Wallace Community College move into Demopolis

Community and state leaders welcomed Wallace Community College (WCC) to the Demopolis Higher Education Center on July 18 in an announcing ceremony.

WCC will continue the education efforts of Shelton State Community College in the fall with academic, certified and non-certified training and dual-enrollment courses. The move from SSCC to WCC is rooted in the city’s attempts at placing a greater emphasis on workforce development and was supported by the Alabama Community College System.

President of Wallace Community College Dr. James Mitchell speaks at the welcoming ceremony for Wallace Community College Demopolis at the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

“Wallace Community College has a very strong focus in workforce development, so it was about trying to find the right fit. Having said that, I’m very appreciative of all the effort and all the things that Shelton State did in coming to Demopolis because they helped move us forward,” Mayor John Laney said.

SSCC President Bill Ashley, PhD, said “Shelton State Community College was honored to be part of Demopolis and the surrounding communities in Marengo County, and we are proud of our accomplishments and the working relationships we established. We look forward to watching the continued growth of the Demopolis Higher Education Center under the leadership of Wallace State and the Alabama Community College System.”

Starting this fall, basic academic courses will be offered online with certain class periods held at the Higher Education Center, as well as technical courses such as non-accredited truck driving and dual enrollment in welding, industrial maintenance and HVAC. A phase-in process will begin introduce the dual enrollment courses to the adult education sphere and plans are underway for a full course offering to be available in fall 2020.

During the welcoming event, Laney said the extra focus that will be given to workforce development will help upend misconceptions of the area’s workforce.

“We have to continue the destruction of a myth –the myth being that West Alabama cannot supply a workforce. Until we destroy that myth, we will always struggle economically,” he said.

Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker said bringing WCC to the community was a positive move towards bringing in opportunities and helping residents take advantage of those opportunities by expanding what is offered and where.

“I feel good about where we are in terms of expanding opportunities,” he said. He also said that WCC was given an extra $1 million to support the college’s expansion.

President of Wallace Community College James Mitchell, PhD, said WCC is committed to serving the community, whatever it may entail.

“Tough work comes from tough people, and that means that we do what’s necessary to make this work,” he said.

Mitchell also said he plans on involving all community leaders as he continues developing the offerings of Wallace Community College Demopolis in order to fit the needs to the area and improve the quality of life of those the college serves.

“We’re here as collaborative partners to say ‘We will sit down with you – as [Mayor John Laney] said morning, noon or night, it doesn’t matter to us  – to make things work and to make things happen,’” he said.

Chuck Smith, ACCS Board of Trustees member, said President of Wallace Community College Dr. James Mitchell’s passion for workforce development matched his own. “I didn’t feel like I was being sold another bag of goods. I felt someone who had the same passion as me.”

Other community and state leaders who welcomed Wallace Community College Demopolis to the area includes Marengo County Commissioner Jason Windham on behalf of Commissioner Freddie Armistead, Black Belt Outreach Coordinator Robert Stewart on behalf of U.S. Rep. Terry Sewell, State Senator Bobby Singleton, State Senator Malika Sander-Fortier, State Rep. A.J. McCampbell and Marengo County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jo Ellen Martin.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 24 issue of the Demopolis Times.)