#AdAstraStrong Neosho County Community College

“Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, which translates to “to the stars through difficulties” – a sentiment that has never felt more true than it does today. It emphasizes our values and optimism that, even when faced with the most difficult hardships, we come together as a state and keep our sights set on what’s important. We launched our #AdAstraStrong campaign to highlight “stars” throughout Kansas who are going above and beyond to give back to their community. Stay tuned for more star stories and stay #AdAstraStrong.

We are excited to recognize our next community star, Neosho County Community College (NCCC). We talked with Nancy Isaac, advertising media coordinator at the college, about its efforts to create a wellness program for employees.

In September 2019, NCCC was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) Pathways program to jump-start its wellness initiative, which aimed to improve the health of employees by giving them access to fitness resources at the college.

With the help of the grant, NCCC was able to purchase more exercise equipment for their employees and provide an additional work out area in addition to the existing wellness center. Fitbits are available for employees to check out from the campus bookstore. Employees are encouraged to check out the Fitbits to take home for the weekends or even on vacations to track their fitness and steps.
“We have a lot of nice sidewalks on campus that are great for walking routes,” Isaac said. “We are also working on installing signage around campus to show distance walked and laps.”

In addition to sidewalks throughout the campus, the Wellness Center and gym offer a variety of equipment including treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, kettlebells, stretching bands, stability balls, medicine balls and more. Each employee was also offered a stretching band for their own use in the office or at home.

“We encourage employees to stand up from their desks and stretch during the day,” Isaac said. “The bands have several stretches printed right on them, which is very handy for our employees and for doing a quick round of exercises anywhere.”

NCCC also hosted an employee health fair in February 2020 and encouraged employees and their family members to attend and receive free basic health screenings. The screenings included blood pressure checks, glucose and uric acid screenings, cholesterol readings and body mass index calculations.  The wellness committee has also been able to work with many departments on campus such as nursing, athletic training and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program to assist with the employee wellness initiatives like the health fair.  Little did they know how important the handwashing station “black light” demonstration was going to become in the next month.

“Our nursing department took charge of the wellness fair and received clinical credit hours for their participation,” Isaac said. “We had more than 70 participants for the one-day event on campus.”

Shortly after the fair, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the U.S. and NCCC was forced to shift some of its wellness efforts. The college closed the wellness center and additional workout area and paused the gym reimbursement program it provided for employees who used a gym off-campus as there was not much use during the pandemic.

“We hope to survey employees soon on their fitness equipment needs and repurpose the gym reimbursement funds to purchase some smaller workout equipment that can be checked out and taken home like yoga mats, smaller dumb bells and resistance bands,” Isaac said.

The wellness center has now reopened but requires anyone using the facilities to follow strict guidelines. Special permission is required to use the gym, and employees must follow the college’s COVID protocols for masks and disinfecting. Masks are mandatory on campus and employee and student safety is paramount, Isaac said.

The wellness committee at NCCC continues to strive to offer some wellness opportunity to all of its employees; like whether they want options to workout at home or on campus.

“Not all of our employees get a chance to work out when they leave campus,” Isaac said. “We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to better their health, whether that’s at home or here at work. We are excited about the progress we have made and look forward to what’s to come.”

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