Groundbreaking–a day of beginnings

Groundbreaking 6.30.15

A crowd of more than 200 people convened at the corner of Pear Street and Washington Avenue on the Centralia College campus June 30 to break ground on the TransAlta Student Commons, a new building that will serve as a student center for the campus.

“This is a momentous occasion. Today we celebrate the beginnings of something good,” said Centralia College President Dr. Robert Frost to the crowd of local and regional leaders, community members, college faculty and staff members, students, and college supporters.

The president’s welcome included a long list of “star-studded” guests, including: the Centralia College Board of Trustees; former Centralia College president Dr. Hank Kirk; Rep. Richard DeBolt; Shari Hildreth, the district director for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler; Lewis County Commissioners Bill Schulte, Edna Fund, and Gary Stamper; Centralia Mayor Bonnie Canaday; Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes; Centralia City Council members; MSGS Architects; TransAlta Centralia managers; and Centralia College Foundation Board members.

Recognizing the college’s key partner in a day of beginnings, Dr. Frost thanked TransAlta for its commitment to the college and community through its generous donations.

“It is this culture of partnership and community that unites TransAlta and the college, and it’s what brings us here today to celebrate this very important beginning,” he said.

Following Dr. Frost’s welcome, Chris DuPont, TransAlta Centralia manager of operations, shared a few words affirming the strong partnership with the college.

Rep. Richard DeBolt then spoke of the importance of breaking the cycle of poverty in Lewis County through education.

“College is a transition tool—the tool in our community tool box to make our children and citizens better… I am thrilled that this is being built,” he said.

Lastly, Joanne Schwartz, chair of the Centralia College Board of Trustees, shared her excitement over the “long awaited, highly anticipated building of the TransAlta Student Commons”—a project, she said, that “showed commitment to students by providing (them) every opportunity to be successful.”

“We are deeply grateful to all of you,” Schwartz concluded.

Distinguished guests then grabbed golden shovels to join Dr. Frost in breaking ground. As the first group lined up with shovels to take photographs, Dr. Frost invited everyone in the crowd to stay and take a turn at the shovel for a photograph.

“This is an historic event, and we want to document it,” he said.

Prominently displayed at the groundbreaking site were two banners clearly representing the strong partnership between TransAlta and Centralia College. One of the banners proclaimed the words, “Proud of Our Past…Building Our Future”—a fitting backdrop to a ceremony that marked the “beginnings of something good.”


WorkFirst staff member inspires others

Michelle Hylton proudly displays her Bachelor’s degree from WSU Michelle Hylton“The more education, the better chances you have of getting out of poverty and opening doors that wouldn’t be opened unless you had the education.”

No one understands this truth better than Michelle Hylton, a high school dropout-turned-college graduate. Now working as a program coordinator for Centralia College’s WorkFirst program, Hylton speaks passionately about the value of education to prospective WorkFirst students, many of whom are single parents trying to get off state assistance and get a better job.

“Education gives them confidence so they are not stuck in a cycle of poverty. They can know something better now,” Hylton said.

Speaking from her own personal experience, Hylton shares her courageous story with them—a story of hard work, determination and success.

“School was not important in my family. My mom was a waitress, and my dad was a logger,” she said. “Both had dropped out of school in junior high.”

Hylton found herself following a similar path. Dropping out in tenth grade, she got her own apartment and decided to become a waitress like her mother. After a few years as a single mom struggling to raise two young children, reality hit.

“I was kind of lost and didn’t really want to be a waitress all my life,” she said. “I watched my mom and wanted something more.”

In 2000, she began working towards her GED through Centralia College’s Families at Work program for single parents.

“When I finished my GED, it was the first time I had finished anything in my life. I was so proud,” she said.

With her GED in hand, Hylton continued to work in restaurants before gathering enough courage to enroll as a student at Centralia College. She had three young children at home and was on public assistance. Taking advantage of the WorkFirst program, she took college readiness classes and enrolled in program to become a medical information clerk. During this time, she also held a part-time work study job at the Teen Center.

