ALC set to expand

Grant will allow center to help families
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Sep 03, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Pictured, from left, are Alternative Learning Center students Brenda Arrowood, Miranda Davey, Elizabeth Williamson, Ronnie Sutton and Cheyenne Yarborough in class on Tuesday morning.

For years, Haywood County Alternative Learning Center has been helping at-risk students be able to turn their tassels at graduation rather than drop out of high school.

Whether a student is pregnant, working two jobs or has difficulty learning, ALC offers a more flexible, individualized high school approach for those who have difficulty adjusting to a normal school environment.

Now that ALC recently received the 21 Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant for $1.4 million, its wheels are in motion to create a community learning center that will allow ALC to expand its resources and help students as well as their parents.

The 21st CCLC initiative grants each state funds based on its share of Title I funding for low-income students. Once a grant is awarded, the money supports the development of after school programs that provide academic enrichment activities, literacy and related educational development services, and other educational programs.

“We were chosen out of hundreds of applications as one out of 32 grants in the state to expand what we’re doing and serve more of the community — more than just a specific body of students,” said Kyle Ledford, ALC director. “Our program is heavily dependent on grants. Our main source of funding has been with a program through Southwest Commission. Todd Douglas and his staff are very supportive of our efforts and this new grant money will be leveraged to provide for those extra activities and resources.”

The ALC, which has been open since 2008, serves students in grade 7-12. One of the goals of ALC is to provide students the opportunity to modify their behavior and future decision-making, and now this goal can be shared amongst families.

Ledford said the goals of the new center included focusing on enhancing family preservation, literacy, financial challenges and different types of education. For now, Ledford said the new services would be held in the current ALC location,72 Virginia Ave. in Waynesville.

Caroline Williamson, ALC coordinator, said new resources offered at the center would include counseling, and afternoon workshops that would address drug awareness, parent education awareness and food insecurity issues. In addition, the center will offer support groups and a mentoring program for families.

“We’ve run about 200 kids through this building,” Ledford said. “Now we will have the possibility to run 200 families.”

Williamson said many nonprofit organizations and other agencies were eager to join in their efforts to help educate the community. Some of the groups include Haywood Gleaners, Healthy Haywood, Haywood Community College, Habitat for Humanity, the Department of Social Services, Circles of Hope, Haywood County Psychological Services and more.

The project is currently in its implementation stage, Ledford said, and is targeted to begin offering new services in January with new extended hours from 8 a.m, to 8 p.m.. A new name for the center has been proposed, but is currently pending approval from the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.

“There’s lots of reasons to say a kid is at risk, but very rarely does a program have the ability to find out why,” Ledford said, adding that the ALC and the new center would attempt to work through issues of students and families. “The real difference is made when the root of the cause is addressed.”

Ledford also credits the Haywood County Schools administration and school board for being supportive in ALC’s mission, which advocates “all kids are equally important.”

“All kids are going to impact us positively or negatively, and we try our very best to make sure it’s positive," Ledford said.

Accommodating academics

Elizabeth Williamson has just started her second year at ALC and is not far from graduating. She said ALC was a good option for her because it gives her the freedom to maintain a job and offer transportation to her family when needed.

Elizabeth said she was happy to see the ALC expanding its services.

“I think it’s going to be great — a lot of people need it,” Elizabeth said. “If you’re willing to do it and put the effort in, then you deserve this school.”

Dalton Haney is also beginning his second year at ALC because he has trouble staying focused in school. Being able to use the computer and working from home has helped him accomplish more, he said.

“I have to be able to do something and move around,” he said.

Second-year student Tyler Sutton has also had success at ALC because he is able to balance school with his two jobs. He currently works at a gas station and working for a small engine repair business to help support his family.

“What I like about this place is they help you get stuff done,” Sutton said.

When asked about the school's expansion, he said, “I think it will be good for families who are unfortunate. Maybe it will help them out, and maybe help more students who can't make it at other schools."

Anyone interested in mentoring or who would like to get involved with the new community center should call 828-454-6590 ext. 106.

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