the sense of relief, pride, and joy to see 27 WNCC hardhats atop WNCC Powerline t-shirts standing at the volunteer check-in table registering with the Region 21 Emergency Response Team," she said.
The Powerline Program is only four weeks into classes, so there are limitations to what the students can do with electricity, but that didn't stop students from gaining knowledge from other linemen in action.
"I really saw this as an opportunity to be involved, and to help lend a hand," said Salazar, who is also a resident of Bayard. "Having great leadership and support at the college made it possible to volunteer and help, and also include the students." 
"Working as a lineman, you are required to work under all conditions and natural disasters," said Salazar. "So when the tornadoes hit Bayard, it was a perfect two-fold opportunity. One, to be able to help the community, and two, to provide real-life training for the students. It's what linemen do."
Bob Meade, with the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool, took the opportunity to serve as an instructor, explaining what each crew was doing and how to fix the problem. The students received hands-on knowledge and took notes on their smartphones.
In addition to the students and Salazar, a number of WNCC employees donated their time to clean-up efforts.
"These are the experiences that make me grateful to be a member of both the WNCC family and the region," said Coolidge. "Community is so much more than a place, but an emotion, and it's also our middle name. I am eternally grateful they (the students) were allowed the opportunity."