High-Demand Jobs Scholarships Bring Students Home

Monday, June 26, 2017

A fourth round of high-demand jobs scholarships has been awarded to students studying for careers that will bring them back to Phelps County. And, local employers are starting to see the benefits as several previous scholarship winners have returned home to work.

“Now, we are starting to reap the real benefits,” said PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery.

Jamie Bialas, a 2014 graduate of Holdrege High School was among the first group of students to receive this scholarship in 2014. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this spring (in just three years!) with a degree in agricultural economics and is now working at Bialas Farms.

Jamie said he finished school in three years by earning 19 college credits while in high school and taking extra classes at Central Community College online and at Southeast Community College while attending UNL.

“I wanted to get back and start farming,” Jamie said. “It was always my dream to come back and farm. It’s a different occupation than everyone else has.”

Jamie likes to dispel myths that some city friends have about farming and explains the high-tech demands of producing food for the world.

And, he’s always enjoyed his small-town roots.

“I just like the small atmosphere,” he said. “Even when I go to Kearney, it seems like people are always hurrying around. In a small town, people wave at you all the time, and you know who most of them are. And, there’s more that feel of community than there is in the big cities.”

Other previous scholarship winners who have returned home to Phelps County jobs are Andrew Daily (Southern Public Power District), Evan Dow (K & D Motor & Electric), Kelly Thorell (KST Farms), Jill Gabriel (PMHC), Alex Hamling (CHS Agri), Colter Edgren (Dannull Engine) and Boe Barnett (Skiles Construction).

The 2017 scholarships mark the fourth year of this program. The scholarships are intended to encourage graduating seniors and non-traditional students to pursue work in local high-demand fields, such as nursing, agri-business and technology, diesel mechanics, engineer technologists, mechatronics engineers, injection mold technicians, electro-mechanical technologists, machinists, tool and die makers, construction trades, welders and commercial truck drivers.

Scholarship winners must sign a contract stating their intention to return to the county to work after their education. The scholarships are funded through LB840 sales tax funds, private donors and a matching grant from the Phelps County Community Foundation.

This year, $19,500 in scholarships were awarded ranging from $1,000-$3,500 each.

The 2017 scholarship winners are Levi Woodring, Holdrege High School graduate, studying diesel technology at Hastings Central Community College (2nd year winner); Christina Butler, Loomis High School graduate, studying nursing at Grand Island Central Community College (2nd year winner); Blake Johnston, Holdrege High School graduate, studying agriculture at Hastings Central Community College (2nd year winner); Cale Abramson, Loomis High School graduate, studying agriculture at Hastings Central Community College; Brennan Williams, Holdrege High School graduate, studying business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Kamryn Smith, Holdrege High School graduate, studying nursing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Trevor Smith, Holdrege High School graduate, studying agriculture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2nd  year winner).

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