Nominations open for 19th annual KCKCC Mid-America Education Hall of Fame

by Kelly Rogge
Nominations are currently being accepted for induction into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame, presented by the Kansas City Kansas Community College Endowment Association.

The event is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 23 at the Dr. Thomas R. Burke Technical Education Center, 6565 State Ave., Kansas City, Kan.

The Mid-America Education Hall of Fame was started in 1996 by the KCKCC Endowment Association as a way to recognize individuals, organizations and corporate supporters in the community who have made notable contributions to education.

Hall of Fame inductees are selected based on a demonstrated commitment to education, their effort to improve the quality of life in the community through a commitment to education, increasing educational opportunities for others and supporting significant changes that have improved the quality of education.

Nominees will be screened according to the set criteria by the selection committee. In addition, nominations must include a biography or program description and at least three letters of recommendation.

Nomination forms are available at Forms can be submitted via mail or email. No video or audio tapes will be considered. Nominations are due by Feb. 2, 2015.

Last year’s list of honorees included Bob Van Maren, long-time superintendent of the Bonner Springs School District; Harry McDonald, a 30-year teaching veteran in the Blue Valley School District; Dr. Howard Shaw, a physician and hospital administrator who was named the Outstanding Community College Student in Kansas during his time at KCKCC in the 1980s; Greg Graves, chairman and CEO of Kansas City-based Burns and McDonnell; AT&T, a company that has made a five-year commitment worth $250 million to address high school success as well as college and career readiness for students deemed at-risk; and the 2nd Chance Scholarship Foundation, an organization founded by Matt and Jessica Brandmeyer that provides scholarships to high school graduates who have experienced adversity.

For more information on the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame or to submit a nomination, contact Dawanna Fangohr or Patrick McCartney at 913-288-7675. Information is also available by email at

Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at KCKCC.

Russell, Thornberg first KCKCC duo to win All-America volleyball honors

Kansas City Kansas Community College All-Americans Blair Russell, left, and Lily Thornberg, right, embrace the person they credit with making an All-American season happen, coach Mary Bruno. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
Kansas City Kansas Community College All-Americans Blair Russell, left, and Lily Thornberg, right, embrace the person they credit with making an All-America season happen, coach Mary Bruno. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC sports information director

Almost two years ago, Blair Russell was not sure she wanted to continue playing collegiate volleyball.

Today, the Kansas City Kansas Community College sophomore is a first team Division II All-American, the college’s first, and sophomore teammate Lily Thornberg is the first Lady Blue Devil to be named to the second All-America team as selected by the National Junior College Athletic Association. The only other Blue Devil to earn post-season All-America honors came two years ago when Kendra Alexander received honorable mention.

“I am thrilled and so incredibly proud,” said KCKCC coach Mary Bruno. “I know how hard Blair and Lily worked but what’s so wonderful is to see them get recognition from other people and other coaches. They’ve worked so hard throughout their entire careers here and what makes their honors so special is that they earned them with their hard work.”

Nationally, Russell finished fifth in kills (516) and eighth in kill average (3.94) and Thornberg fifth in assists per set with 10.74 per game as KCKCC (32-10) finished No. 8 in the final NJCAA rankings.

A three-sport standout at Marysville (Kan.) High School, Russell started her collegiate career at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas.

“My sister, Riley, had played at KCKCC so I didn’t want to play here just because she did; I wanted to do my own thing,” Russell said. “Also, the Tyler coach who had been at Hutchinson saw me at a showcase so I decided to go there.”

Unfortunately, Russell tore up her shoulder part way through her freshman season.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to play after that,” Russell said. “I didn’t know if my shoulder would recover 100 percent plus on top of that I was kind of homesick.”

That all changed with one call to Bruno.

“I called Mary and she took me right in and I’m just so glad I did,” Russell said.

Awarded a medical redshirt, she transferred to KCKCC in the spring of 2013. “I only played front row last year.”

