To celebrate its fifth anniversary, something was added to the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour.
On Tuesday, center staff members and community leaders gathered to dedicate a new flagpole and raise the American flag.
Boy Scouts from Troop 529 in Seymour conducted the ceremony by presenting the flag, raising it, saluting and leading the crowd in the pledge of allegiance.
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The pole was donated by Mark Adams, owner of Voss Funeral Service in Seymour, and the flag was a gift from American Legion Post 89 in Seymour.
The idea to install a flagpole originated with Josephine “Josie” Engleking, who has worked at the learning center for about three years through Experience Works, an agency that helps senior citizens find employment.
“I just noticed that there was no flag outside because no one had donated one, so we started making some phone calls,” she said. “Every school has a flag.”
Engleking said it made her feel good to see the flag flapping in the breeze.
“I wanted to see Old Glory flying high to remind us of our freedoms,” she said. “It’s just awesome and a good experience for those young Boy Scouts for them to get involved like this.”
Engleking, 81, has many jobs at the center, from welcoming people and answering questions to offering basic tutoring and even teaching a sewing class.
She sees the value and importance of the learning center every day, she said, and isn’t surprised by how much it has grown in five years or its importance to the community.
“It’s needed,” she said of the building. “People need a place like this to go to further their education or to study or to improve their job skills.”
Dan Hodge, executive director of the Jackson County Education Coalition, said Engleking is an amazing person who proves age is only a number.
“She took it upon herself to make sure this happened,” he said.
Two of those attending Tuesday’s event were Bill Bailey and Bud Walther, who together, with support from others in the area, first had the vision of building a learning center in Seymour to offer more postsecondary education and workforce training opportunities locally.
“There have been thousands of students who have gone through here and countless numbers of businesses that have trained here,” Hodge said. “Jackson County is better for your vision.”
Bailey has since retired as president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, and Walther has retired as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. Both organizations were instrumental in the planning, funding and building of the learning center in 2010.
“It has proven what we thought would happen has in fact happened,” Bailey said of the center’s growth and use. “The public/private partnership of the city and the community foundation and the chamber could create what I believe is the most significant physical asset in Jackson County to grow the future of Jackson County.”
Bailey said he, too, isn’t surprised by the center’s success and impact it has made.
“The need was very obvious,” he said. “All that we are seeing now is the filling of the need.”
The east side facility houses classrooms for Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and the Seymour Community Schools alternative education program. WorkOne, the state’s workforce and employment agency, also has an office in the building.
Enrollment in programs has continued to increase, and many manufacturers, including Cummins Inc., Aisin and Kremers Urban, use the center for workforce training.
“It’s working well, and it will only get better,” Bailey said.
When the facility opened, most of the classrooms were for college classes, and those using the building were college students, Walther said.
Although the learning center continues to offer college classes, it has added greater workforce training capacity. In 2013, a science lab and advanced manufacturing lab were added.
“We’re watching a transformation take place,” Walther said. “We’re really beginning to train the workforce here, and that makes it a very unique place for Jackson County and our future. We’re growing our own workforce. We’re training our own workforce.”
Walther said that when the building opened there were 44 different uses of the building by employers in the first year. That number grew to 342 in 2014 and is on track to be even higher this year.
“The employers have seen this as the community investing in them,” Walther said.
Seymour High School’s alternative education program and the growing high school equivalency program, formerly the GED program, also continue to expand, Bailey said.
“It’s another need in this community that this building can meet,” he said.
“The key is that this is a learning center,” Walther added. “It’s not a college. It’s not an extension of the high school. It’s not just training rooms. It’s a multipurpose facility to meet the educational needs across the spectrum in this community.”
Hodge said the future of the center will depend on the growth of the community and its needs.
“If the community has a greater need and more people and usage, then we will have to look at trying to expand,” he said. “It would be a great problem to have.”
What: Jackson County Learning Center
Where: 323 Dupont Drive in Seymour
Information: 812-519-2923, jclearn.org