WATERTOWN, SD -
A South Dakota technical institute can boast high honors among two-year schools across the country for the second year in a row.
The Aspen Institute announced Lake Area Technical Institute as a finalist with distinction Tuesday for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Watertown school was one of four in the country receiving that high of a rank.
Students and staff at Lake Area gathered around a TV Tuesday, watching to see where the school would rank among two-year schools in the nation. Regardless of the results, nursing student Kelsie Somsen said it ranked high enough on her list.
"This is my first year at Lake Area and I am very glad that I came here. The teachers are amazing; my classes are helping me a lot," Somsen said.
In its analysis of two-year schools across the country, the Aspen Institute rated Lake Area Tech in the top five last year. Its top-four finish this year earned the school national recognition and $100,000.
Dean of Instruction Kim Bellum said she was hoping the school would earn the top spot this year but can't complain.
"We're very excited and very honored that they would consider us and to be recognized for what we're doing each and every day," Bellum said.
Bellum is also pleased with the attention the award brings to technical education and its need in South Dakota and across the country.
Bellum says she wasn't surprised Lake Area received such high marks when compared with other schools nationwide. In her first year at the school, Somsen isn't either.
"No, Lake Area's a very good school," Somsen said.
For a second year in a row, it has an additional $100,000 once again coming its way to make it better. The school plans to assemble a committee of people ranging from students to administrators. That group will decide who to best use the prize money.
The Aspen Institute recognized Lake Area's strong student completion rate and job placement numbers.
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