(Butler, PA) Kimberly Gardner, of Second Street, was among Ellwood City residents whose academic achievements were recognized by Butler County Community College on Tuesday during Student Awards Day.
Gardner, 55, a 1980 graduate of Lincoln High School, will receive two associate of applied science degrees in May from BC3, in human resource management and in business management. She was honored Tuesday for having attained President’s List honors in the spring and fall semesters of 2016.
President’s List students have a grade-point average of 3.75 or higher while carrying at least 12 credits.
Gardner was also nominated by Cheryl Macon, a BC3 business professor, for inclusion in Who’s Who Among American Colleges & Universities. Nominees must have earned 12 college-level credits, have a grade-point average of at least 3.0 and be involved in athletics, student clubs or organizations or in community service.
Gardner has volunteered as past auxiliary president of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, with an Ellwood City Easter egg hunt committee, and on an Ellwood City Memorial Day parade committee for about 10 to 15 years, she said.
“This is a big part of your lives, the possibility of giving back,” Dr. Case Willoughby, BC3’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, told the Who’s Who nominees. “And that’s why the Who’s Who groups are nominated for this special category. Academics always come first at a college, and they should. But try to remember that all the things your future employers will want are the kinds of skills you will learn and develop, in clubs, organizations or community efforts.”
Gardner enrolled at BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing in New Castle in June 2015, three months after she lost her job when a mill at which she was employed closed.
“Kimberly epitomizes what BC3 represents, which is to provide an affordable quality education that meets our diverse student population so that they can be prepared to enter the workforce,” said Dr. Christian Ola, dean of business at BC3. “Her achievement is a testament to hard work, a positive attitude and persistence. She is living proof that the ability to learn new skills doesn’t discriminate for any reason. Her achievements are inspirational to all of us and should remind everyone that the word ‘can’t’ exists only when we allow it to exist.”
Returning to college for the first time in nearly 35 years was not a difficult decision, Gardner says.
“I went to a few (job) interviews and didn’t like what I was seeing,” Gardner said. “They were offering (Trade Readjustment Allowances) from work. That made it easy. I thought I would go back to school and get an education.”
“They made me feel right at home”
She chose BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing, 17 miles from Lincoln High School.
“I liked the New Castle center,” she said. “I could take all my classes in New Castle. I loved it, the people, the teachers. With my age, I felt a little out of place. But everyone welcomed me with open arms, even the younger students. It was nice. They made me feel right at home.”
Gardner, also a 1981 graduate of Youngstown ITT, calls her nomination to Who’s Who “amazing.”
“I felt there are students out there who are more deserving,” Gardner said. “I don’t toot my own horn. I was extremely honored, and pleased. I’m just a humble country girl, old lady. I do things around the community and never brag about. It’s something I have always done.”
Other Ellwood City residents named to BC3’s President’s List in 2016 are Christine Barr, Jacquelyn Bowman, Janelle Fox, Makaila Holsinger, Tabitha Johns, Samantha Keller, Casey Kline, Sarah Maze, Kayla Murin, Kimberly Raisor, Lindsay Sarver, William Scott, Lauren Shebanie and Tammy Vincik.
Eleven Ellwood City residents who earned a 3.5 to a 3.74 grade-point average while carrying at least 12 credits were named to BC3’s Dean’s List in 2016. They are Jerimy Donley, Leah Franze, Heather Johnston, Michael Fontana, Angela Gibbons, Scott Lilly, Matthew Morabito, Viola Seaburn, Hannah Smith and Johns and Vincik.
“You are representing the best of the best”
In addition to its main campus and center in New Castle, BC3 also has sites in Cranberry Township, Ford City, Brockway and Hermitage.
“For those who are on (main campus) for the first time,” Dr. Nick Neupauer, BC3’s president, told the crowd of more than 200 on Tuesday, “and enter through the gate, you saw a very big sign. We are the No. 1 community college in the entire state. And the fact that you are here, as being on the Dean’s List, or the President’s List, or Who’s Who, you are representing the best of the best. The best of Pennsylvania’s No. 1 community college, and for that you deserve congratulations.”
Gardner says she has praised BC3 to others.
“I have recommended BC3 to three to four different people who have asked me,” Gardner says.
“Even to some kids who are getting out of high school. I told them to go to BC3 first and start out with an associate degree and get yourself in the groove of college and find out how different college is than high school.”
Gardner began work in the human resources and information systems department of a regional steel mill in January. Her experience at BC3, she said, “made me stop and think and use my head again.”
“I have studied hard,” she says. “My teachers have been extremely informative. They taught well. They are there, even for the slightest question you had. They would answer all your questions and help you out the whole way.”
Her advice to other non-traditional students is to accept the challenge.
“Don’t shy away from anyone because you are an older student,” she says. “The younger students are extremely welcoming and easy to talk to. They don’t look at you any differently.”