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West Side Education and Training Center opens doors

Center will offer training in basic computer and communication skills and job readiness.

Published: Monday, February 26, 2007

Updated: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 15:09

The city's West Side now has a place where the people of the community can take advantage of job training as well as being able to take classes toward a college degree.

The new facility, which celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, has been named the ACCD Westside Education and Training Center.

In partnership with the Edgewood School District and the City of San Antonio, the Alamo Community College District opened the center in the former Lincoln Heights Elementary School at 563 S.W. 40th St.

In an area that in the past has been underserved and in dire need of economic development, a 22-member Blue Ribbon Committee composed of representatives of the college district and Edgewood School District, community leaders and various area businesses formed in July 2005 to discuss how they could serve the community.

The committee opted to call the area an empowerment zone after reviewing alarming statistics on the residents of the area.

Sixty-three percent did not earn a high school diploma, 24 percent cannot read, 28 percent cannot speak English, 17 percent are unemployed and 50 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau determinations, live in poverty.

With the high-tech demands of occupations surrounding the area, such as aerospace, manufacturing, health care and financial services, the committee knew the only way to help people was to create a center to educate them in these fields to compete for high-paying jobs.

The center offers many helpful and unique services, center Director Jo B. Tucker said.

One is a program called VESL which integrates ESL classes with learning job vocabulary from concurrent technical training to make it more personal and quicker to understand.

Residents also will have the opportunity to earn a GED and take ESL classes.

The teaching staff consists of Northwest Vista and Palo Alto professors as well as work force trainers.

So far, the community has been very receptive to the center.

"You know they want us here by their response," Tucker said.

Twenty-five percent of those in attendance at the grand opening were from the community, and already enrollment has reached beyond expectations.

Other services the center is offering are job-training skills to learn basic computer skills, Microsoft Office applications, communication skills and job readiness, financial aid advising, assessment services, enrollment services, emergency assistance to pay bills, financial literature, child care connections, housing information and dual credit classes for Edgewood School District students.

Grants will make it possible for the majority of the students to receive services free, which was an important aspect of the project. If the community takes full advantage of the center, the idea will be to seek a grant to fund expansion of the facility to increase capacity, Tucker said.

An open house is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the West Side Education and Training Center. Call 431-7111.

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