Northeastern Junior College celebrates campus expansion project, new scholarship opportunity

Big Iron’s Cal West Memorial Scholarship will benefit diesel and ag students

By CALLIE JONES | | Sterling Journal-Advocate
PUBLISHED: September 24, 2022 at 3:07 p.m. | UPDATED: September 25, 2022 at 2:31 p.m.

October 4, 2022
Jennifer Wagner, fourth from left, presented a $10,000 donation to Northeastern Junior College for agriculture and diesel student scholarships on behalf Big Iron in memory of Cal West during a celebration open house for the Applied Technology Campus expansion project Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Northeastern Junior College celebrated both the beginning of its Applied Technology Campus expansion project as well as a new scholarship opportunity for students attending programs on that campus at an open house Friday.

During the celebration, Big Iron presented a $10,000 donation to the NJC Foundation to launch the Cal West Memorial Scholarship, which will provide financial assistance for diesel technology and agriculture students.

Jennifer Wagner, Big Iron sales rep for Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick and Phillips County, spoke about the company which offers a full-service option to help ag producers, dealerships and businesses liquidate their assets at auction. They provide online options weekly, which give customers an opportunity to reach the world and receive a return on investment.

“In northeast Colorado especially, I have helped many on their retirements and estate auctions, in addition to customers that just had a few auction items to sell,” Wagner said.

She has been with Big Iron for eight years and credits Cal West, who passed away last year, with introducing her to the business and helping her get her start. Big Iron Regional Manager Kurt Campbell was also very close with West.

Wagner read a brief statement about West and why Big Iron donated money to NJC in his honor.

“Cal West was passionate about our communities as well as local youth; he mentored many youth as well as older professionals in areas of agriculture and life in general. Cal was direct, passionate, and always willing to listen to provide his input,” Wagner said. “He coached in a way to help everyone understand what was right and encouraged everyone to give that extra 10%.”

West was an early advocate for Big Iron Auctions, as he and his dealership partner grouped with Big Iron to utilize the auction company to disperse his business in late 2009 and 2010. He later joined the Big Iron family and continued to mentor and be active in the equipment and agriculture industry. West worked with Big Iron co-founders Mark and Ron Stock to advise on strategies and methods to best serve agriculture communities like those in Logan County.

He was instrumental in the growth of Big Iron, as well as ensuring Big Iron was providing the best customer service for all customers.

“Cal loved to wear the big yellow shirt and help customers across the U.S. From speaking at dealer meetings to being in the field with customers and listing their equipment on an auction, Cal was always busy doing what he loved, helping people,” Wagner said.

West was such a large advocate for mentoring and developing people, Big Iron found it fitting to honor him by donating $10,000 to further education in agriculture and diesel mechanic fields. They chose NJC because West was involved in the local community and always promoted interested young men and women to further their education.

Big Iron has committed to $10,000 for a 10-year period to benefit the students enrolling in NJC for agriculture production, agriculture business, or diesel mechanics.

“We encourage others who knew Cal to make a commitment to this scholarship, so that we can help even more students at NJC. We certainly miss Cal and we hope this memorial scholarship will help his legacy last for decades to come,” Wagner said.

The scholarship presentation was just part of the open house to celebrate the ATC project, which will expand and renovate the existing buildings on the Applied Technology Campus to allow for the expansion of the automotive technology, diesel technology and wind technology programs. There will also be a new building between the existing buildings, which will allow for the precision agriculture and welding technology programs to move to that part of campus and provide room for new programs such as skilled trades and solar technology.

“It’s really going to bring some remarkable capability to Jason Hazlett (director of renewable energy) and his team to bring simulation and other training technologies into the students, so that they can get practice not only on all of the equipment you see here, but on a number of new skills we currently can’t teach,” NJC President Mike White said.

As he spoke, he also pointed out a truck in the diesel technology building that NJC students are in the process of rebuilding to be used to teach others to become commercial drivers in NJC’s commercial driver’s license program.

White thanked the Capital Development Committee, which is responsible for reviewing funding requests for capital projects from all state agencies and making prioritized recommendations for the Joint Budget Committee, for approving NJC’s project, giving special credit to state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who sat on that committee and helped push that request forward.

At an NJC Advisory Council meeting on Thursday, Lisa LeFevre, vice president of administrative services, shared that the college has put in a phase two funding request for the project and is asking for double the phase one amount, which was $12,575,000. She is very optimistic that Northeastern will receive that funding, noting, “I have not yet seen in all the years I’ve been dealing with it, any of the continuation projects not getting funded.”

Early architectural drawings for the project were on display Friday. LeFevre told the council after a brief pause on the project due to the coronavirus pandemic the college is still working with project architects to finalize the design, but the general concept and design will remain the same. Right now, they are very focused on making sure that NJC is spending the money that it has for the project as effectively as possible.

White said they hope to break ground on the new building late this year or early next year. LeFevre does expect it to take longer than initially anticipated to complete the project due to supply chain issues; she said just getting the pre-engineered metal building that is part of the project will take about 18 months.

LeFevre shared that NJC has been doing some reporting to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the legislature “as far as the challenges everybody’s having as far as our capital construction and controlled maintenance with just not being able to buy equipment for really, really long periods of time.” For example, she was successful in securing a grant that allowed her to order a new vehicle back in February and she just had to cancel it, because there is no way the college would be able to get the vehicle by December, which is when the grant funds expire.

“It’s an interesting time,” LeFevre said.

Following the check presentation and remarks, guests were able to explore the current ATC classrooms, as well as the college’s new RISE (Response, Innovation and Student Equity) grant mobile learning lab.

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