APPALACHIA — The former Appalachia Elementary School building is once again alive with activity.

Mountain Empire Community College held an open house at the Center for Workforce and Innovation of Appalachia on Saturday, Aug. 3. The center is housed in the former school.

The center currently holds power lineman and commercial driver’s license courses. In addition, certified nursing assistant courses will begin this fall. In the spring, the center will add customer service, smart farming, construction and dental assistant programs. Welding and culinary arts programs will be added in the future.

Mallory Hill, education support specialist with the Workforce Solution department at the college, is hopeful that drop-in child care will be available soon.

“There is no drop-in child care in the area and no evening childcare,” said Hill. “That is something we hope we can provide for students.”

Hill is also hopeful that the center being placed in Appalachia will help the town. She commented on the closing of the town’s only grocery store. “Businesses cannot open without people and people won’t come without business. This center will get people here,” said Hill.

Hill also believes that the center will help draw tourism to the region. The library at the center will hold Appalachian cultural archives. “People travel and do archival research,” stated Hill. “They will stay locally when they come here.”

The center also offers the Road to Success in Virginia Program (RSVP) and grant to students. Those who qualify can receive assistance with food, clothing for interviews and help with gas to get back and forth to class.

Students will also be taught some practical skills for entering the workforce. “We are going to be teaching what to ask during an interview, things like benefits and retirement packages,” said Hill. “We will also be teaching about predatory lending and payday loans.

“We teach skill sets to be employable,” said Hill. She also explained that group therapy will be offered as well. “We want to make sure we cover all the factors to make someone successful.”

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