Dr. Cynthia F. Pilcher, Coolman, Denise | 5/27/2005 8:17:52 AM
OAK GROVE – More educational opportunities will soon be available to people living in the Lower Mississippi Delta Region of Louisiana.
College classes are expected to be offered this fall at the LSU AgCenter’s Delta Rural Development Center in Oak Grove. The town is located in a region that has been deemed one of the most impoverished areas in the nation.
Dr. Cynthia Pilcher, an LSU AgCenter community economic development agent, said the classes will be made possible with the help of a $45,000 grant received recently from the Louisiana Board of Regents. Money from the grant will be used to buy computers, equipment, library resources and other tools needed to teach basic computer classes, remedial math courses, remedial English courses and entrepreneurship courses at the LSU AgCenter’s Delta Rural Development Center, located in Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center in Oak Grove.
"This project will benefit the people living in the rural and economically depressed Northeast Louisiana region by offering courses that will assist in training the workforce," said Pilcher, one of the authors of the grant proposal.
Statistics show the Lower Mississippi Delta Region neither possesses the infrastructure nor highly skilled workforce needed to attract high quality jobs. The majority, 64 percent, of the public schools in a five-parish area comprised of Morehouse, West Carroll, East Carroll, Madison and Richland parishes are considered academically below the state average. In these parishes, the average poverty rate is 30 percent, and the unemployment rates range from 9.4 percent in Madison Parish to 19.9 percent in East Carroll Parish.
Organizers say this project has the potential to increase college attendance rates of residents living in this remote area – which could, in turn, lead to lower unemployment rates and increased income. Members of under-represented populations, as well as first-generation college students, will have convenient access to two-year institutions through electronic delivery of courses and face-to-face courses taught at the LSU AgCenter’s Rural Development Center.
Some potential students for this site currently have to commute one hour or more to the nearest university and almost one hour to the nearby campus of Louisiana Technical College at Tallulah.
"Workforce development skills gained and utilized directly affect the local economy," Pilcher said.
The grant will provide credit and non-credit education for traditional and nontraditional students. It is a collaborative effort among the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Delta Community College, Louisiana Technical College-Tallulah and the Northeast Educational Development (NEED) Foundation.
"This collaborative effort is a very positive step in these groups’ working together to provide educational classes and workshops to the residents of the Delta parishes," Pilcher said.
Dr. Barbara Jones, dean of Arts and Sciences at Louisiana Delta Community College, said she looks forward to working with the other institutions in this endeavor.
"This joint effort allows the Community College to meet its mission of providing ‘high quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners,’" Jones said.
The Louisiana Delta Community College will provide business and computer-related courses, as well as other programs. Louisiana Technical College in Tallulah will offer computer application courses.
For more information, call (318) 428-3571.