SHERIDAN — Monday morning officials from Whitney Benefits presented Dr. Paul Young, president of Sheridan College, with a check for $890,686 to support and strengthen computer programs offered through Sheridan College.

“Our partners at Whitney Benefits are once again helping us meet the needs of a changing economy,” Young said in a press release. “I appreciate the members of the Whitney board continually recognizing the importance of a vibrant college to the local economy; and I certainly appreciate the vision of the late Edward A. Whitney.”

Whitney Benefits President Tom Kinnison said the gift is “about access for students and the importance of keeping up with an ever-changing field of study.”

According to Sheridan County School District 2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty, the support from Whitney Benefits will allow the school district, along with Sheridan College, to align computer programming and computer science programs with the nationally recognized curriculum and teacher development model, Project Lead The Way.

“The skills learned in these programs lead to any number of information technology-type careers,” said Jed Jensen, dean of technical careers at SC, in the press release.

“IT jobs are projected by the Department of Labor to grow at a rate that is two-thirds higher than the average for all jobs,” he added. “Our timing is spot-on, and to be able to work with area schools to reach students at a young age and generate interest in this educational path is important for the future of our economy.”

PLTW will strengthen existing programming classes and provide a tie between secondary and post-secondary programs. Two classrooms on the main SC campus will be equipped to support the program. One room will be for use by secondary students; the second will support college students pursuing a degree. The college will also hire an additional instructor who will help provide college-level instruction to area schools, as well as facilitate student advising and transition.

“This is the model for the future,” Dougherty said. “Partnerships like this are critical in order to ensure students are learning relevant skills that are marketable in today’s economy.”

Whitney Benefits has played a big role in establishing and helping grow the Sheridan College campus and its programs. This includes the first gift of land on which the campus is built and which now encompasses more than 140 acres — all provided by Whitney Benefits. In total, Whitney Benefits’ generosity and gifts to Sheridan College exceed $90 million. Whitney Benefits was created under the Last Will and Testament of Edward A. Whitney, a Sheridan County resident who passed away in 1917.