Kathy Fickenscher is a champion for the underdogs.

“I like working with those people who, maybe, life hasn’t treated fairly or presented with the same opportunities on the same timeline as ordinary individuals,” Fickenscher said. “I enjoy providing that genuine help and encouragement to those people.”

It’s a trait that will be deeply missed as Fickenscher, Mid-Plains Community College area career services coordinator, bids farewell to MPCC after 21 and a half years of service. Leaving will be bittersweet for her as well.

“I am full retirement age — plus one year, so now is a good time to go,” Fickenscher said. “I’m ready to step aside and let other people put new ideas into action. I have always worked with students. I maintain that working with students can keep a person young, and I feel that is true in my case.”

There were two groups of students, in particular, that grew close to her heart.

“I’ve really enjoyed helping students in The Learning Center — North Platte’s alternative high school,” Fickenscher Fickenscher retires from MPCC.

“I also loved working closely with the GED students and encouraging them — helping them see that there’s no need to downgrade themselves if maybe they waited 10-15 years to get their GED. We don’t all follow the same path. I will truly miss those connections.”

Fickenscher is originally from Kearney. She graduated from Kearney High School in 1970 then earned a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from what is now the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Fickenscher said. “I liked teaching because of the help I could provide to students. My 4-H involvement was what inspired me to pursue family and consumer sciences. I liked that field because I could be hands-on.”

Her first job out of college was teaching at Medicine Valley Public Schools in Curtis.

“Eventually, as schools began cutting the number of family and consumer sciences programs offered, it became evident that those teachers needed to find something else as a backup plan,” Fickenscher said. It prompted her to obtain an endorsement in library media.

After five years, she left teaching to help her husband, Earl, with the family business — operating 32 greenhouses at Moorefield.

In 1984, the family returned to Kearney for Earl’s music teaching career. Kathy was a stay-at-home-mom until 1989 when she got a job in the reference department of the UNK library.

She took a position in MPCC’s career services department in North Platte in November 1997.

“I started out as an administrative assistant and worked my way up the ladder,” Fickenscher said. “I also obtained a master’s degree in school counseling.”

In her present role, Fickenscher’s primary responsibilities include offering career guidance to individuals within MPCC’s 18-county service area.

“I go to the community campuses when they line up people needing interest and aptitude testing,” Fickenscher said. “I help them find direction and talk to them about college — what’s involved and how to get started.”

Over the years, Fickenscher has also been in charge of placement tests and transition services and served as the chief reference for GED testing.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes — some of the biggest being the emphasis placed on certification and licensure testing,” Fickenscher said. “We as career services can provide that as a very much needed service locally. Community colleges really are about reaching out to members in the community, and that’s something career services has had a big hand in.”

She used outreach programs to area middle and high school students as an example, as well as the direct placement of students into the community.

“Everything moving from paper and pencil testing to computer-based testing — we have been a huge part of that,” Fickenscher said. “Career Services will continue working hard to meet the needs of constituents in the MPCC service area.”

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