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During COVID-19, Cook County Higher Education adapts to community needs

Apr 15, 2020 03:44PM ● By Editor
From Cook County Higher Education - April 15, 2020

As the COVID-19 crisis carries on, Cook County Higher Education is working hard to anticipate and adapt to the needs of students and residents in our community. We continue to do what we’ve always done – PROVIDING EDUCATION WHERE YOU LIVE.

With Governor Walz’s Stay at Home Order extended until May 4th, we have limited access to our campus to protect our students, instructors and staff. On campus classes and workshops have been cancelled through May 4, 2020.

Cook County Higher Education (CCHE) is a non-profit organization established in 1996 to address four critical challenges facing our rural remote community: extreme isolation, skilled worker shortages, limited career advancement, and lack of higher education opportunities. The shelter at home order is just another challenge. We will continue to serve our mission with enthusiasm and creativity. Although the Cook County Higher Education Offices are closed, we are proud to offer other options for learning and support during this time.

CCHE is a hub for many of our community members to access technology. With the limited access people currently have to our building, we responded with a resurgence of an important program. Last week, we partnered with PCs for People to distribute 40 laptop computers to the residents of Cook County. PCs for People is an organization headquartered in St. Paul that refurbishes computer hardware to sell to people that meet certain income guidelines. PCs for People also partners with non-profits to allow them to buy computers at a discounted rate. The price to CCHE for the refurbished laptops was $150, and we were able to pass that low price directly to Cook County residents with no restrictions on who could purchase the devices. In addition, the Cook County Higher Education Board of Directors contributed over $2,000 in scholarships for those individuals that needed them – up to $100 per computer.

We are delighted to partner with a program that can help us continue to provide resources for the community. One laptop recipient said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you Cook County Higher Ed for working with PCs for People to make these laptops available for our community! This has been a huge blessing for me and has made working from home much more successful.

A wide range of residents took advantage of the program. We had school aged children, unemployed adults looking to file for unemployment, older people without means to communicate, small business owners, and college students needing to move their studies on-line. There is still a demand for the computers and CCHE is coordinating with PCs for People for more. If you are interested in getting on a waiting list, please visit our website, visit the COVID- 19 page and complete an application.

Now, more than ever, students need support for their online/distance learning. CCHE offers all current and future students support FOR FREE. We can help you use new technology, connect to a class, get a test proctored, complete school applications, or apply for financial aid. If you have any need, contact our Student Support Coordinator, Lenna Stever, at [email protected] Lenna has been creating a series of educational videos, you can find on our social media platforms, that each dive into topics ranging from unemployment resources to information on student loan forgiveness.

Online mentoring help is available, too. If you are having trouble understanding a subject, need help with a class, need essays edited or more, contact our Outreach Coordinator, Carly Puch, at [email protected] You can meet virtually up to 10 times per semester with your mentor for FREE (mentors are compensated by CCHE). If you’re nervous about the technology aspects, let us know and we'll help find the best program and assist you in how to use it. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Lifelong Learning and Training & Development 
CCHE has adapted to this new learning landscape by collecting and sharing already developed learning opportunities that our community can attend right this moment. We are taking some of the classes that were planned for this spring and modifying them to be webinars as well as adding new, fresh, and timely online programming starting this week! 

During Covid-19 we are offering CCHE online learning opportunities for FREE. Check the Events Calendar or Learning tabs on for upcoming learning opportunities. As soon as it is safe, we will continue the on campus programming. If you are interested in instructing, or have an instruction topic suggestion, contact our Program Director, Kelsey Kennedy, at [email protected] CCHE Staff are working from home, are available during work hours and can be reached by email. We are trying to keep our website updated with events and resources. If you have something you’d like to see, let us know.

Cook County Higher Education is a unique non-profit organization with 75% of our funding provided by the State of Minnesota. We know that we can continue to provide our services this year with an eye towards whatever challenges face us next year. We are here, we are for everyone, we want to help you and we will continue to work hard to do so.

Take care of yourselves as we continue to learn to navigate the changing landscape.

Karen Blackburn
Executive Director
Cook County Higher Education