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Monday, September 21, 2015

NCC Open House Proves Why It is Among the Best

With campuses located in Monroe County Bethlehem Township and on Bethlehem's South side, Northampton Community College is considered among the best in the country. It proved that at a recent open house at the Fowler Center, which is impossible to complete in just one day. Tobor the Robot, EMT demos, the Fab Lab and cooking classes are just some of the school's practical productions. In addition, there's a reading room for area children, filled to the brim with books.

EMT Training. - One of the school's offerings is a 200-hour EMT course that provide certifications for people to work in ambulances or at hospitals. Many people who take this course also go on to become R.N.s or physicians, including Dr. Rebecca Pequeno, who runs the Emergency Room at St.Luke's Anderson campus. Pictured above are instructors Mari Beth Esordi (left) along with Irene Mast and John Evans. Mast also teaches an eight hour heart saver class, which has provided CPR instruction to approximately 5,000 members of the public. "I think everyone should learn CPR to save a life," she said.

Cooking with Mary Grube. - People might need those CPR classes after eating all the different samplings dished out by Return to Elegance's Mary Grube. In addition to her cooking show on WFMZ-TV69, Mary is teaching nine different classes at the college this fall, from Dinner for One to Champagne Tasting. Her class, which offered champagne and tapas samples, was packed. "I love cooking," she said and that's good to know because her work product quickly disappeared. "I don't think you should fight food," she lectured, and nobody did. They just ate it.

Children's Literacy. - The Cops 'n Kids Reading Room, tucked away on the fourth floor, seems like no big deal. But is is. That's how Beverly Bradley, a retired teacher, has been able to distribute 683,736 books to Bethlehem children. For free. Children can bring books or take a "5-pack" every Wednesday. On Saturdays, different programs are offered to the children. For example, in early October, the Wildlands will be there to show kids how to make a planetarium out of toilet paper.

"I've got to see that one," said a dubious Bradley.

Bradley grew up in a large family on the South Side with next to nothing, and relies on donations to ensure that no child goes without at any of her events. She spoke of one occasion in which her brother, Tommy Donchez was cooking hot dogs. A father who was worried whether he'd have enough money to feed his four kids, asked how much.

"Five for nothing!" was Tommy's reply. The father started to tear up.

Donchez' group also helps select the children for the tree-lighting ceremony every year with the Mayor. This year they will come from Holy Infancy and Miller Heights. Every child will get his ir her very own back pack, a box lunch and a ride on a Trans-Bridge bus. Five children are designated as Mayor's Assistants and help him to turn on the lights.

Last year, the mother of one of the children selected began to worry as he prayed every night, "Please God, make sure I don;t get sick." She asked her son why he was so worried and he explained. "Mom, the Mayor has picked me to turn on the lights of the City. If I'm sick, the City will be in the dark."

In the end, it's about the kids, not the books, explained Bradley.

Bev Bradley and Bethlehem Attorney Barb Hollenbach, who volunteers her time, offered to read Winnie the Pooh's Blustery Day. But it was time to play a little blackjack, something they don't teach kids.

Faites Vos Jeux. It's common to see college kids break out a deck of cards to play hearts or even poker between classes. But you won't find any gambling courses at Moravian College or Lehigh University. Not only does Northampton Community College offer instruction on gaming, but they bring in the casino tables as well for Blackjack, Roulette, Craps and every table game you'll find at The sands. Above, Anna Stofko tries her hand at spinning the Roulette wheel.

According to Deborah Driscole, who helps administer this program, students are offered a ten-week course in which they are trained and certified in two different table games. There are 15 students per class, which runs through about eight cycles per year. Students who become certified can go on to audition at The Sands and other casinos. Once they are hired, the casino will send some students back for additional training on other table games. Over the past five years, approximately 1,500 students have successfully completed this program. Ninety per cent of them are hired by a casino.

James Kandle, a Blackjack instructor, provides pointers to a would-be dealer.

Cocktail, anyone? - Most people who visit a casino enjoy a cocktail or two while they're gambling. Northampton Community College offers several programs for that, too. In mixology classes, students learn how to make a gin and tonic that even James Bond would approve. Students can  pick up ServSafe food handling and RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program) certifications The school also offers instruction in how different wines complement different meals. Above, students Katarina Delnero, Taleya Folks and Isabbel Dacosta prepare mocktails for open house visitors.

Fab Lab - The brainchild of Dr, Paul Pierpoint, the Fab Lab is a place where anyone, from mad scientist to artisan, can test his ideas. It offers 3-D printers like the one above, along with laser engraving, woodworking, guitar building, metalwork, electronics and a sound studio..

In addition to being an open lab for the public, there are now 20 instructors who teach nearly 60 courses. Above you can see several guitars in their early stages as they are built by students in one of the many unusual courses offered. Students can select an acoustic or electric guitar, or even a ukulele.

Unless someone at the Fab Lab comes up with a time machine, this report has to stop here. There was simply no time to view many of the other programs, including the dental lab, nursing school and medical assistant training. Also, this open house was limited to the Fowler Building on the South Side campus.

Bethlehem's South Side is increasingly being equated with The Sands and Steelstacks. But this open house is proof that Northampton Community College has helped the city and its residents make the transition from an industrial-based economy to a what former mayor John Callahan liked to call a "knowledge-based economy.”

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