MTC trains for growth, prosperity for grads and residents alike

Published on: January 18, 2018

“Every individual in the county interacts with an MTC graduate. Whether it’s with a firefighter or police officer, or they get their car fixed or teeth cleaned.”

PROVIDED PHOTO
Aubrie Borden, a MTC Foundation scholarship recipient, is in the cosmetology program at Manatee Technical College. “Receiving this scholarship was a big deal for me. It gave me the opportunity to go after my goal of becoming a hairstylist,” Borden said. “I’m extremely happy.”

By CARL MARIO NUDI

Since it opened in 1963, Manatee Technical College has trained thousands of plumbers, barbers, mechanics, firefighters, and many more trades people who perform necessary services in Manatee County and the surrounding area.

“Manatee Technical College trains workers for the county to keep us vital and growing,” said Vickie Miller, who recently retired from the college as lead guidance counselor after 22 years of service with the college.

“They improve the living standards for all of us in Manatee County,” Miller said.

Manatee Technical College was one of the first vocational training institutions in Florida.

With more than 50 programs, over the years it has provided training in a variety of careers, as well as General Education Diploma (GED) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

And over the years it has offered continuing education opportunities and non-credit enrichment classes for the community.

“MTC prides itself on offering programs to meet the needs of our community,” MTC Director Valerie Viands wrote in an email. “Doing so gives students confidence in the training they receive to pursue their career choices and meets employers’ needs for a skilled workforce.”

Since 2002, the MTC Foundation has worked to help the college achieve those goals.

“Every individual in the county interacts with an MTC graduate,” said Virginia Sirocky, executive director of the foundation, “whether it’s with a firefighter or police officer, or they get their car fixed or teeth cleaned.”

Sirocky was on the MTC board of governors and because of her experience in business consulting and marketing as owner of VLS Associates was asked to start an alumni association, which led to her heading up the foundation in 2013.

As the executive director Sirocky said she had to deal with a lot of issues when she took over the job.

“My main task was taking the foundation to the next level and to start making grants and doing fundraising,” she said. “I also worked to bring the foundation into compliance with the 501(c)3 rules.”

“During the first several years of the foundation, there were not much funds to distribute because the board was in its infancy,” said John Ziemnicki, who has served as chair of the foundation board for the last seven years and as the chair of the MTC board of governors for the past nine years.

“In 2013-14 we started to get our act together and giving a few more scholarships,” said Ziemnicki, who is the principal architect and owner of World Design Inc. in Bradenton.

PROVIDED PHOTO
Student Jessica Gonzalez receives a laptop computer as part of the MTC Foundation’s refurbished computer recycling program. With her are John Ziemnicki, left, MTC Foundation president, and Joel Hall, head of Manatee Technical College networking services program.

“Last year we gave more than we’d ever given out,” he said. “It was four times as much as was given in all of the previous years combined.”

The scholarships have been essential for some students in helping them achieve their life goals.

“Receiving this scholarship was a big deal for me,” Aubrie Borden, a scholarship recipient in the cosmetology program, said in an email statement. “It gave me the opportunity to go after my goal of becoming a hairstylist.”

But awarding scholarships is only a part of what the foundation does, Sirocky said.

The foundation has been actively seeking donors and participating partners to raise funds.

“Our growth is attributed to donor-directed funds from partner donors,” Sirocky said.

These partner donors make donations to specific programs, such as only to culinary arts or welding classes, or to the farmworkers program, as the Pepsico/Tropicana company does.

“More and more people are coming to the foundation wanting to set up (directed) funds,” she said.

Ziemnicki said companies such as Sun Hydraulics support the manufacturing technology programs and then hires graduates from MTC.

“And the shop foreman at Air Products at Port Manatee went through the MTC welding program,” he said, “and now hires students who graduate from the welding program.”

The MTC Foundation also administers the Manatee County School District Computer Redistribution Program.

In this program, the school district donates computers it no longer needs to the program and the foundation has them refurbished by MTC networking service program students as part of their training, then redistributes the computers to students who need a computer but may not be able to afford one.

Ziemnicki said the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office also has participated in this program.

The program is not limited to computers, either, he said.

The Cedar Hammock Fire Control District donated two fire engines that the automotive services program refurbished so the Fire Academy students can use them to train.

“And Pinellas County donated an ambulance for the emergency medical technician and paramedic programs,” Ziemnicki said.

PROVIDED PHOTO
Ireland Collins, a MTC Foundation scholarship recipient attending the Manatee Techincal College Fire Science Academy said, “I had no idea I was receiving this scholarship. It will help me greatly because I will be able to complete the fire academy and begin a rewarding career as a firefighter.”

Sirocky said the MTC Alumni Association also was another source of funding for the foundation.

“It raises its own funds and donates 50 percent of the funds received to its donor-directed fund within the foundation,” she said. “Just like any other donor-directed fund, its donor — the Alumni Board of Directors — approves all grants to be distributed from this fund.”

With the help of the foundation, Manatee Technical College has been very successful in providing career education for many students.

“The foundation assists MTC by providing scholarships to our students to help MTC achieve its mission and help our students achieve their dreams,” director Viands said in the email.

Ziemnicki said more than 90 percent of the students graduate with a certificate in the field they studied. And the graduation rate is 93 percent.

“I hear stories about students’ successes and it brings a tear to my eye,” he said. “Some come from severe hardship backgrounds and work to become very successful.

“It makes me proud to be a member of the board,” said Ziemnicki, who has been affiliated with the college for more than 30 years.

The main campus is a 210,000 square-foot building at 6305 S.R. 70 E., which was designed by architect Mike Bryant who started his career training in the drafting program at what was then called Manatee County Vocational and Technical Center, according to the MTC website.

The East Campus is at 5520 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.; the North Campus is located at 801 Ninth St. W., Palmetto; and the West Campus is at 5500 34th St. W., Bradenton.

Even with all the success the MTC Foundation has achieved, Sirocky said her goal is to get the organization to the next level.

“We really need to start an endowment and increase the operating funds,” she said.

And Ziemnicki said it will take hard work to reach those goals.

“Our job is to get out into the business community and ask for their help,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know about us.”

For more information about the MTC Foundation, visit its website at www.mtcfoundation.org.

To learn more about Manatee Technical College go to its website at www.manateetech.edu.

CARL MARIO NUDI PHOTO
Virginia Sirocky, executive director of the MTC Foundation, and John Ziemnicki, chair of the board of directors of the organization, work to raise funds to support the work of Manatee Technical College.

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