Wytheville Community College and Virginia Highlands Community College began holding community college classes this week at a new location in downtown Marion.

The Summit Center for Higher Education is a unique partnership project among WCC, VHCC and the town of Marion. The Summit Center is on the second floor of the former 1908 schoolhouse building at 203 N. Church Street in Marion.  Both colleges entered into a lease agreement for the space with the town of Marion, and the two colleges share the schoolhouse space with the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts, which recently opened on the first floor.

The first classes begin this fall at the new college facility, which features over 6,500 square feet of office classroom space, including six classrooms fully equipped with state-of-the-art instructional technology. Two of those classrooms are equipped for distance learning. The Summit Center will be fully staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. A testing center and computer lab will also be available to students.

College leaders have pledged to work together to schedule a wide variety of classes and to ensure they do not duplicate efforts. The unique arrangement means both VHCC and WCC will offer classes at the new center and students from either college may enroll. Students will learn side by side, but will receive credit from their home college.

The Summit Center will initially offer general education courses and transfer courses for students to earn diplomas, certificates and associate level degrees.  Course offerings scheduled for Fall 2015 include basic college transfer courses such as English, math, biology, art, business, communication, engineering, information technology, marketing, psychology, religion and sociology.

“We’re pleased to be a member of the collaborative partnership with our sister institution, Virginia Highlands Community College, and the town of Marion in creating the Summit Center for Higher Education.  With its more centralized location in Marion, the Summit Center provides greater access to higher education for the citizens of Smyth County.  It has the added advantages of providing increased space to offer more courses and services, as well as potential for collaborative opportunities with the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts,” said Dr. Dean Sprinkle, newly appointed president of WCC. 

“Through this partnership, we were also able to preserve and repurpose a wonderful building that has historical significance to the community.  Aptly named, the Summit Center for Higher Education will help others pursue and attain their highest aspirations.  We’re very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something this special,” Sprinkle remarked.

Originally built as the first high school in Marion, the century-old schoolhouse was in a state of disrepair a few years ago and slated for demolition to make room for a parking facility. When town residents learned of the plans, they launched a campaign to save the historic structure.

Virginia’s community colleges were established more than 45 years ago to ensure all Virginians have access to higher education within 30 miles of home. VHCC serves the city of Bristol, Washington County and the western portion of Smyth County. WCC serves the remainder of Smyth County, plus the city of Galax and Bland, Carroll, Grayson and Wythe counties. There are 23 community colleges throughout the commonwealth. For information about The Summit Center or to register for fall classes, call 276-783-1777.

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