Students at Butler Community College of Marion may have different reasons for taking classes there, but they all have goals that the local branch helps them to reach.
Several BCC students who will be graduating in a few weeks traveled a variety of paths and discovered that Butler of Marion would help them achieve their goals.
Connor Embree, 22, of Hillsboro has worked to support his family and earn a degree. He lived in Florence during his teen years, attended Marion Middle School, and graduated from high school after being homeschooled for four years.
Connor got married soon after graduation. He and his wife, Vanessa, have a 2-year-old daughter and live in Hillsboro.
Connor works in construction with his father-in-law, James Schafer, owner of Building Solutions.
Connor will graduate from BCC with a degree in pre-engineering.
“My father was an engineer, and I always had an interest in scientific things,” he said. “I love to learn, and BCC of Marion was affordable and close to home.”
Director Amy Kjellin said her son Adam and Connor were friends and enjoyed taking things apart and putting them together again.
“Connor was better at putting things together and fixing things,” she said.
After being homeschooled, taking online classes through Butler of Marion was a natural fit. Connor was used to computer-based learning.
In addition to working as much as possible, he took full semesters of classes, including tough courses like physics and calculus. He also enrolled in summer sessions.
He attended classes at the Andover campus two times a week and was on the dean’s honor roll every semester.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I love the smaller class sizes. I can relate to the teacher, ask questions, and make sure I understand the material.”
Connor will don a cap and gown and walk across the platform with other graduates May 14 at the college football stadium in El Dorado.
He plans to pursue a degree in electrical engineering but is taking a break from school for a while.
“Vanessa and I want to move out of the area and see some other places,” he said.
Curtis Hill, Marion
Curtis Hill, 23, of Marion decided to continue his education five years after graduating from high school.
“When I first started, I was petrified,” he said. “After being away from school for five years, all of that knowledge, especially in math, had gone away,” he said. “I got caught up in one semester, and after that, I did fine.”
Curtis has lived in Marion for eight years. He was attending Chase County High School when the family moved to Marion, and he decided to continue at Chase County through graduation.
He was planning to enroll in Wichita State University when his father was injured in a car accident. Curtis spent the next year and a half helping to care for him.
While being enrolled full-time at BCC he holds a full-time job at St. Luke Hospital as a dietary aid and an assistant in the IT and business offices.
All of his college courses have been online, which was OK with him.
“I liked the personal touch in high school, but I’ve always been fine with teaching myself,” he said. “I like to work at my own pace.”
He will graduate with an associate’s degree in business.
When he attends graduation ceremonies May 14 in El Dorado, he will receive an Order of the Purple commemorative medallion, signifying a grade point average of 3.75 or higher. He expects to graduate with a GPA of about 3.97, just shy of the highest honor of 4.0.
Curtis’s dream is to start his own gaming company. He plans to enroll in Fort Hayes State University this fall and take online courses for a degree in computer science. He will learn how to create software programs, design games, and develop code.
“I needed to know how to run a business and also how to design a program,” he said. “So much goes into creating games.”
With his brother’s help, he recently learned how to build a computer from scratch.
After graduating from Fort Hayes State, he plans to seek employment that will help him develop his computing skills.
Karen Wedd, Peabody
Karen Wedd, 44, of Peabody was working as a certified nurse’s aide when she decided to go back to school.
“One day, I was running down the halls and realized I wasn’t getting any younger,” she said. “I was 23 years away from retirement and knew I couldn’t keep on doing this into my 60s.”
Her mother, Rita Tomlinson, who was a secretary at Butler of Marion for more than 20 years, encouraged Wedd to pursue more education. She quit her job and enrolled in January 2019.
All of her courses were completed online. She said it was a challenge to fit in time for her studies. She found that some subjects, such as math, were more intense than when she got her GED in 1997. Computer programming had changed, too.
She credits the support of her husband, Donald, five grown children, and mother for helping her graduate.
“If it weren’t for them, I maybe wouldn’t have made it,” she said. “It was a real struggle at times.”
She will graduate with an associate’s degree in business.
“BCC gave me a lot of personal support,” she said. “They provided the assistance and guidance I needed.”
Wedd has received numerous contacts about available jobs but has not decided where she will apply. She is hoping to be an administrative assistant.