From the Mayor 11/09/16

Reprinted with Permission of the Independence Daily Reporter

I want to tell you a story about a woman from a small town in Kansas who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Her name is Nola Ochs, and she was born in Jetmore in 1911. At that time, Jetmore was a booming metropolis of 317 people. At the age of 19, Nola took her first college class at the Kansas State College, which later changed its name to Fort Hayes State University. Nola married Vernon Ochs, and she and her husband raised four sons on the family farm.

Fast forward to 2005. Nola, now 94, decided to get more education, so she moved 80 miles from the family farm to an apartment in Hayes to finish her degree.

On May 14, 2007, Ochs became a Guinness World Record holder as the world's oldest college graduate when she received her diploma at the age of 96. Ochs was named the Kansas Woman Leader of the Year for 2007 and was presented her diploma by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Ochs’ story was featured on The Early ShowMSNBC, and CBS News, among others. She was even invited to sit and chat with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show a week after she graduated.

Incredibly, after taking a few months off to help with the family wheat harvest, Nola returned to Fort Hayes State to pursue her master’s degree. She received her Master's Degree on May 15, 2010, making her the world’s oldest recipient of a master's degree at age 98.

I mention Nola’s story because I think of her every time I hear someone say, “I’ve never been smart,” or “I never had a chance to go to college.” Too many of us think that because we weren’t smart as kids, we can’t become smarter. Or because we weren’t a great student in high school, we’re just not college material. Or we think that because we didn’t go to college right after high school, it’s too late.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

Nola had to travel 80 miles from Jetmore to Hayes. You don’t have to travel at all because we have our own local treasure, Independence Community College. Despite its small size, the college offers an amazing variety of educational opportunities.

Like a muscle, your brain begins to deteriorate when you stop using it.

It doesn’t matter what age you are. Sign up today to take a class on any subject that grabs you, just to keep your brain sharp. If you hated History, or English, or Algebra in your younger days, sign up for it today and exorcise those demons.

Are you employed but want to learn a new job skill? The college offers both credit and noncredit courses in an amazing variety of workforce skills, from computing, communication, medical skills, to accounting. Many of these can be taken in the evenings or online, to match the schedules of busy working people.

Unemployed and looking to improve your job prospects? The college offers not just courses that match what employers are looking for, but also has advisors that will coach you on resume writing and interviewing skills.

Need a creative, artistic outlet? The college’s choir and band are both open to the community, and many theatre productions have open auditions.

Just looking to have fun with your friends? The college offers zero-stress non-credit community courses on things like barbecuing, cake decorating, candy making, financial literacy, even fly-tying!

Dreaming about creating a product to sell? ICC’s nationally recognized Fab Lab will help you take a product all the way from the idea in your head to a finished product sitting in your hand. The entrepreneurship program has people to help you produce and market that product too.

And the best part? ICC was named in 2015 as the fifth most affordable community college in the United States; educating yourself, your child, or your employees is within the reach of anyone. Residents of the taxing district attend TUITION-FREE, any remaining fees can be paid over time (interest free), and their professional, patient, financial aid staff will talk you through your options.

We’re very fortunate to be one of only 19 communities in Kansas with a community college, which generates tens of millions of dollars in economic activity for the county and provides a positive return to taxpayers.

Sign up now for spring classes. Call ICC today. Independence is already the most beautiful city in Kansas; now let’s make it the smartest.

Mayor Gary Hogsett