HASTINGS – Central Community College-Hastings was presented with the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s (NSA) Affiliate Excellence Award at a ceremony on Nov. 4. Aaron Thiessen, head groundskeeper for CCC, accepted the award at First Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln. The Affiliate Excellence Award recognizes excellence in plant collection diversity, maintenance practices and community engagement.
Thiessen has been employed as CCC-Hastings’ head groundskeeper for three years, during which he has served as co-chair of the Tree Campus Higher Education Committee and has worked closely with faculty to conduct an extensive tree inventory using drone technology to collect pertinent data on species, size, health and location of more than 1,000 trees on the Hastings Campus.
“I’m very honored to win this award,” said Thiessen. “It means a lot to me to see our team as we have grown over the last couple of years and to teach people about the importance of trees.”
Thiessen has also partnered with faculty to integrate a service-learning component into curriculum that enables students to actively participate and invest in the beautification of their campus while also gaining hands-on experience in urban forestry.
“It’s all about depth,” Thiessen said. “You don’t want to get the tree too deep or too high above the soil. There definitely is a science to it.”
Thiessen’s groundskeeping staff includes part-time, year-round staff members Riley Larsen, Steve Kulek, Brandon Karmazin and work-study student Brodey Hinson. Additional staff include fall semester, part-time staff member Tyler Booth and summer staff members Payton Marrow (Jameson), Paityn Jameson, Kynnzie Skalka and Grace Skalka.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Thiessen. “Most of my people are part-time, but they work just as hard as I do. Seeing them working toward a common goal to beautify the campus landscape is very rewarding to me.”
CCC has been an NSA affiliate site since 2008. More information about the NSA Awards and the 2022 award recipients is available at plantnebraska.org/awards.