From an Idea to a Campus, CCHE History

CCHE was created in response to the community need for post-secondary education within Cook County. The founders believed partnering with existing institutions was a cornerstone to success. Why not utilize available infrastructure in the community – Interactive Television Equipment (ITV) at the courthouse and North Shore Health, classroom space at ISD 166 and at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic?

The second cornerstone was recognizing individual success could only be obtained by responding to individual needs. An early inquiry about an Anishinaabe language class resulted in four local students enrolling and two other colleges linking via ITV to a Fond du Lac class taught by Dan Jones. We have since learned the magnitude of the ripple effect of personalized help.

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CCHE History
Campus History
Past Employees
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Our community is known for is all the different opportunities it offers. Higher Education is an awesome place to go and get a degree/diploma in something to help improve your education. You can do long distance learning programs such as LPN/RN programs, business education, childhood education, and SOOOOO much more! Visit their website today and learn about that dream job you always wanted. Nothing is impossible! There are tons of financial aid, student loans, and scholarships to get you where you need to go.

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history of higher ed

CCHE History

Cook County Higher Education (CCHE) is a non-profit organization established in 1996 to address four critical issues facing Cook County Residents.

  • Minimal Higher Education Opportunities
  • Skilled Worker Shortages
  • Limited Career Advancement
  • Extreme Isolation

Prior to the creation of Cook County Higher Education (CCHE), the average resident had to travel hundreds of miles to attend a college or university. In the early 1990s, Cook County conducted a needs assessment which determined the county could not support a community college. At that point, Mary Junnila, Executive Director of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Diane Booth, Extension Programs Coordinator at the Cook County Extension Office, and Carolyn Steel applied for and received a three year $163,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to operate what was referred to as the Cook County Higher Education Project as an alternative to a large bricks-and-mortar facility.

1999 was a tough year – the Federal funding finished and CCHE survived on a $25,000 Northland Foundation grant with just one employee working 20 hours a week. As a result, CCHE obtained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and began actively seeking state funding.

In 2000, CCHE received an $80,000 annual allocation from the State of Minnesota made possible thanks to Wes Hedstrom and Senator Doug Johnson.

In 2007, the allocation was increased to $120,000.

Thanks to the work of the CCHE Executive Directors and State Representatives Tom Bakk and Rob Ecklund, the allocation was increased to $200,000 for the 2017-2018 Biennial and to $300,000 for the 2019-2020 biennial.

CCHE campus history

Campus History

From the very beginning, CCHE has provided a welcoming campus for students needing help with long distance education: proctoring, mentoring, guiding, and advocating. Over the years, the mission expanded to include college preparation, workforce training and lifelong learning.

Campus History

From 1996 to 2009, CCHE operated out of small office and moved around looking for the perfect home. CCHE was housed in the Community Center, the lower level of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and the old Dental Office – the brick house close to Highway 61 on 1st Avenue West. In the lower level of the clinic, a little computer lab was busy every day with students taking classes, testing and studying.

Growing enrollment necessitated expansion, although financing such a project was an issue. From 2004 to 2008, CCHE explored the following possibilities:

  • Building on Sawtooth Bluff
  • Purchasing the old US Forest Service offices
  • Sharing space with the Grand Marais Public Library
  • Building in the Cedar Grove Business Park

With assistance from the EDA and grants from the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB, CCHE was able to purchase the former Baptist Church in 2009. Russell Zenk was hired to design and renovate our campus using recommendations from a Space Needs Assessment conducted by Ron McGriff, a consultant from Pine Tech Community College. Glenn Peterson Builders was the general contractor. CCHE kept as much of the original building as possible.

In December 2009, the doors were opened! The space filled so quickly, it was hard to believe CCHE started with a one-room office. CCHE currently has 5 employees: 4 full time and one part time.

The upper level of the campus is used for offices, classes, workshops, ITV, testing, and events. The lower level is comprised of the large “Mark Abrahamson” classroom, two offices, and a student study room. The classroom is designed for health-related classes such as Nursing Assistant, CPR and Emergency response training. Mark Abrahamson has been an instructor for CCHE from the start. He teaches nursing assistant courses one or two times annually, and LPN and RN clinicals. Originally all of his teaching supplies were on a cart, moving place to place at the hospital. Establishment of the North Shore Campus facility meant he could have a designated classroom. In December 2013, the classroom was dedicated in his honor.

past CCHE employees

Past Employees & Interns

Past employees

Paula Sundet Wolf, Development Director, 2017; and, Executive Director, 1997-2017
Jade Wolke, Administrative Assistant, 2017-2019
Laurel Wilson, Student Services Coordinator, 2018-2019
Sarah Stover, Student Services Coordinator, 2015-2018
Mindy Silence, Data Management, 2016
Kirstin van den Berg, Student Services and Education Director, 2006-2014
Jim Boyd, Business Training, 2011-2012
Sheryl Hinderman, Student Services, 2005
Kelly Rauzi, Student Services, 2004
Marce Wood, Student Services, 2000-2003
Jean Marie Modl, Director, 1996-1999; and, Assistant, 2009-2010
Linda Lamb, Student Services, 1996
Carol Allis, Director, 1996

Former Interns

Amanda Olson
HCC Intern, 2015-2016
Melody McClure
NEMOJT Intern, 2016
Tyan [Nikki] Agnew
NEMOJT Intern, 2010
Paige Reeves
Grant Writing Intern, 1998

previous CCHE board members

Past Board/Advisory Council Members

Previous Board Members

Doug Bruce, 2009 – 2019
Bob Morrison, 2017 – 2019
Dr. Robert Pranis, 2014 – 2018
Janet Ditmanson, 2007 – 2016
Carol Mork, 2013 – 2016
Patricia Campanaro, 2014 – 2015
Rena Rogers, 2008 – 2015
Andy Rysdahl, 2013 – 2015
Adam Nelson, 2013 – 2015
Maggie Barnard, 2011 – 2013
Beth Rogers Kennedy, 2010 – 2014
Bob Pratt, 2006 – 2014

High School Student Board Members

CeCe Olson, 2010 – 2012
Will Brandenberg, 2010 – 2011
Carly Puch, 2008 – 2010
Marie Nordahl, 2008 – 2009

Previous Advisory Council Members

Mike Carlson, 1999 – 2006
Gwen Carman, 1998 – 2003 and 2006 – 2013
Julie Brandt, 1998 – 2004
Rita Plourde, 1996 – 2006
Wes Hedstrom, 1996 – 2003
Diane Booth, 1996 – 1999 and 2003 – 2005
Carolyn Steel, 1996 – 2002
Mary Junnila, 1996 – 2001
Jay Anderson, 1996 – 2000
Rosie Novitsky, 1996 – 1999
Karen Blackburn, 1996 – 2001

EDUCATION WHERE YOU LIVE