Providing facilities also provides hope

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Editorial: July 21, 2013

ISSUE: Two buildings improving futures
OUR VIEW: Exciting tools for training

Dreams and development of opportunities were celebrated on consecutive days.

One long-desired goal is complete. A community college annex now exists in Grayson County.

Another goal began a fast-track construction schedule with a ceremonial ground breaking last week. Hardin County Schools started work on its Early College and Career Center in Elizabethtown.

Optimism, hope and promise dominated both ceremonies. Rightfully so. Having convenient facilities can be essential to providing quality education.

In fact, that’s the whole concept behind the community college system, which was born of ideas nurtured in Elizabethtown more than 50 years ago and now has 74 campuses across the state.

With support from local government and business interests, Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center agreed to invest roughly $3 million to build Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s new campus. The building covers 11,450-square feet and in addition to four general classrooms, it offers a computer room, assessment area, science laboratory, student lounge and offices for faculty and administrators.

Stephen Meredith, chief executive officer emeritus of Twin Lakes, said Tuesday the building serves as “a beacon to anyone who wants to further their education.”

“Education opens eyes, education opens minds, education opens new worlds,” he said.

The excitement greeting this new structure was evident in the overflow crowd that packed the parking lot and required remote screenings of the ceremonies. No single room in the new building could hold all the guests.

Enrollment is buzzing too, according to Dr. Thelma White, president and chief executive officer of ECTC, who has been dreaming, talking, planning and working to establish a Leitchfield campus for 15 years. Through agreements with Grayson County public schools, ECTC has offered night classes there for four decades but this structure, named for community benefactor Walter T. Kelley, increases that commitment.

ECTC has hired four full-time instructors for the Leitchfield campus and will supply others as necessary to meet the demand or provide specialized courses. “So you can see our commitment is strong,” White said.

The next morning on a steamy blacktop corner of ECTC’s rear parking lot in Elizabethtown, dignitaries again gathered. HCS Superintendent Nannette Johnston led the celebration to mark the beginning of work on the Early College and Career Center that’s expected to serve 900 high school students annually beginning in August 2014.

Morel Construction already had started cutting a path from University Drive to establish the entry way to the construction site, which will be carved into the hillside. It’s proximity to the ECTC campus and Western Kentucky University’s Elizabethtown campus is intentional.

“The proximity makes this unique,” said Johnston, who also described a “synergy of excitement” developing from the idea. Speaker after speaker talked about forging partnerships and relationships to invest in youth and provide relevant education necessary for the next generation of jobs.

High school students, who choose to spend half their day at the new center, will be offered career pathways in industrial maintenance, auto mechanics, culinary arts, health sciences, media arts and the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program. Resources and courses from the colleges will be at their disposal as well.

The new school also will reflect the district-wide emphasis on its work ethics certification to train students on workplace expectations, communications and protocol.

In addition to ECTC and WKU, Sullivan University and the Central Kentucky Community Foundation are founding partners in the vision.

“We have embraced this as a community,” Johnston said.

Visions are becoming realities. If the enthusiasm and hard work leading up to last week’s educational announcements can be transferred to the student body, extraordinary things will happen at each facility. Lives will be changed for the better.

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