Kaskaskia College Holds Kickoff Event for Nashville Education Center Expansion Campaign

Kaskaskia College kicked off its fundraising campaign for the expansion of the Nashville Education Center at the site of the future building on Highway 127 north of Nashville on Friday, October 11. 


The outdoor event, held under a large tent, was well attended by KC personnel and community members, including the mayors of Nashville and Okawville and State Representative Charlie Meier.  Representative Meier also provided a pork chop luncheon for those in attendance.


As part of its capital campaign master plan, Kaskaskia College plans to expand the Nashville Education Center from its current location with 3,500 square feet of leased space to a building to be constructed on the Highway 127 site with 12,000 square feet of instructional and community space.


The three acre site, currently planted in soybeans, was purchased by the College for its frontage on the highway and easy access to students coming from all around the southern portion of the College District.  The site is large enough to not only allow for a sizeable building and ample parking, but also for possible future expansion, according to KC President Dr. Jim Underwood.


The site was purchased from Bruce and Brian Heckert, who made the largest donation to date when they refunded half of the purchase price, or $175,000, back to the fundraising campaign.  Brian Heckert, founder and wealth manager for Financial Solutions Midwest, LLC, will also serve as the campaign co-chair, along with Sheila Burcham, CEO of the Community Trust Bank. 


The fundraising campaign has a goal of raising $1,285,000 through private donations, which combined with the KC Board of Trustees allocation of $1,770,000, from previously extended bonds, will pay for the project’s estimated cost of $3,055,000 without a tax rate increase.


Speakers at the event included Dr. Underwood, Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Hawley, Mayors David Jasper of Okawville and Ray Kolweier of Nashville, and Representative Meier, along with a number of KC personnel directly involved in the campaign. Campaign Co-chair Brian Heckert spoke to the gathering from Arizona via computer using the “Facetime” program. Each of the dignitaries expressed strong support for the need for the expanded educational opportunities represented by the project.


Also on hand to speak were three Nashville Education Center students or graduates, who were introduced by Ruth Barczewski, Director of the Nashville Center.  Mark Keller, a lifelong resident of Washington County, is a 2007 graduate of KC who utilized the Nashville Education Center as a student before going on to earn his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Accountancy.  He works as a CPA in Nashville.  Mark spoke warmly about how he came to KC without a plan for the future, and how the low tuition and convenience of the Nashville Center allowed him to decide on his career path without undue financial stress.  He thanked KC for setting him on the path to success.  “I will never forget and always appreciate what Kaskaskia College has done for me,” he said.


Jill Brown of Oakdale is a current KC student who decided to attend KC at the same time as her son.  She was very appreciative that the convenience of the Nashville Center allows her son to work full time in Nashville and attend classes without the need to travel.  Jill also expressed her appreciation of the Nashville staff, Ruth Barczewski, Marlene Hawkins, and Pat Mefford for helping her, when she was unsure of what to do, to navigate her way successfully into the classes she needs.  Jill plans to become a nurse through KC, which has long been her dream.


Jesse Higgerson, originally from Pinckneyville, now lives in Nashville and attends classes at the Nashville Center.  He is a combat medic for the Illinois National Guard, and has attended the Nashville center for two semesters and plans to move on to the Nursing program in January of 2014.  Jesse spoke of the drawbacks of attending classes in the small spaces the current Center has, including being so close to another class that students are distracted by other lectures, a class space that doubles as a hallway to another classroom, and having to wait in line for a limited number of computers in order to do classwork.  Jesse believes that the problems will be eliminated with the new building, and even made a donation to help make it happen.


Kellie Henegar, Dean of Arts and Sciences for KC, introduced the various team members who were tasked with the planning the educational space of the new building.  These spaces will include classrooms and Nursing and Science laboratories, along with computer class rooms and a Distance Learning classroom.  The highlight of the spaces will be a block of four classrooms that can be opened up into one large space that can accommodate seating for 108 at tables or 246 in open seating, which will allow for larger gatherings and seminars.  The new building will also have an open computer lab for community as well as student use, and three Business Incubator offices that will house three small business startups, with technology and administrative help to get off the ground.


After several early gifts to the campaign were acknowledged, attendees were encouraged to make gifts of their own, which many did.  Representative Meier, who made a pledge to the campaign, said that he was to be reimbursed by the College for the cost of the luncheon he prepared, but had decided to donate the cost in the name of his parents, Barbara and Alfred Meier.  By the end of the day, $330,000 had been pledged to the campaign!


The campaign for the Nashville Education Center Expansion is expected to run into Spring 2014, and the new Center is expected to be finished in the Spring of 2015.​

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