Central has new college and career coach

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Elise Bergan

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

Elise Bergan took over as Central’s college and career coach in October. The short turnaround has Bergan leaning into the job, learning quickly and finding her footing among the students who are walking some of the same halls Bergan did when she was a student at Central. She graduated in 1990 before heading to Iowa State University, only to return to life in the small towns she grew up in. She is familiar with the area and has connections that run as deep as the family roots. 

 

It’s where the family farm is, which had a guest cottage rented out long before Airbnb, and where her mother was heavily involved in the Elkader Historical Society and Carter House Museum, before it resided at its current location. It’s where Bergan took care of family, including her father who passed away a couple years ago, and where her beloved horses roam, which has connected her to the Whistlin’ Bit Saddle Club for over 50 years. 

 

It’s also where Bergan has worked since graduating from ISU in 1994, getting a job as the economic development coordinator in Edgewood, while also serving on the chamber of commerce. More recently, she started teaching a class at Edgewood-Colesburg High School in digital media marketing. 

 

Along the way, Bergan has developed integral connections, fallen in love with the “entrepreneurial spirit” of the people who live here and admires its rural charm and beauty. She has a vested interest in promoting growth and creating opportunities, something she has steadily done as the economic director for nearly three decades. 

 

Over that time, a sizable accomplishment she played some part in included helping with Edgewood Rodeo Days every year, which brings over 10,000 people into a small town of just over 900. 

 

Bergan has also worked on getting local businesses started or transitioned and securing grants. Throw in the city park and Community Dreams complex, and there isn’t much Bergan hasn’t had a role in, though she was humble in accepting any credit, instead deferring to the work it took from so many others. 

 

In short, Bergan has a track record of success, whether it’s with businesses, projects or, most of all, connecting with people. It’s the last that Bergan is looking to apply in her new role as the college and career coach. 

 

Making those connections is a vital part of the job, since the role requires assisting students in identifying career goals, addressing financial aid questions, locating opportunities and preparing them for success after graduation, whether they take the traditional college route, enter a certification program or join the workforce.

 

One focus for Bergan in conversations with students will be highlighting programs available at NICC, including numerous certifications for jobs currently in high demand, like construction, truck driving, CNA, childcare and data analytics. There is a little something for everyone. 

 

With her extensive knowledge of the local business landscape, Bergan can also assist with work-study programs, on-the-job training and work shadows more easily than someone without decades of established connections. 

 

In fact, those connections have already come into play, even in the short time Bergan has been on the job, when a student asked for a reference while applying for a job. They were applying at CJ Moyna and Sons, and it just so happens the owner of the company, John Moyna, is Bergan’s cousin. 

 

Aside from the off- chance your future employer is related to your college and career coach, Bergan noted employers are looking for soft skills, preparation and reliability. Things like being able to communicate, being organized and, oddly enough, showing up on time—something Bergan pointed out employers have struggled with recently. 

 

Bergan is working with Central staff, most notably Crystal Stevenson, to set up mock interviews and engage with Stevenson on employability skills through Stevenson’s pre-employment strategies class. It focuses on résumé building, interview prep, job applications and job shadows. 

 

Another area Bergan wants to focus on is getting parents more involved through outreach and starting conversations at local events, as well as being a potential resource for other teachers at Central. 

 

In focusing on the former, Bergan, who’s had two kids go through the college process, believes parents just want to know more about what’s available for their child and what opportunities exist. When it comes to the latter, Bergan is looking to bring more employers into the school to engage with students, discuss local job opportunities and even recruit potential employees. 

 

Finally, Bergan wants to focus on getting students to know and learn about those local job opportunities and careers. 

 

“I have a vested interest. I want to see our communities succeed,” Bergan said. 

 

The self-professed “cheerleader for our communities” believes there is importance attached to having conversations with students and letting them know there are viable careers and that they can also be successful right here. 

 

“If we want to maintain what we have, we’re going to have to maintain our youth and energy and, a lot of times, they might not know everything that’s going on or that they have opportunities here,” she said. 

 

Now, all Bergan has to do is get students through her door and get them comfortable asking for help, something she believes will come naturally with time, as they get to know her and realize she is approachable and a “people person.” All students have to do is show up to the school media center  between 10 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays with questions and goals, and Bergan will be waiting to assist. 

 

“Once you tell me something, I’ve got my ears open for what other opportunities there are for you,” she said.

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