By Casey Hollins
Congratulations to 12 cooperative communicators who recently earned their CCC designation after completing the certification process. These communicators join hundreds of CCC’s from around the country who are producing effective communications for their cooperative members. Take a moment to learn more about the new CCCs:
Thomas “TJ” Accola
Digital Media and Marketing Specialist, Intermountain REA, Sedalia, CO
TJ has been with Intermountain REA more than four years, serving in communications for the last year and a half. He says, “The most rewarding part of the job is the feeling after we’ve successfully communicated to members and helped them understand some normally difficult-to-grasp part of IREA’s service – such as capital credits and peak demand.”
TJ likes to do what he calls “the typical Colorado things” – skiing, hiking, and camping – in his spare time. He has a small collection of drones, some of which he flies around IREA’s headquarters from time to time.
TJ has an undergraduate degree in communications and worked in the newspaper industry for several years before returning to school to earn a graduate degree in civil engineering. That brought him to IREA, and when the digital media and marketing specialist position was created, he took the opportunity to return to communications.
Communications and Public Relations Specialist, Jackson County REMC, Brownstown, IN
For the past four years, Nicole has served Jackson County REMC as the communications and public relations specialist. She enjoys getting to plan and organize their annual meeting. She says, “Seeing it all come together every year is very rewarding.”
Nicole loves being outdoors and spending time with her family. She graduated from Indiana University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing and a minor in psychology.
Nicole started at Jackson County in the fall of 2013 as a customer service representative, and then moved into her current role in August 2014.
Manager of Special Projects, Mid-Ohio Cooperative, Inc., Kenton, OH
In August, Brian will have been with Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative for 10 years. He says, “The most rewarding thing about my job is the ability to help members in ways that wouldn’t be possible in many other lines of work. You can really see the impact on members’ lives when it comes to concern for community and helping members save energy.”
Brian has been working at the cooperative since graduating from college. He has a degree in public relations from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. He loves sports (there’s always next year Browns), listening to music, and spending time with his wife and kids.
Communications Coordinator, Pioneer REC, Inc., Piqua, OH
In December 2014, Jodi started her career at Pioneer REC, Inc. For the past two and a half years, she has served as the communications coordinator. She says, “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to connect with our members – whether through a member magazine feature or at a cooperative event.”
Jodi received her bachelor’s degree in journalism (with a minor in business foundations) from Ball State University in 2009. Prior to joining the marketing department at Pioneer, she worked as the creative coordinator/marketing assistant at Trupointe (now Sunrise) – an agricultural cooperative in Ohio. Her interests include photography, health and wellness, and anything she can do with her three kids (5, 2, 6.5 months) and husband.
Communications Coordinator, Central Electric Cooperative, Redmond, OR
Courtney has worked at Central Electric Cooperative for two and a half years. She says, “I think I have the best job at the cooperative. I love interacting with our members, hearing their history with the co-op, and sharing their stories. I believe the most rewarding thing about my job is the ability to take complex issues and information and transform it into a medium our members can easily understand.”
Courtney graduated Suma Cum Laude from Eastern Washington University with two bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history. She is an “Air Force brat” having lived all over the nation. Courtney added, “What is amazing to me is the stories people carry with them. I caught the journalism bug early in life from my mother who would produce newsletters for officer’s wives.”
Courtney’s foray into media started in high school with the creation of a monthly newspaper to students and their families along with working at the local television station in Great Falls, Montana (KRTV) as a camera operator and technical director. The bug followed her to college where she worked at The Easterner as a reporter and eventually news editor. She said, “Everyone has a story tell and I love learning about that story and sharing it.”
When she is not writing for the cooperative, tweeting, Facebooking etc., she loves spending time with her four-year-old son Bryce, camping, hiking, reading, scrapbooking, watching movies, and working on the next great mystery novel.
Community Relations Specialist, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Madison, FL
Kaitlynn has been at Tri-County Electric Cooperative for three years. She just celebrated her anniversary on July 14. She says, “Whether is it organizing the co-op employee volunteer program, presenting our Energizing Education scholarships, promoting & chaperoning the Youth Tour, to sitting on local and regional Economic Development boards in North Florida. Impacting the communities we serve in a positive way is the most rewarding part of my job and a big reason why I love it so much.”
Kaitlynn received her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Valdosta State University. While in college she worked as an event planner and then went on to be the corporate office manager for a publishing company, where she gained experience in journalism, television production, marketing, print media and web design. She is married and has two little boys who are her biggest fans.
