Jon Wardyn sings during a concert at North Platte Community College last spring. Wardyn who was homeschooled, took classes at NPCC while still in high school to polish his music skills.
Two homeschooled students from North Platte are reaping the benefits of having a college in their hometown.
Jon Wardyn and Skylar Stethem spent the 2016-17 school year taking music classes through North Platte Community College. The experience has motivated them not only to pursue NPCC's Associate of Fine Arts degree, but also to focus on making music a career.
Wardyn followed in the footsteps of his older sister, Rachel, who was also part of college's music program, and who graduated from NPCC three years ago.
"I took classes at North Platte Community College throughout high school, but last year was the first that I took more than one class at a time," said Wardyn, who obtained his GED in May. "I studied group vocal, played guitar for the jazz ensemble and was a tenor for the concert and select choirs."
Jon was homeschooled from kindergarten through his senior year of high school. He did participate in a co-op where a group of homeschool mothers taught him, but aside from that, had no outside instruction until he arrived at NPCC.
"Now that I've experienced college, I can see how well homeschooling prepared me for it," Jon said. "I'm used to studying independently and setting goals. My mom has always said that how hard I push myself will determine how well I do."
At the same time, he believes entering a four-year college or university system right out of high school would have been intimidating.
"Since I had never really been in a class setting before, I think making the decision to take classes at NPCC was a good first step," Jon said. "Being able to get some of my generals out of the way before I finished high school was huge and will save me a lot of money in the long run."
He appreciated being able to sing with people of all ages in NPCC's choirs and the direction he received from his instructor. Both were opportunities he didn't have outside the college.
Jon is excited about becoming a full-time student this fall and eventually finding a job that will allow him to continue his passion.
"I'm not sure exactly what I will do, but I'm keeping my options open," Jon said. "I might teach a little. I really feel led to music ministry, so maybe I will be a worship pastor."
His younger brother, who just wrapped up his sophomore year of high school, will also start classes at NPCC in the fall in the engineering program.
Stethem will be a junior in high school this fall. Music instructor Elizabeth Peters recruited her to the college last year.
"My parents are my biggest fans," said Stethem. "They had posted some videos of me singing on Facebook, and one of my mom's friends showed them to Elizabeth. Elizabeth then contacted me about joining the concert choir."
Next thing Stethem knew, she was enrolled in music appreciation, group vocal and piano classes and was singing as an alto in the select choir and as a soprano in the concert choir. She also began taking applied voice lessons to develop her talents as a solo performer.
"It was a little hard to wrap our heads around because she was doing everything at such a young age," said Stacy Stethem, Skylar's mom. "But, some really incredible opportunities have come out of it. Skylar has big dreams and can buckle down and work hard to achieve them."
Skylar's ultimate dream is to appear in a Broadway production. In an attempt to get there, she plans to study music in either New York or Chicago.
"I'm glad I didn't start off in a big city, though," Skylar said. "I probably would have been terrified."
Like Jon, Skylar had not had any classroom experience prior to NPCC.
"The idea of sitting in a classroom with other students, all of whom were older than me, was a bit intimidating at first," Skylar said. "But, they were all so supportive, sweet and kind. It didn't take long for them to become my second family. I learned as much about music and life from the other students as I did the instructors."
While the socialization aspect was her favorite part of college, Skylar credits Peters with being the biggest influence on her life and future plans.
"That was the reason we went to NPCC," Stacy said. "Skylar was at the point where she really needed some instruction to develop her voice, and we couldn't find an option for that. Elizabeth's call was great timing."
Skylar has a newfound confidence going into the fall semester – partially because she already knows the effort it takes to succeed at the college level.
"Last year was an amazing opportunity," Skylar said. "I knew what I wanted to do, but needed someone to teach me how to get there. I'm looking forward to developing my talents further and getting to the place I want to be before I leave for New York."
Music is only one area of emphasis offered through NPCC's Associate of Fine Arts degree program. Art and theater options are also available. More information about those and other areas of study offered at the college can be found at www.mpcc.edu.