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Oakwood pushes for new learning center
City, Lanier Tech team up to secure grant
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Lance Lee, left, and Mike Di Cinque work inside a GED laboratory Thursday at the Hall County Adult Learning Center in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Listen as Brenda Thomas, Lanier Tech’s associate vice president for adult education, talks about the need for a new adult learning center in Hall County.

Public hearing
What: Required hearing on Oakwood’s application for a state Community Development Block Grant for a new Adult Learning Center
When: Noon Wednesday
Where: Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle, Oakwood
Contact: 404-550-1293 or sstille@laniertech.edu

Getting to Lanier Technical College’s Adult Learning Center in Gainesville is one thing, and then finding a place to park is another.

"When I came into this program seven years ago, we had begun to turn students away," said Brenda Thomas, Lanier Tech’s associate vice president for adult education. "People leave when there’s nowhere to park ... or have to wait a long time to get into your program."

Thomas’ push for a new South Hall center has gained steam, with others buying on and the City of Oakwood applying for a Community Development Block Grant of $500,000 for the project.

"I started this kind of dream and then other people who are more powerful and influential took up the banner and started leading this initiative," she said.

Oakwood also has set aside about 2 acres and $10,000 toward the project. The center would be built off the final segment of Thurmon Tanner Parkway now under construction and expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The city is happy to help, Oakwood City Planner Larry Sparks said.

"We’re in a position where we are trying to work with Gainesville State College and Lanier Technical College — they’re right here in our community," he said.

The Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and Lanier Technical College Foundation also are each donating $10,000 toward the project if the grant is awarded.

Lanier Tech also has pledged classroom and office furnishings and technology.

The proposed project "will provide expanded space to
enroll more students and to make classes more accessible to adults in Oakwood and the southern part of Hall County," Thomas said.

Last year alone, the Hall County Adult Learning Center at 4 1/2 B Stallworth St. in Gainesville provided basic literacy, GED tests and English as a Second Language training for some 2,000 students.

Montgomery Baptist Church at nearby 56 Dunlap St. has helped with overflows, providing some classroom space for the program.

While appreciated, "that’s not ideal because we have people who take several classes and, in the winter and summer, they have to walk back and forth as many (students) don’t have cars," Thomas said.

As part of the grant application, a public hearing is set for noon Wednesday at Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle.

"The more support we’ve got at the community level, outside of the college and the adult education community, the better our chances of getting the grant," said Linda Barrow, vice president for academic affairs at Lanier Tech.

Grant applications are due in April. Applicants might not hear for several months as to whether their applications are approved, Sparks said.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs oversees the grants, which are designed to benefit mainly low to moderate-income residents.

"This is a highly competitive grant," he said. "It’s almost 100 percent funding ... so it’s attractive from that standpoint."

If approved, the new center could be operating about a year and half after getting the money, Barrow said.

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