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Blinn-Schulenburg celebrates 20 years of changing lives

Current students, alumni praise Blinn-Schulenburg’s personal and community impact

September 5, 2017

For two decades, the Blinn College-Schulenburg Campus has laid the educational foundation for hundreds of students pursuing advanced degrees and launching successful careers.

As Blinn-Schulenburg celebrates 20 years of educational excellence this Fall, the institution is shining a spotlight on its diverse student body – past and present. From retired military veterans like current student Stuart Mica, to successful business owners and community leaders like alumni John Cardenas and Robin Branecky, Blinn-Schulenburg has impacted individuals from all walks of life.

Blinn will celebrate that legacy with a 20th anniversary ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7. The celebration is open to the public and will take place at the Blinn-Schulenburg Campus located at 100 Ranger Drive.

Robin Branecky

‘I could not imagine my life without Blinn’

Before leading a successful career as the principal at Flatonia Secondary School, Moulton native Robin Branecky – one of the first students to enroll at Blinn’s new campus in 1997 – had no idea what the future held for her.

Thanks to the compassion and guidance of former Campus Director Barbara Moore and various instructors, Branecky discovered her passion for working with students, inspiring her to pursue a career in teaching and coaching.

As a young student, Branecky always demonstrated a strong work ethic – even in the face of hardships. A basketball standout at Moulton High School, Branecky earned scholarship offers but chose to focus on her education instead.

After enrolling at Blinn-Schulenburg, she immediately took a job as a student worker, a role that including answering phones, cleaning the campus, mowing the lawn, and painting the gymnasium walls.

“That was probably one of the best learning experiences of my life, knowing that I was going to get my college degree no matter what,” Branecky said.

Throughout her time at Blinn, Branecky’s instructors encouraged her to keep working toward higher accomplishments. With the foundation she built at Blinn, Branecky transferred to Texas State University in San Marcos, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science in 2001. In 2006, Branecky earned her master’s degree in history, and returned to Blinn the following year – this time as an instructor teaching dual credit courses.

In 2011, after adding a degree in administration to her resume, she was named the Dean of Students at Flatonia ISD. Later that same year, she began her new role as principal at Flatonia Secondary School – a position she has held ever since.

“My heart is happy,” she said. “Being in a community where you’re so loved, with this relationship between school and parents and friends and relatives, it’s just such a blessing. I couldn’t imagine my life without Blinn. I don’t know if I’d be sitting here without it.”

Stuart Mica

The 27-year-old promise

In addition to traditional face-to-face courses, Blinn-Schulenburg offers students fully online courses, interactive video conferencing courses, and blended courses, in which 50-85 percent of planned instruction occurs online or via interactive video. Through these strategies, Blinn-Schulenburg can offer a wider range of courses and allow students greater flexibility in developing their course schedules.

This unique instruction style has allowed Stuart Mica, a part-time Blinn student and well-known community leader in Flatonia, to fulfill a promise he made to his mother in 1989 – go to college and earn a degree.

“My mother didn’t get to go to college because she grew up in the ’50s and women weren’t really invited to participate in higher education,” Mica said. “She always instilled in me that school was important and that you should always better yourself, and one of the ways to do that is by getting your education.”

After 22 years in the military, four tours in Iraq, and overseas service in Germany and Korea, Mica is back home in Flatonia and takes classes part-time in Schulenburg. He plans to earn his associate degree within the next year, then transfer to the University of Houston-Victoria to earn his business degree.

Mica balances his academic responsibilities with a variety of community leadership positions. He is the immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Flatonia and the Flatonia Chamber of Commerce, and vice president of the Lion’s Club. He also serves on the board of the Flatonia ISD Education Foundation, and belongs to the American Legion of Flatonia and the Fayette County Tourist Association.

Mica said his Blinn education has been an asset in serving his community, specifically pointing out various English courses that helped him utilize proper formatting and verbiage when writing letters in his leadership positions.

“I think the Schulenburg Campus is very valuable to this community,” Mica said. “It’s affordable for families and provides a high-grade education. I’ve attended three colleges, and I would say that these professors are the most professional I have ever worked with.”

A rewarding experience

According to Blinn’s most recent economic impact study, Blinn-Schulenburg and its students add $11.1 million in income to the local economy each year, including $9.2 million in productivity from former students who enter or re-enter the workforce with newly acquired skills.

Adding value to the local region has never been a problem for former Blinn student and local businessman John Cardenas. Using his academic foundation acquired at Blinn, the Schulenburg native has served his community as a religious minister, special education teacher, school administrator, and automobile mechanic.

“I have always had a close relationship with Blinn-Schulenburg and its staff,” Cardenas said. “Every time I began a new chapter in my life – whether it was planned or not – I was able to seamlessly transition into a program that was right for me at that point in my life.”

Cardenas began his academic journey with the College in 2003, when he simultaneously enrolled in Austin Graduate School of Theology and Blinn-Schulenburg with hopes of pursuing a career as religious minister. Since many courses required for his bachelor’s degree were not offered at the seminary school, Cardenas depended on Blinn to fill the gaps. In 2005, he earned an Associate of Arts degree from Blinn as well as his bachelor’s degree in ministry and Christian studies.

A desire for a career adjustment the following year propelled Cardenas to return to Blinn. After earning the necessary teaching and administrator certifications, he began his new career as a special education teacher at nearby Waelder ISD before rising through ranks as principal and superintendent.

“I had no intentions of pursuing a career in education,” Cardenas said. “A Blinn-Schulenburg administrator suggested I give teaching a try, and before I knew it, all the wheels were set in motion. Over the course of nine years as an educator, I have brought many students to Schulenburg for campus tours, so they too can learn about the many opportunities available right in their community.”

Cardenas again shifted gears in 2015 to become a manager of a local automobile parts store while continuing his 17-year tenure as a minister.

“Blinn-Schulenburg has always been there for me when I made life-changing decisions,” Cardenas said. “Every career opportunity I have had has been a rewarding experience, and I could not have accomplished my goals without the assistance of Blinn.”

For more information about Blinn-Schulenburg, visit www.blinn.edu/schulenburg.