Public Relations and Marketing Specialist, FreeState Electric Cooperative, Inc., McLouth, KS
For more than two years, Sarah has served the members of her cooperative through effective communications. She said, “The most rewarding thing about my job is working within the communities we serve and communicating the FreeState message.”
Sarah has more than 10 years’ experience directing the marketing and public relations efforts in the agriculture and electric industries. Among her significant previous positions, Sarah was the marketing director at High Plains Journal, a regional agriculture publication, and a marketing consultant with Kansas Soybeans in Topeka. She is a member of the Cooperative Communicators Association, as well as a Class XII graduate of the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program.
Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washburn University.
Graphic Designer, Corn Belt Power Cooperative, Humboldt, IA
For the past eight years, Marena has served the members of Corn Belt Power Cooperative. She says, “At the core of it, I like using my God-given gifts to help people. I love what I do. As a creative person it's fulfilling. It's fulfilling to use visuals and communication to meet people where they are, deliver a message and hopefully enhance lives along the way.”
Marena loves life! She loves to dance. She loves art, photography, traveling, learning, and joyful smiles. She says, “My creativity is a blessing from God that doesn't fall far from the aspen trees.”
She is a Colorado native and raised in an English/Polish speaking household on co-op lines. Her mom retired from interior design; her dad is a world-renowned watercolor artist; and her Busia (grandma in Polish) had a zest for life and love for music and dance that Marena absorbed.
Marena accepted an offer as Corn Belt Power Cooperative's first in-house graphic designer in 2009, a few weeks before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa. She said, “Folks often ask why I live and work in Iowa. Although I miss my family and the mountains, I love what I do. When ya love what you do, it's hardly considered work and I'm grateful for that blessing.”
Director of Communications, Stearns Electric Association, Melrose, MN
Amanda has been with Stearns Electric Association for seven years. She began her career there during college as the communications and member services intern.
Amanda says, “I enjoy sharing the electric cooperative story - including our meaningful history, the fascinating and rapidly changing industry, and our community connection. The most rewarding piece of my job is being able to use my communications skills alongside my graphic design talent to tell this story for Stearns Electric.”
She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict, St. Johns University in central MN with Bachelor of Arts degrees in communications and business management. She also minored in accounting and art. At Stearns Electric Association, she is the sole communicator responsible for communications, graphic design, public relations, event planning and more.
In her spare time she enjoys practicing her photography and design skills, volunteering in the community, completing DIY home renovations, spending time at her families lake cabin and being home and active with her husband Carey and three children, Isaiah (4), Madelynn (2 ½), and Nolan (3 months.)
Fun side note: Nolan was only 5 weeks old when Amanda took her CCC exam (he made the trip to Florida with her). Being he was her study buddy over maternity leave, he must be destined to become co-op employee someday!
Kennedy St. George
Communications Specialist, The Victory Electric Association, Inc., Dodge City, KS
Kennedy has been at Victory Electric since June 2015 after interning the summer of 2014. She said, “The most rewarding thing about my job is all of the people I get to collaborate with— every department, board members, managers, members, etc. It is never the same day.”
She is an agricultural communications and journalism graduate from Kansas State University and moved to Dodge City from Indiana. Her hobbies include training and showing horses, running, FaceTiming her twin sister, reading books, and hanging out with friends.
Graphic Designer, NRECA, Arlington, VA
Jennifer has been with NRECA for three and a half years. She says, “As an NRECA employee, my members are our co-ops. I love being able to make our communicators’ jobs easier by providing graphics for them to use in their publications. I get really excited after tackling a complicated topic and explaining it simply and effectively in a graphic.”
With a business degree from the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, she started her career working in non-profit fundraising. As an account manager coordinating copywriters, designers, and print production, she soon realized that working with the designers was the best part of her day. She went back to school for graphic and web design and couldn’t be happier! Her love for design extends into many parts of her life; interior design, food design, and automotive design as well!
Communications Specialist, Carroll EMC, Carrollton, GA
Anitra has been the communications specialist at Carroll EMC for two years. She says, “The most rewarding thing about my job is seeing the members love their co-op and my coworkers loving what they do. Everyone here is truly family and it is a really great atmosphere to work in.”
Anitra attended Florida A&M University where she received a bachelors degree in journalism. She interned at various newspapers and magazines but it wasn’t until she interned at PR firm that she considered using her journalism skills for a career in PR and communications. In her free time, she likes to read, eat at food trucks, and appears as an extra on TV shows and movies filming in Atlanta.