“When I went back to school in 2004, I was scared to death,” Hylton confessed, “but I had a lot of support from WorkFirst and from my instructors.”

She went to school at night and worked during the day, graduating in 2006 with her certificate. However, she never ended up working as a medical information clerk. Instead, she decided to continue school and complete her associate degree. At the same time, she was hired full-time in the WorkFirst office as an office assistant.

Hylton, then a working single mother of four, earned her associate degree in 2008. In 2011, she began taking online classes through Washington State University. She graduated in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in social science with concentrations in women’s studies, psychology and sociology.

“Before coming to Centralia College, I had a roller coaster life,” she admits. “When I got here, I fit. It’s probably the first time in my life I felt I fit into a place, and I didn’t want to leave.”

Now working as the WorkFirst program coordinator, Hylton has the joy of inspiring others in similar circumstances to pursue education. Hylton takes great pride in seeing her students succeed.

“One of my favorite times of year,” she said, “is when I see those students graduating and see how their families are so proud of them. Just to watch someone come in who was scared to death and see them progress as they are going on the path to their degree makes me so proud of them!”


Centralia College’s WorkFirst Financial Aid program helps parents of needy families gain the skills they need to become employed or to advance in employment through wage and skill progression. Participants who are eligible can receive financial aid to cover tuition, fees and books for vocational courses, vocational certificate/degree programs, basic skill classes (ESL/high school completion), customized job skills training, Continuing Education courses that are job related, and GED testing. In addition, WorkFirst Work-Study also provides eligible participants with on and off-campus employment opportunities in their area of study. Centralia College currently has 111 WorkFirst participants.

Vendors, volunteers team up for STP

Colorful booths will soon line Centralia College campus offering riders food and amenities. STP 2014 131Hosting the STP Midpoint is truly a community partnership.

Teaming with local businesses and organizations, Centralia College is able to offer amenities to riders that include bike repair by Performance Bike, bike storage by Centralia Police Department, and medical assistance and massage by Providence Centralia Hospital.

Food vendors will be selling a variety of meal options right on campus. Riders can buy pizza from the Beer Garden, Mexican food from Tacos El Rey, healthy options from The Quinoa King and spaghetti from St. Joseph School Parents’ Club. The college cafeteria will also be dishing up baked potatoes. In addition, the City of Centralia is offering free trolley rides to downtown Centralia where riders can take advantage of more dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

All afternoon and into the evening, riders can enjoy live music courtesy of Backlash, a local classic rock and roll band from Olympia. Others can put up their feet and watch the Tour de France, showing in both the cafeteria and Beer Garden.

“Riders enjoy the festivities while resting for the second 100 miles to Portland. Often the riders plan their weekend around ‘hanging out’ at the college on Saturday,” Vice President of Finance and Administration Steve Ward shares.

The STP midpoint is the biggest event hosted by the college with nearly 200 student and staff volunteers working around the campus and behind the scenes to make it a success.

Many of the volunteers come from our sports teams. These student athletes can be found all around campus directing traffic at street corners, manning registration tables and information booths, and checking in overnight guests. Other Centralia College staff volunteer behind the scenes to manage the finances and make sure things flow smoothly.

It takes an impressive amount of organization to pull off an event this size.

“Last year, the Association of College Conference and Event Director’s International (ACCED-I) presented Centralia College with the Outstanding Institutional  Achievement Award for its official mid-point celebration held each year for the STP.  This isn’t just an award for the college, but for the community. We couldn’t have the success we do without the help from the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Centralia, our police department, and dozens of other volunteers,” says Candy Lunke, event coordinator.

Thanks to Centralia College’s hard working volunteer team and the collaborative efforts of many in our community, this year’s STP participants will be treated to first class hospitality.

St. Joseph booth funds theater camp

STP ST. JoesFor about 20 years, the Parents’ Club from St. Joseph Catholic School in Chehalis has been dishing up plates of spaghetti to hungry bike riders.

