Contact: Debra Dennis;
For immediate release — Oct. 26, 2021
(DALLAS) — Highlighting the initiative to bring learning tools directly into the neighborhoods that need them most, Dallas College proudly celebrated the launch of the Lancaster Innovation Center last week together with E Smith Communities, the social infrastructure development company run by former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
With some 7,000 square feet dedicated to hands-on training programs in construction and robotics, combined with a mobile training lab to provide high school equivalency education and job training, the center is providing soft skills training, job readiness and financial literacy in an effort to bring long-term economic viability to this often-neglected part of southern Dallas County.
The opening celebration was attended by local business leaders, elected officials and the former Hall of Fame running back himself, as well as administrators and presidents from the Dallas College campuses, including Cedar Valley, whose campus is just five miles south of the center’s location at 4315 S. Lancaster Road.
Dallas College Cedar Valley Campus President Joe Seabrooks was among the speakers at the opening who stressed the importance of getting students in the southern part of Dallas County into promising careers. Bringing classrooms to this often-neglected neighborhood, he said, is an opportunity to help build sustainable communities while eliminating barriers to success.
“For this entire community, what this space represents is that people can transform their lives without leaving their neighborhoods,” Seabrooks told 100-plus attendees, partners and city leaders who were present for the grand opening. “We have to put people on career journeys. We have to help people find their way.”
Dallas County will see more than $5 billion worth of construction projects in a few years, he added, and getting a step in the door on those opportunities through the center gives the unemployed and underemployed who may eventually want to own their own construction firms “the chance to do great things,” thanks to the career advisors and guidance counselors who will help build sustainable economic opportunities for those who enroll in programs at the center.
Wednesday’s unveiling also highlighted the need for creating more economic opportunities for anyone striving to earn more than a living wage through Dallas College’s connection to the southern sector of the county, said Dr. Justin Lonon, Dallas College executive vice chancellor. The center, he said, provides a glimpse into what has been unimaginable for those weary of dead-end, low-paying jobs who want to start a new career that promises longtime employment, livable wages and a bright future for generations. “We are so excited about this center because this is what we do. We connect where there is a need,” Dr. Lonon said.
Dr. Beatriz Joseph, vice chancellor of student success at Dallas College, emphasized that the center is open to all populations in Dallas County, offering benefits assistance to those in need as well. Dallas needs to do much more to prepare the workforce on a local level, to ensure that it is a city that takes care of its people no matter where they live, she said.
Standing with the team who made the center possible, Smith said the potential of the center is inspiring.
“I know some of the challenges people face,” Smith said. “The opportunity to close the gap is what this center presents. The next phase is not yet here. Come here and build your own pathway. This is an opportunity for you to transform yourself and do what you’ve been called to do.”
In addition to E Smith Communities, other key partners in the project include the city of Dallas, Regional Black Contractors Association, Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas, Dallas County Local Workforce Board and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
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