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With an array of aid and resources, COCC helps its students find the right formula for academic achievement

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY MARK JOHNSON
 - COCC's technology lending library provides free laptop and hotspot loans.

There are stories held in bones, untold and unknown, from ancient narratives to this-happened-here evidence. For Sierra Klapproth, an anthropology student at Central Oregon Community College, the urge to unravel and convey those tales, page by shrouded page, is irresistible.

"I've found a love for anthropology at COCC that is pulling me toward forensic anthropology," shared Klapproth, long intrigued by the field of forensics and the medical side of criminal justice. "It is so interesting and surreal to look at how much information can be gathered from bones that can be anywhere from days to millions of years old." With ambitions of becoming a medical examiner or a forensic anthropologist, Klapproth is earning her Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree and planning to continue her studies at a four-year university. Currently exploring studies at COCC as varied as archeological methods and the cultural rites of Samoan coming-of-age tattoos, Klapproth, a dean's list student, knows her hard work is integral to success. So too, she shares, is the supportive environment at COCC. "I've never felt like I was unable to get help for any problem I've ever had," she said. "There's always somewhere to go and someone happy to help." Klapproth fully appreciates all the ways that she's received assistance, large and small, virtual and in-person, from the backing of a COCC Foundation scholarship to finding support with technology issues. Even mundane things like a discounted bus pass are appreciated. "It's so amazing to be part of such a supportive community," she added. That support takes many shapes — and might look different for any given student. It might come from the college's tutoring center or by way of COCC's "Clothing Connection," a place to peruse free apparel for the workplace and job interviews. Students have access to career fairs and receive help securing internships. A student emergency fund, funded by community donors, is available for those requiring immediate assistance with things like childcare expenses, car repairs and rent payment. The resources are diverse — and extensive.

For nursing student Daniel "Dray" Aguirre, the college's technology lending library is proving indispensable in this time of remote learning. Over this past term, he checked out a hotspot (a device that provides wireless internet through a cellular network) and a laptop to keep up with his studies. "The school really made a difference with these," he said. "I am able to stay on top of my homework and other assignments."

Due to the popularity of the tech library, the college is already expanding the number of hotspots it has available to loan students. "This goal is especially important right now, as non-academic challenges can be critical for the success of our students in this remote and challenging time," said Tina Hovekamp, director of COCC's Barber Library.

A recent survey sent to students at COCC helped confirm to the college that ballooning the range of its on-campus wireless signals to include portions of its parking lots — at all four campuses — would be a well-used service. Now, the park-and-surf option is a reality. "This service is useful when indoor wireless service and computer labs provided by COCC are not available, such as weekends," said Laura Boehme, chief information officer at the college. Students log on with their normal accounts and can work from their vehicle during these in-between times.

Another pillar of support at COCC, a partnership with Thrive Central Oregon that took shape last fall, guides students into a network of Central Oregon resources, from food banks to housing agencies. Emily Beck is that guide, and she typically conducts 30-minute phone calls with students to start the process of meeting their needs.

"I had appointments with 28 different students this January," said Beck, an employee of the nonprofit who now embeds part-time at COCC in that resource specialist role. "Seventy-one percent of those had needs that identified as COVID-19-related." Most, she said, were housing related; she helps them search for housing resources and apply for financial assistance to remain housed.

Now, and well after the pandemic, student needs will continue. And support, at many levels, makes all the difference to many academic paths. As Sierra Klapproth digs more into her anthropology coursework and sees a future in "reading bones," she credits how "helpful everyone is, from teachers to advisors to all the student outreach people…I have been very impressed with everything COCC does for students." That story is plain to see.

For more information on COCC, visit cocc.edu or contact the COCC Crook County Open Campus at 541-447-9233.


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