This season she rarely came off the court playing both front and back rows.

The ascension of Russell and Thornberg to All-America status may have come this fall but it was all set up by off-season work last spring.

“I worked with Mary on technical skills and getting back my vertical every day in the spring,” Russell said. “We really worked hard on little things which Mary loves.”

“I went from no post-season awards to second team All-American in a year and a half with Mary,” concurred Thornberg. “I spent a lot of time on the court with Mary, working on my hands and footwork and returning sets to stationary targets and really started seeing improvement.”

Bruno had taken a liking to Thornberg after seeing her in her junior year at Junction City and won a tight recruiting battle with Hutchinson.

“I felt comfortable with Mary and liked the location of the campus,” said Thornberg, who had a dream come true. “When I first came here I told Mary I wanted to leave here an All-American.”

Both Russell and Thornberg were first team All-Jayhawk selections along with Andrea Aparicio and Kailee Dudley, Russell was named the conference’s MVP, Thornberg co-setter of the year, Aparicio Libero of the Year and Bruno co-coach of the year. In addition, Jasdel Gonzalez was second team All-Jayhawk and Junelie Irizarry honorable mention. All six were also all-district selections.

“Last year they received no awards but because of their work on the basics and refining their skill sets in the spring, both were first team all-conference and all-district, Blair the MVP, Lily the co-setter of the year and Blair was named to the national all-tournament team,” Bruno said. “And now they are both All-Americans.”

Playing one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, the Blue Devils finished second in the Jayhawk at 9-1 by virtue of a 3-2 loss at Cowley; won the Division N district; and rebounded from an opening round loss to eventual national champion Glendale (Ariz,) to win the consolation bracket in the national Division II tourney in Phoenix.

“It was really sad bumping into the eventual champion in the first round but I was proud of the way we rebounded and won out,” Thornberg said. “We played some very good Division I teams (and eight Division II finalists in the national tourney) and it really helped, especially our defense which really showed up in the national.”

“We had a meeting that night after losing and Mary asked us what happens next, do we roll over and go home or fight back,” Russell said. “We were unlucky to draw Glendale and very disappointed losing the first game but they were a very deserving team. We wanted to win out and place.”

Both Russell and Thornberg will finish the 2014-2015 academic year at KCKCC while working out this spring with returning members of the Blue Devil volleyball team. Neither has decided on where she’ll continue playing.

“I want to weigh all my options so I can make the right decision,” Russell said. Might they continue together? “That would be cool,” she said, with a grin.

KCKCC offering new ESOL program

by Kelly Rogge

Enrollment for the spring semester is underway for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s English for Speakers of Other Languages Program.

The goal of the program is to help those who need to improve their English skills. Students can choose academic ESOL or adult basic education ESL classes, depending on their current fluency and personal goals.

After being admitted to KCKCC, students are tested using the COMPASS ESL placement test. Test scores are then used to help students with selecting classes.

Any student whose first language is not English or has not developed adequate academic English skills should meet with the ESOL department for assistance.

The program has four levels, allowing students to complete ESOL in two years. The program is broken into several parts – reading, listening and speaking, writing and grammar and vocabulary.

During the first two semesters, students are solely in ESOL classes. Then, beginning in the third semester, schedules can become more individualized, depending on the student’s fluency. Grammar is separated from writing during the last two semesters, and students have the option of taking classes outside the ESOL program.

A class in Improving Pronunciation will also be offered on the Main Campus during the spring semester, and Listening and Speaking will be offered at the Leavenworth Center as well.

All classes are offered in both the fall and spring semesters. The program’s structure also gives students the opportunity to be better prepared as they transition into mainstream classes.

For more information on the ESOL program, to enroll or to make an appointment, call 913-288-7625 or 913-288-7380. Students can also stop by the ESOL Office, Room 3415, during normal office hours. Information is also available by emailing Liz Holloway at
Kelly Rogge is the public information supervisor at KCKCC.