New Learning Center Approves First Programs

(Article by Steve Garbacz, shared with permission from KPC Media.)

KENDALLVILLE — Renovations are continuing on the former East Noble Middle School, but that hasn’t stopped the Community Learning Center from approving the first batch of local organizations who will bring programming to the center when it opens.

The Community Learning Center board has approved the following local program providers: East Noble School Corp., Parkview Noble Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living, United Way of Noble County, The Arc Noble County Foundations, Freedom Academy, Gaslight Playhouse and the Performing Arts Committee, which is a newly formed committee of the Community Learning Center.

The board expects to add more organizations over time as programs are finalized and renovations allow.

“Having these dedicated programmers here at the Community Learning Center is helping to fulfill our mission toward skilled learning,” said Executive Director Julia Tipton. “Each of these programmers is a collaborator working toward the same goal within our community. We are all working to help others toward economic freedom.”

Organizations have to apply to secure space in the Community Learning Center, but the application asks for more than simply who they are and what they want to do. Programmers have to show how they would create opportunities to work with other organizations and the community.

That additional layer of scrutiny is helping ensure the Community Learning Center’s focus on collaboration is fulfilled, as opposed to simply being an office building hosting satellite offices of existing organizations.

The organizations approved in the first wave are excited for the opportunity to grow into the Kendallville campus.

The Arc Noble County Foundations Executive Director Kay Craig said getting into the learning center was a no-brainer for her organization, which serves Noble County’s disabled population.

Arc, which is located in Albion, has already been helping out at the CLC, with clients volunteering just about every week to help with tasks around the middle school property. But by getting a space in the building, Craig said they’ll be able to better provide services in Kendallville for things like job training, as well as give clients more opportunities to connect directly with other organizations in the building.

“We need more space and need some visibility in Kendallville, so it was perfect. The biggest thing for serving people with disabilities is getting them connected with people in their communities,” Craig said. “That’s what’s so attractive to us, from the get go when we talked about how ARC could enhance what we’re doing, we’ll be part of that community.”

East Noble School Corp., which deeded over the middle school property to allow for the creation of the Community Learning Center, will also have a role inside the building by creating an office for its community liaison, Cassaundra Kesterke.

The old town Kendallville area surrounding the former middle school also contains some of the city’s poorest residents who may be most in need of school services, so the liaison’s office being close by is a boon.

“Her role is to make connections with parents, provide information to parents, welcome new families, work with parent-teacher organizations, develop a tutoring/mentoring program in a Kendallville elementary building, and all other ‘things’ that will enhance and promote parental involvement in our schools,” Linson said. “When this position was created, my “dream” was to have her in a Main Street store front where families are able to walk in and visit. Obviously, we do not have funding for that. When the CLC was transferred to the City, that a part of the agreement, that ENSC would have a space in the building and we chose to have our liaison in that space.”

Parkview Noble will be able to take advantage of not only classroom space, but also the existing gymnasium to offer additional services that the hospital can’t currently provide on its campus.

Those services will include things like fitness classes, healing arts classes, nutrition seminars, support groups, lectures and health check-up events.

“We are excited about moving to the Community Learning Center because it will allow us to expand programming beyond what was possible in our space on Parkview Noble Hospital’s campus. It also brings us to a more easily accessible location. The Community Learning Center will allow for increased partnerships and collaboration with other community organizations to better serve the community,” said Taylor Yoder, supervisor of the Center for Healthy Living.

As for Freedom Academy, the organization is planning to start with a youth-focused program — tutoring and homework help — while also developing plans for more adult training programs.

“Right now we’re looking to start with some tutoring, which has kind of been a missing element for the area and it will be K-5 for the most part,” Freedom Academy Executive Director Melissa Carpenter said, stating that could easily lead to partnerships with organizations including East Noble, the YMCA and the nearby Apple Tree Center.

The Community Learning Center will also allow Freedom Academy to offer some daytime courses for two popular training programs, patient access for front desk workers in medical fields, and the clinical medical assistant program.

The additional space will allow Freedom Academy to eventually host real estate programs and industrial technology training courses, and give a place to do any needed test proctoring.

“Right now in the space we do have over there, we’re going to be able to fill that pretty much all day and evening and we definitely want to share it if other people have some needs,” Carpenter said.

Outside of programming, work continues on the middle school.

HVAC systems are being upgraded, the building’s more than 200 exterior windows are being replaced, offices and classrooms are being renovated, and solar panels that will provide electricity for the entire facility will be installed in the coming weeks.

“This project has moved very quickly with the dedicated help of all our local contractors and businesses,” Tipton said. “The 1983 section of the building is ready for programming, and we are working on our fees. We hope to have the 1938 section ready for dedicated programming at the end of November. The auditorium will be ready by the beginning of 2020.”

The Community Learning Center is made possible by the collaboration of local individuals and organizations that have been working for more than a year to provide multi-generational programs that benefit residents from the neighborhood surrounding the CLC, the City of Kendallville, Noble County, and beyond.

The Dekko Foundation has provided major financial support for the project and the ongoing renovation. In the future, ongoing costs and maintenance will be supported by a mixture of funding sources, including payments by organizations utilizing space in the building.

The CLC’s Board of Directors includes representatives from the City of Kendallville, East Noble School Corporation, Parkview Noble Hospital, the Cole Center Family YMCA, Freedom Academy, the Kendallville Park and Recreation Department, Oak Farm Montessori School and the Dekko Foundation.

For more information and updates about the Community Learning Center, please visit its Facebook page, facebook.com/thecommunitylearningcenter, or contact Tipton at 318-3248 or clctipton@gmail.com.