A million dollar opportunity for the students of Walker County
by Jason Adkins
Feb 14, 2014 | 4156 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jason Adkins
Jason Adkins
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The Walker County Board of Education, in conjunction with the Jasper City Board of Education and Bevill State Community College, has applied for and obtained a grant designed to help Alabama keep a competitive edge in economic recruitment efforts by providing innovative career-tech centers with equipment needed to properly train future workers. The grant, entitled the 21st Century Workforce Development Grant, was the brainchild of Cullman State Representative Mac Buttram of Cullman. It set aside $20 million to award worthy proposals. There was a $500,000 maximum allotment stipulation, so as to properly disperse the money and impact as many regions as possible. The 21st Century Grant opportunity was a part of the 2013 Legislative Agenda.

The conceptualization of a joint effort between more than one local education entity began in a conversation between Linda Lewis and others as a part of a survey conducted by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. That one conversation led to a great deal of work dedicated to this initiative from many individuals from multiple institutions. Deb Ellis, the Walker County Center of Technology director; Gail Treadway, who actually wrote the grant; Joel Hagood, the Walker County Curriculum director; Jasper City Superintendent Robert Sparkman; Penne Mott, Dean of students from Bevill State Community College; and Kim Ennis, Al Moore and Leslie Cummings, also from Bevill State, all had “skin in the game” and worked hard to help this come to fruition. Support was also received from State Representative Bill Roberts, the Walker County Industrial Development Board and Anne McNutt of Bevill State. The culmination of their efforts has resulted in an amazing opportunity for our students that will have great potential benefits.

The combined contributions afforded to the Walker County Center of Technology exceed $1 million and will be utilized to create an industrial maintenance program from which Walker County, Jasper City and Bevill State Community College students will benefit. The program consists of three individual components — two of which will be held at the Walker County Center of Technology, those being welding and electrical systems technology. Bevill State will be moving their machinist program to Industrial Boulevard to the incubator sight where they will also be responsible for building renovations. In a recent presentation at the Alabama School Superintendent’s Conference in Montgomery, it was revealed that many jobs are available, starting in the $60,000 range, for those with industrial maintenance certification. For that reason alone, the possibility of providing this opportunity for our students is exciting. However, there is another facet of this achievement that could be, if perpetuated, more potentially beneficial than the grant itself. It is the community effort it took to pull it off! It was an effort that involved multiple boards, higher education and secondary education, and city and county!

For the first time, both local school systems have given a little in order to gain a great deal more for their student population. I won’t bore with the details, but I want to communicate that this particular grant initiative is one of many I hope to see realized. The sky is the limit if we continue to work together as a community in the spirit of the greater good. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I want to say thank you to all who worked and supported these collaborative efforts. Dr. Phillip Cleveland, the State Career-Tech director, called me recently. He said that we have a “Model Center” that he wants to commend and support. He went on to say that a great deal of money is coming to career-tech, and he wants to help us continue with what we have started. With a continuation of the partnerships we have recently established, the future is exciting.

Jason Adkins is superintendent of Walker County Schools.