Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:19PM - 444 Views

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Chad Abshire

Staff Writer

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth of four articles covering the open house that the Mingo County Extended Learning Center held Tuesday, Oct. 23.)

DELBARTON — Marcella Cooper has been with the Mingo County Extended Learning Center for nearly three decades - 28 years - and still loves her job.

“I really feel like it’s the best place on Earth to work,” Cooper told the Daily News. “We have a strong bond here; it’s like we’re a family.”

She said that the consolidation of the county’s high schools hurt the center’s ability to educate people with the loss of programs since many were cut and moved to Mingo Central Comprehensive High School, but also hurt that family bond, since instructors and students had to go.

And that’s one of the center’s largest goals: to add more and more programs, especially in adult education.

“We’re trying to grow,” Cooper said.

However, the center still has a number of features available, and not just to adults.

Fran Hoffman is the speech therapist and Susan Jude is the deaf and hard of hearing instructor for all of Mingo County. They were in attendance at the open house, where they conducted hearing screenings for all those interested in receiving one. The two of them showed off a large structure to the Daily News unqiue to the center: a soundproof hearing booth used for conducting hearing evaluations to those who fail hearing screenings.

A lone chair sits within the dimly lit, soundproof room, with a window in the middle and two speakers at the front corners. A stuffed animal is placed on each speaker and beneath the window. On the other side of the window, Jude showed how a test would be performed, with the person on the other side speaking directly at the person within the soundproof booth.

The stuffed animals, Jude said, made it easier for younger children to focus.

All of these services and facilities, including occupational and physical therapy, Fran said, were available to each student within the county for absolutely no cost.

Lastly, Thomas Hoffman, Administrator and Career Tech Ed of the center, spoke with the Daily News about what the center had done recently and what it looks to do in the future.

“We want to expand to more adult programs,” he said. “Like medical assisting, digital mechanic and stick welding.”

Hospitals and doctors, Thomas said, have contacted him saying that there was a need for medical assistants, which prompted him to try to get the class started.

Currently, the only adult education classes available are the Licenesed Practical Nursing, medical office and business administration support programs.

The LPN program in particular, he said, has enjoyed 100 percent placement over the last eight years, and with its recent introduction of EKG, phlebotomy and CNA certifications, it not only enables students to become LPN’s, but also patient care technicians.

“It allows them to be more versatile and more employable,” Thomas said. “We’re the only center in West Virginia where students can be qualifed in becoming an LPN and patient care tech simultaneously.”

He also mentioned the center housed the county’s hearing evaluation booth, was a location for alternative education for youths who may have caused trouble in county schools and was where the county’s robotics teams stored equipment and practiced for competitons. The center is also the location where GED testing takes place.

Thomas said the coal-to-gas liquification plant coming soon to the area was a concern of his, saying that he hoped it would allow the center to hold more classes to train people to work there. The administrator said that he had been talking with unions about using the center as their training site to educate citizens. He said that, as of right now, very few Mingo Countians would probably be working at the plant when it was finished.

“About 300 employees will work there,” he said. “How many will be from Mingo County?”

He also said that he had been speaking with a man to teach welding courses at the center, since the consolidation took the once-established welding course to MCHS.

“If an adult wants to take a welding program, the closest one for them would probably be Charleston,” he said.

Lastly, Thomas said the center contained all transcripts from the four closed high schools — Burch, Williamson, Matewan and Gilbert. He encouraged anyone who needed their transcript to contact the center.

While things may be quieter at the center with fewer programs and people roaming the halls, Thomas and his staff seem optimistic about the future.

“We’re kind of busy here, but we want to grow,” Thomas said. “It’s going to take a while, we know, but we want to make this place a real education center for adults.”

For futher information or to apply for courses, call 304-475-3347 or visit http://www.mingoadulteducation.com.

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