JACKSON, Tenn., Feb 14, 2011 -- A new era of learning opportunities for West Tennessee students, teachers and workers was celebrated today as U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher and USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode announced federal distance learning grants that will reach 11 high schools and six satellite campuses. The two back-to-back events took place in interactive television classrooms at Jackson State Community College (JSCC) and Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC).
"Students today are growing up in the most-connected, most-diverse, and most-competitive world ever known," said Fincher. "Utilizing distance learning is an excellent tool to allow today’s scholars to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and job creators."
USDA Rural Development grants of $489,171 to JSCC and $343,580 to DSCC open the door to dual enrollment college courses for area high school students and increased access for adults to the Tennessee State Diploma Project, the Adult Education and Workforce Development Center and other resources.
"The partnership of Jackson State and Dyersburg State, along with the area high schools promises to give West Tennessee an advantage in the fight for a quality workforce development," said Fincher. "The rural parts of West Tennessee are fortunate to have Bobby Goode and his team at USDA working hard for our benefit."
JSCC President Dr. Bruce Blanding said the investment will be used to purchase equipment and set up interactive classrooms at high schools in Carroll, Decatur, Gibson, Hardin, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Madison and Weakly Counties as well as the JSCC satellite campuses.
DSCC President Karen Bowyer said a previous grant of $170,000 in Stimulus funds brings the total investment in distance learning and workforce development to $513,580. The investment will be used to purchase equipment and set up interactive television classrooms at South Fulton, Obion County Central, Munford and Brighton High Schools as well as DSCC locations in Dyersburg, Trenton and Covington.
"Students and workers in West Tennessee should have the same opportunities they would have living anywhere else," said Goode. "The President has made rural access to broadband a priority and at USDA Rural Development we are helping people in rural communities use this technology to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world."
Others participating in the JSCC event included Sen. Lamar Alexander's Representative Matt Varino, Rep. Marsha Blackburn's Representatives Steve Allbrooks and Johnny Blakely, State Representatives Jimmy Eldridge and Johnny Shaw, Crockett County Mayor Gary Reasons, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris, Southwest Tennessee Development District Director Joe Barker, JSCC Provost Dr. Ron Key, Vice President of Finance and Administration Horace Chase, Executive Director for Institutional Advancement Dee Henderson, Dean of Academic Support Mary Jane Bassett and Director of Distance Education Patrick Davis.
Others participating in the DSCC event included Congressman Stephen Fincher's Representative Hannah Wade Powell, Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill, Crockett County Mayor Gary Reasons, Northwest Tennessee Development District Director John Bucy and RD Area Directors Harriet Cannon and Arlisa Armstrong.
The USDA Rural Development distance learning and telemedicine (DLT) grant program increases the range of educational opportunities available to students and teachers, improves access to quality healthcare and opens up new economic opportunities for families, individuals and businesses in rural America. For more information on Rural Development telecommunications programs contact Terry Kokinda at (615) 451-9498 or Terry.Kokinda@wdc.usda.gov.
Goode praised Kokinda for working with schools, healthcare providers and the private sector to make Tennessee one of the top recipients of Rural Development DLT grants.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. With supplemental funding through the Recovery Act, the agency assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses, investing more than $1.3 billion through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. More than 86 percent of these investments will be paid back with interest. The rest is at work creating jobs, broadening the local tax base and increasing opportunities in education, training, healthcare and public safety.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in southwest Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Jackson at 731-668-2091 ext. 2, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1495, in Union City at 731-885-6480 ext. 4, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1497 or online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410,
or call (800) 795-3272 TDD (615) 783-1397