JCJC’s expansion into Greene County is “Historical”
Written By: Teresa Martin
ELLISVILLE - Jones County Junior College’s recent grand opening of its new Center in Leakesville was an historical milestone for the two-year institution. As the college celebrates 100 years of educating students, it is also making history with the establishment of its first permanent site outside of the Ellisville campus home.
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Date Submitted: 2012-01-20 14:50:57
“It’s a dream come true,” said Richard Fleming, a JCJC board of trustee member and Greene County Schools Superintendent. “So many people helped us with this program.”
The Greene County Center is the first of JCJC’s three off-campus Center’s to be built from the ground up, but planning began almost five years ago when the idea was hatched by community partners and JCJC administrators. Community Bank and Singing River Electric Power Association secured zero-interest funding through the United States Department of Agriculture to help fund the educational and economic development project in 2009.
“This will change Greene County,” said an enthusiastic Lee Hedergaard, CEO of Singing River Electric Power Association. “I never thought I’d see Jones come to Greene County, but here we are!”
This project was also supported by the Greene County Board of Supervisors and the Greene County School District whose efforts were praised by Fleming.
“I have never seen a group effort come together like this. (JCJC President) Dr. Smith took it and ran with this project. It’s wonderful to see how we all came together,” said Fleming.
The $1.1 million facility will offer three educational and training programs with plenty of room to grow. The 17,440 square-foot facility will initially house welding, pipefitting and adult education with some college credit classes and non-credit computer software training with plans to expand services. Previously these programs were housed in the high school Vo-Tech lab, two trailers and a 300-square foot shed.
“The Pipefitting lab was only 300 square-feet and now we’re teaching in a 2,200 square-foot facility,” said JCJC pipefitting instructor, Skip Holland. “I can now teach 53 students in day and night classes and before I could only handle about 20. Industry reps call regularly looking for pipefitters. They want to know when my next class of graduates will be ready because they say they need every one of them. I already have a waiting list for the summer classes.”
The demand for Adult Education classes also outgrew its original home in a local church. Additionally, the Center’s neighbor, the Greene County Vo-Tech, is already making plans to begin a new program at the high school when its welding program moves into the JCJC Center this summer.
“As a Greene County native I’m excited about this new opportunity to work at home and hopefully keep more people working here locally,” said Clint James, JCJC director of the Greene County Center and welding instructor. “We couldn’t open this new facility without the help from Vo-Tech Director, Tom Wallace. His staff helped us prepare for this day by providing equipment and staff, and I also appreciate his time and experience in developing this center.”
James said he anticipates the need for further expansion in the future, especially if the demand for the academic and workforce training grows at the same pace as it has in the past. For example, the limited space kept pipefitting classes to 20 people. Holland said Jones’ program is one of only three NCCER pipefitting training programs in the country. He added the tuition is a fraction of the cost at Jones.
“Greene County exports so much talent to Alabama, the Coast and outside regions. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring some of these industries to Greene County and keep more people working here at home, spending money, and seeing our county thrive,” said James.
This convenient educational and workforce services training option for area residents will also offer internet access with the public use of the computer lab.
For more information about classes at the Greene County Center call: 601-394-2973 or 601-477-4022.
(JCJC’s first Center opened in Bay Springs, (Jasper County) in January, 2008, in leased space donated by a local company. Last June, JCJC announced plans to open two new Centers’ in its eight county district. Jasper and Wayne County hope to open their new Center’s next spring.)