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The 21st Century Community Learning Center is a perfect example of what can happen when people work together for a common good.
That common good in this case is the community's children and their education.
In 2003, the Lebanon City Council was divided in its decision to approve a partnership agreement between the City of Lebanon and Marion County Board of Education to begin a new after-school program - the 21st Century Community Learning Center
The partnership was eventually approved, but there were concerns on behalf of the Lebanon City Council regarding the city's responsibilities. The partnership required several things from the city, including renovation of the adult education building and use of the Centre Square Convention Center's gymnasium. And, at the time, some council members were also concerned that the program would become a "babysitting" service rather than an after-school learning program.
That, it has not. Quite the opposite is true, in fact.
Every week during the school year and four weeks during the summers, the learning center has provided after-school and summer activities for students at Glasscock and Lebanon elementary schools and Lebanon Middle School. Students have not only received vital instruction and help with their school work, but they have also been given the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities such as art, dance, cooking, quilting and intramural sports.
The investment by the City of Lebanon and the Marion County Board of Education has been worthwhile. The learning center has allowed countless children to receive additional instruction that they desperately needed to succeed in school, but it's also given those students a chance to have experiences they may not have otherwise.
We hope the learning center continues to get the financial support it needs to keep serving the children of Marion County.
Scott Spalding, the outgoing director of the learning center, noted that the school board had spent $75,000 and received about $1 million in grant funds for this project. Given what we've seen from the staff at the learning center, and what we've seen and heard from the students who have participated in the center's many activities, we're glad our community made this investment.
Grant funding will keep the center going for at least four more years. We hope the next director of the center will continue to seek grant funding, although we know there's no guarantee that more will be provided.
In the meantime, we encourage our community leaders to plan ahead just in case grant funding isn't available in four years. This might even be the type of program worthy of an endowment grant. Perhaps now would be a good time to pursue fund-raising efforts to make such an endowment possible.
It is our sincere hope that the center will still be going strong several years from now.
Regardless, the staff of the 21st Century Learning Center should be commended for the work they have done on behalf of our community's children.