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story.lead_photo.caption Submitted photo ALL-STAR CAST: National Park College President John Hogan, second from right, accompanied honorees this week at the Arkansas Community Colleges' 29th annual conference at the Little Rock Marriott and Statehouse Convention Center. Honorees, from left, included Cutter Morning Star Superintendent Nancy Anderson, Outstanding Alumnus; Lorena Fitzpatrick, Academic All-Star; and Bill Ritter, Outstanding Staff. Not pictured is Rebekah Robinette, Outstanding Faculty.

Representatives from the 22 member schools of Arkansas Community Colleges were recognized this week during the organization's 29th annual conference in Little Rock.

Wade Derden, vice president for academic affairs for National Park College, oversaw the past two conferences at the Hot Springs Convention Center as president and president-elect. He served on the board of conference advisers this year as board past-president with the conference moved to the Little Rock Marriott and Statehouse Convention Center.

"The annual ACC conference is a time for community college colleagues from around the state to gather, share stories, commiserate, discuss ideas and to maybe come up with some new, fantastic approach to educating our students, which is ultimately why we are here and why we collect our pay," Derden said.

"It is also about developing leaders that serve others. I was a faculty representative for three years, then was an officer for three more. It was a pleasure to serve with so many amazing community college leaders from around the state."

ACC recognizes standout students, alumni and employees of each school during the conference. National Park College acknowledged its honorees at its annual Employee Recognition Day in May.

Lorena Fitzpatrick was selected as NPC's Academic All-Star. Gov. Asa Hutchinson served as the keynote speaker for Tuesday's Awards Brunch in which students and alumni were honored.

Fitzpatrick said she was inspired to pursue a career in education by her first-grade teacher in southern Mexico. She immigrated to the United States alone in 1988.

Cutter Morning Star School District Superintendent Nancy Anderson received the college's Outstanding Alumni award in May and was recognized in Little Rock on Tuesday.

ACC hosted an awards luncheon on Monday to honor outstanding faculty and staff members. Rebekah Robinette, professor of microbiology and immunology, received the college's Outstanding Faculty award in May. She has taught in the Math and Science Department since 2011, serves as adviser for the Alpha Beta Psi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and is a member of the organization's board of the Oklahoma/Arkansas region.

"Dr. Robinette is instrumental in preparing our nursing students," Derden said. "Her unique teaching strategies ensure her students master their material and are equipped with the knowledge needed to successfully complete their programs.

"She has committed the Alpha Beta Psi chapter to maintaining its five-star level, the highest ranking a chapter can receive due to the rigor required. In and out of the classroom, Dr. Robinette is a champion of our students."

Bill Ritter, director of Adult Education, was named the Outstanding Staff member for NPC. The college ranks second in the state in Arkansas High School Diplomas earned through General Educational Development testing and Ritter established a partnership with the Garland County Sheriff's Department to offer education to inmates of the Garland County Detention Center. He is now president of the Arkansas Association of Administrators of Adult Education and chairman of the Arkansas Adult Education and Literacy Council Advisory Committee.

"Bill's being nominated and then selected by his peers as Outstanding Staff Member of the Year speaks highly of the credibility he has established on campus," NPC President John Hogan said. "He possesses the highest levels of integrity and competency, and his commitment to the Adult Education program and its students has gained him statewide recognition. Simply put, Bill has made an enormous impact on National Park College."

Honorees for the College of the Ouachitas were Yessenia Gonzalez, Academic All-Star; Jim Whitley, Outstanding Alumni, Hot Spring County director of nursing for Baptist Health Medical Center; Jessica Beard, Outstanding Faculty, associate professor of business; and Josh Holiman, Outstanding Staff, academic adviser, testing coordinator and veterans affairs staff.

Jerry Thomas, NPC vice president of student affairs, and Melony Ritter, communications director, were recognized as graduates of Class IX of the ACC Leadership Institute. Thomas joined the college at the start of 2016 after spending time at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J.

"Dr. Thomas was an obvious choice to represent NPC in the ACC Leadership Institute," Hogan said. "His 20-plus years of experience in educational leadership, academic advising and student development programming readied him for the program.

"The knowledge he gained through the institute that is specific to two-year college students in Arkansas will further impact the success of NPC students. I am very proud of Jerry and his work to move the attainment needle on our campus."

The Leadership Institute was established in 2008 and has trained more than 200 community college leaders in the state. About 28 participants attend the annual, multisession event after they are nominated by their presidents and chancellors.

"Melony was chosen to participate in the Arkansas Community College Leadership Institute because she is a leader and voice for community college students at NPC," Hogan said. "She has worked in many areas of the college and, as a community college graduate, Melony knows firsthand the hurdles many students encounter and the fulfillment one receives from completing a degree.

"NPC feels strongly that investing in the professional development of up and coming leaders is an investment in the future of the institution and our students' success."

Local on 10/20/2017

Print Headline: College contingent honored by ACC

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