Their STP spaghetti booth, located in the food court, is one of the school’s major fundraisers.

The money raised pays for an incredible week-long residency with the Missoula Children’s Theater, a traveling performing arts theater camp. Students at the school work with the MCT for one week, developing creativity, social and communication skills, and self-esteem through drama—culminating in a full-scale musical performance.

Several of their past MCT musicals have been performed at Corbet Theater.

The funds raised through the spaghetti booth last summer enabled St. Joseph’s students to learn and perform the musical Hansel and Gretel during the Missoula Children’s Theatre residency this past March.

TEEN program coaches young dads

TEEN fathering classMany of the young men sitting in Jonathan Bigger’s TEEN fathering class have not had great role models.

“There’s such a disconnect from young guys and their fathers—especially with kids in the TEEN program who may not have had good experience with their own dads,” said Biggers. “They don’t know how to be good fathers.”

That’s one of the main reasons the Centralia College TEEN program offers a fathering class—to give 14-19-year-old dads the tools to change the cycle of dysfunction.

The change, Biggers said, starts by asking them what kind of man they want to be.

“Almost every one of them says they don’t want to be like their dad or their parent,” he said.

Unless teen dads intentionally decide to be different and take steps to learn positive parenting skills, Biggers says they will inevitably fall into the same bad habits as their own parents.

Biggers, a local pastor and father of three, shares honestly with the guys about his own “not so great relationship” with his dad. He wants the teen dads to know that “despite what they’ve been given, it’s not impossible to get where they want to go.”

Biggers and his teaching assistant Isaac Wulff, who has adopted and fostered kids in addition to raising his own, work together to teach foundational fathering skills. Using interactive discussions, games, and word pictures, they creatively illustrate the importance of goal-setting, strategizing, and good communication—skills that will help not only in parenting, but in all aspects of life.

Biggers, who has taught the class for two years, says his personal goal for the teen dads and future fathers is “that they would see it’s possible to have good relationships and feel confident enough to move forward in accomplishing their goals, to see progress.”

The TEEN fathering class uses the Nurturing Fathers curriculum by Mark Perlman, the same used in the Dynamic Dads community fathering class, also offered by Centralia College in a partnership with Family Education and Support Services out of Olympia. The teen version was first integrated into Centralia College’s TEEN program over five years ago to address the unique needs faced by teenage fathers.

For more information about the TEEN fathering class, contact Kristi Jewell, TEEN program manager, at 360-736-9391, ext. 650 or

For more information about the Dynamic Dads fathering class, which will be offered to the community again this fall, contact Linda Wilcox at 360-736-9391, ext. 464 or The Dynamic Dads class is open to the community and helps dads learn healthy fathering practices, nurturing the children in their care and growing as dads.

This Week in Jobs at CC

The following positions are now open at Centralia College.

  • Nursing Director
  • Director of Enrollment
  • Head Coach – Women’s Soccer
  • Talent Search Specialist (TRiO Programs)
  • Special Events and Social Media Coordinator
  • Assistant Professor of Adult Basic Education 
  • Assistant Professor Pro-Rata of Computer Science-Programming 
  • Assistant Professor Pro-Rata of Computer Science-Networking 
  • Assistant Professor of Diesel Technology
  • Assistant Professor Pro-Rata at CC East (Morton)
  • Counselor
  • Adjunct English Instructors
  • Art Instruction and Classroom Support Tech I
  • Office Assistant 3
  • Program Assistant (Worker Retraining and BFET)

View these and other position announcements.

Groundbreaking is June 30

Centralia College is hosting a groundbreaking celebration for the TransAlta Student Commons on Tuesday, June 30.

An informal reception with coffee and pastries will be held at the building site at 9 a.m. A formal program will follow at 10 a.m. All are welcome to join the celebration.

The TransAlta Student Commons will be built on the corner of Washington Avenue and Pear Street. It is expected to open in 2017.

To RSVP for the groundbreaking, call 360-736-9391, ext. 268.