LSU AgCenter aids in educational access in northeastern parishes

James Barnes, Hatch, Dora Ann  |  3/4/2008 8:40:13 PM

News Release Distributed 02/19/08

Educational access to underserved areas is increasing with the LSU AgCenter’s participation in the Rural Community College Initiative, educators learned Feb. 12 at a meeting of RCCI updates and recommendations.

RCCI began in 1994 when the Ford Foundation invested resources to help rural communities in economically distressed regions move their residents toward prosperity.

Since 2001, the LSU AgCenter has been working in partnership with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to offer dual enrollment opportunities for high school students in rural parishes. The classes are held at the LSU AgCenter Delta Rural Development Center in Oak Grove in West Carroll Parish.

Highs school students are able to receive college credit there.

Funds for tuition were offered to eligible high school students by the Louisiana Legislature in 2006 and 2007. Dual enrollment college credit does not diminish any Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) award that a student may receive.

“It has been trial and error,” said Dr. James Barnes, director of the LSU AgCenter Delta Rural Development Center, who works out of the Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center in Oak Grove, where the meeting was held.

“We are learning what the market needs. There has been progress,” he said.

Dr. Barbara Jones, dean of instruction of Louisiana Delta Community College, said the prinicipals involved regrouped after realizing what courses have and haven’t worked.

She praised the LSU AgCenter. “The AgCenter provided space. You have to have someone connected to the community as the AgCenter is through 4-H and extension,” she said.

Jones said high school students taking post secondary classes have a greater retention rate in college and exhibit more confidence. Students are also able to explore occupational interests through work skills courses.

Students and their parents not only save on tuition, but in travel time by coming to Oak Grove, a central location, she said.

Lauri Anderson of Delta Community College said dual enrollment discourages a “wasted senior year.”

Dual enrollment in 2006-07 in West Carroll Parish saw 24 students complete 48 classes, gaining three to 15 college credit hours.

Fall classes at the center will include English 101, Introduction to Public Speaking, History 101 and Biology 101.

Dora Ann Hatch, community rural development (CRD) agent for the LSU AgCenter, told the group of other LSU AgCenter educational offerings. They include Master Farmer, Master Gardener, crop forums, field days at research stations, healthy weight management classes and child care provider training.

As a community rural development agent, she helps people start a small business, expand a business with eBay, offers parliamentary procedure and leadership skill sets classes and develops agritourism ventures.

“Rural tourism is an avenue for economic growth. This area is rich in culture and agriculture,” Hatch said.

She reminded the 20 in attendance that the LSU AgCenter coordinates 4-H, which promotes lifelong learning.

Glenn Dixon, community rural development agent for Southern University, said its educational offerings include an agricultural legal issues training conference in conjunction with the law school at Southern, a Sisters Together exercise program and food safety training for home gardeners.

Kay Lynn Tettleton and Cynthia Pilcher, LSU AgCenter CRD agents, are community coaches who work with RCCI to engage in strategic planning.

“We’re like a moving train. We can’t stop,” said Pilcher.

Jones added, “We all have our niche. We are not out to compete; we are out to complement. We want to make this site buzz with activity.”

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Contacts:
Dr. James Barnes at (318) 428-3571, or jbarnes@agcenter.lsu.edu
Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-9654, ext. 299, or dhatch@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu

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