New HCS facility means new future

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Editorial: Aug. 13, 2014

ISSUE: Early College and Career Center
OUR VIEW: Great opportunity for community

Every school year begins with a new sense of anticipation and hope for success. But this month, Hardin County Schools opened a one-of-a-kind venue that brightens the future for hundreds of students — not to mention the entire community.

The Early College and Career Center is not just a new building. It is a new approach to preparing students for effective lives.

“We are the prototype,” Superintendent Nannette Johnston said, “because it’s not been done before.”

It is a state-of-the-art facility with some of the latest equipment in auto mechanics, welding, engineering, culinary arts, information technology, advanced manufacturing and health sciences. But it will be much more. Educators see it as a game changer.

“Our kids will come out of here more ready for dealing with life than ever before,” said Dan Robbins, who is principal of the center, which often is referred to as EC3.

Each weekday, the new building welcomes more than 200 high school students in two shifts. Half spend the morning at the facility on University Drive then return to their “home” high school. The other half do the same in the afternoon. Each trimester, the enrollment will change as some students fulfill their course work and earn certifications while others qualify to take part.

Although some areas are filled, the facility can accommodate a few hundred more students and likely will do so in future years once more families see the obvious value and more underclassmen attain necessary prerequisite work.

The school offers seven pathways for high school juniors and seniors based on student interest plus employment needs in the community and world. Each pathway has its own classroom and lab dedicated to instruction. This is a hands-on learning environment.

The center also will build on the district’s groundbreaking efforts in establishing a Work Ethic Certification program last school year. The district recognizes it is not enough to provide skills and training. Students also need to understand the expectations of employers and the value of teamwork. The work ethic program will be embedded in the EC3 approach.

The work ethic program is being enhanced by a new course developed specifically for HCS by Western Kentucky University professors, which is called Lead 100.

While HCS’ board, administrators and staff rightly deserve recognition for EC3’s vision and direction, this project is a collaboration with WKU, Eliza­bethtown Community and Technical College, Sulli­van University and the Cen­tral Kentucky Community Foun­dation. It also has partnered with Hardin Memorial Health, the Swope Family of Dealerships and Metalsa for starters to provide real-life experiences for its students plus vital continuing education for their staffs.

This project has far-reaching ramifications. Other school districts are lining up to learn from this HCS model. But its richest impact will be in the opportunity provided to students who will begin futures as chefs and engineers, welders and health care workers, auto mechanics and tomorrow’s leaders within the walls of EC3.

Not only will the students’ lives be richer for the experience, as the years go by, the community as a whole will benefit greatly. The center will be another attraction for business and industry plus a quality-of-life factor for families coming here.

This project represents vision, collaboration, inspiration and drive. It will focus on education while aiding economic development. It will train students for success in a redefined and evolving future.

EC3 is much more than the sum of its parts. It is part of the fabric of our future.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.