Career centers in Appalachian Ohio receive big grants to expand services

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — High school students at 11 career centers in Appalachian Ohio will soon be getting more opportunities for hands-on learning in the professional field.  

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Faculties Construction Commission announced $88 million in grants spread across multiple Ohio school districts last week. The grants are for improvements to facilities and workforce development. 

Buckeye Hills Career Center, which serves both high school students and adults, is one of the facilities awarded funds. 

Buckeye Hills Career Center and their medical space for students to get hands on experience.
Nursing students at Buckeye Hills Career Center in Rio Grande get lifelike practice using medical dummies. [Shane Scalfaro | WOUB]
BHCC Superintendent Jamie Nash said, “Our big picture is provide training, give people in Appalachia access to high quality training …  aligned with Ohio in-demand jobs so they can go straight to work.” 

One job in demand that BHCC is looking to add is dental care, which is something Nash knows is a problem in the area. 

“One of the programs we didn’t have was dental hygiene and really looking at a dental hygiene tech,” Nash said. “If you’re from Appalachia, you know sometimes it takes a little time to get into the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. And we also know we live in a very poor region of our state and a lot of people don’t have access to dental care.” 

With a new dental facility, people from around the community can have access to get their teeth cleaned, while students get hands-on experience. 

“Our goal is to have that operational during the day and then also on Saturdays as well, so our students can use it, staff can use it, our community members can use it,” Nash said. 

Another district receiving grant funds is New Lexington City Schools. Its Workforce Development Center works with students from preschool through 12th grade, which Administrator Morgan Holman said teaches them valuable traits. 

“You have kids, by the time that they get to high school, you don’t have to guess that they’re going to give you a firm handshake and look you in the eye,” Holman said. “They know what the word gratitude means. They know what perseverance means and to work hard and how to critically think.” 

The center plans to use the grants funds to expand and build healthcare additions that benefit both students and the community. 

“We are going to focus on community health,” Holman said. “We’re going to add a school-based health clinic that’s also going to double as a training center for our health care students. We’ll have state of the art health care labs that will go with our community health-based center, with real simulated nursing simulators and real simulated hospital space.” 

Holman and Nash have both seen the impact these programs can have on students. 

“Kids want to come to school,” Holman said. “They’re excited about coming to school and they really want to be in these programs to learn skills to go on.” 

“We see where whole families are changed overnight, just by landing a job that’s gonna make six digits in five years,” Nash said. “We see that happen all the time, so that’s really, really exciting for us.” 

The grant has a stipulation that construction has to be completed by December 2026.