ARLEY, Ala. — Wallace State Community College and the Arley Town Council solidified plans Monday night to establish a $500,000 Community Learning Center on town property next to Meek Baptist Church. A resolution passed by the town council agreed to lease the 4.2-acre property to Wallace State for $1 a year.
A $230,000 supplemental appropriation secured by state legislators Rep. Tim Wadsworth and Senators Greg Reed and Garlan Gudger Jr., made it possible to put the plans fully in motion. With a countywide average college attendance rate of 41% for high school graduates and around 23% of the county’s population without a high school diploma, area leaders see the development as extremely beneficial to the community.
“I think once you get a college in your area, it helps. The community will grow,” said Rep. Wadsworth. “This is something we’ve been working on for a couple of years. We’re very fortunate we were able to get some funds in the budget this time.”
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics shared some of the plans for the Winston County Community Learning Center with the town council and members of the community in attendance.
The college proposed a 4,550-square-foot facility that could include eight classrooms and computer labs that can be used for college classes, Adult Education, Community Education, Dual Enrollment and more.
“To our principals, what we want to do is first of all serve the community, and in that community, we want to serve your high school graduates and your nontraditional students, your adults,” Dr. Karolewics said. “I want to work with you to improve the college going rate of students here in Winston County. It’s hard for them to leave home and drive a long way to access college. What we want to do is make dual enrollment more accessible. We want to make our main campus classes more accessible.”
The facility will have Adult Education staff and a career coach on-site, Karolewics said, “So, we’ll have connections to what we offer on the main campus as well as Adult Education classes here.”
With funds secured by the Alabama Community College System for dual enrollment, Karolewics said the college will use some of that for students at Meek, Addison and Winston County high schools.
More funds secured by ACCS will be used to offer rapid skills training through the ACCS Innovation Center. “We’ll have an opportunity to connect through online portals to non-credit, rapid skills training and actually bring skills training here,” Karolewics said.
According to Dr. Karolewics, timing of the completion of construction of the prefabricated building that will house the Winston County Community Learning Center will coincide with the installation of Sprout Fiber internet service.
“I think this is great for our community and I hope it’s good for y’all,” said Arley Mayor Chris Tyree, before the council passed the resolution leasing the property to the college.
“It’s a true blessing,” Arley resident and retired educator Diane Allison said of the project.
Previously, Wallace State established Winston County Works in 2016, helping hundreds of residents with short-term basic skills training to support industry-recognized certification and credentials, and facilitating employment opportunities for participants in high-growth and high-demand occupations. It also encapsulated the Ready to Work program and continued offering Adult Education classes for those seeking their GED certificates.