DACC to open satellite facility in Hoopeston

HOOPESTON — People in northern Vermilion County and southern Iroquois County who want to continue their education or training at Danville Area Community College won't have to commute to Danville to do that much longer.

DACC officials announced Thursday that the college will open a satellite site in Hoopeston by the fall 2013 semester, if not sooner, to improve access to higher education to residents in those areas.

Officials said they're able to do that with help from community partners including the Hoopeston Regional Health Center, which is providing the site, and the Hoopeston Area Healthcare Foundation, which donated $206,000 to the DACC Foundation. Of that, $50,000 will go toward developing the site, and $156,000 will be used to establish an endowed scholarship fund that will provide scholarships to area students going into health care fields.

"This gift will allow Danville Area Community College to continue a strong tradition of providing excellence in service to DACC students and the larger community," college President Alice Jacobs said at a news conference at the health center.

On the 35- to 40-minute drive from DACC to Hoopeston, Jacobs said she thought of "the thousands of Hoopeston area students who make that drive, sometimes on a daily basis, and those who weren't able to pursue higher education because they didn't have transportation."

"For many of our students, transportation is a barrier to education," added Tracy Wahlfeldt, the DACC Foundation's executive director. "This is one way of eliminating that barrier."

The satellite site will be located at 847 E. Orange St., currently the health center's business office. Tentative hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Saturday offerings would depend on interest.

The site will offer general-education courses, including college transfer and career/technical courses; dual-enrollment courses for high school students; and continuing education courses. It also will offer courses that are specially designed for seniors; English as a second language and adult education courses; and contracted corporate and business training programs.

Jacobs said the satellite site will cost roughly $307,000 to get it up and running. That includes $86,000 in operational costs, covered by DACC; $71,000 for equipment; and $150,000 in renovations. Workers must convert more than a dozen small offices and other areas into three classrooms and a computer lab.

The college must hire a site coordinator and support staffer, Jacobs said. She said current faculty members, who live in the northern part of the county, could teach there.

While plans call for having the site open by the fall of 2013, Jacobs said, people may be able to take courses there next spring or summer. She added the site will be able to accommodate up to 80 students at one time.

The idea for the satellite site sprung from a meeting Jacobs had with Hoopeston area residents in 2008. When she asked how DACC could improve services, they suggested it could offer a more convenient location for them and their northern neighbors. The idea got support from Hoopeston economic development, city and school leaders as well as DACC trustees, who made opening a satellite site a priority.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for our students," Hoopeston Area schools Superintendent Hank Hornbeck said, adding College Express students from his school and Milford's won't have to make the 90-minute round-trip drive to Danville everyday to take dual-enrollment classes. Instead, they only will have to go short distance from the school, also on East Orange Street, to the satellite site.

He also hopes more students will be able to enroll in a certified nursing assistant program. Students, who once were able to take it at their high school, must now travel to Danville, but they do their clinicals at the Hoopeston hospital.

When DACC officials discussed the idea with health center officials, CEO Harry Brockus offered the business office as a site. The college will lease it for a nominal fee.

The Carle Foundation is acquiring the Hoopeston Community Memorial Hospital, the Charlotte Ann Russell Medical Center and clinics in Rossville and Cissna Park in October, and the business office staff is set to move out of its building in November.

With the acquisition, the health care foundation was looking for something to do with its funds, board president Kevin Moore said. "This gave us a wonderful opportunity to take our funds and do something wonderful," he said, adding DACC, with its expanding health care programs, fit perfectly with its goals to promote access to education and health care.

This fall, the DACC Foundation will use the gift to award the first six $1,000 scholarships, Wahlfeldt said. The scholarships are available to students in the Armstrong, Bismarck-Henning, Rossville-Alvin, Hoopeston Area, Milford and Cissna Park school districts. Employees at healthcare facilities in Hoopeston, Rossville and Cissna Park also are eligible for the scholarships.

To learn more about the scholarships, call Wahlfeldt at 443-8772.

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