As Oklahoma City Community College's Capitol Hill Center moves into its third temporary location in 12 years, college officials say its next move will be into a permanent facility.
The center recently moved into a temporary location on the second floor of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. The college is renovating a building a few blocks away, on the corner of SW 25 and Hudson Avenue.
Sergio Gallegos, the center's coordinator, said he expects the permanent location will be ready in three years. Until then, he said, the temporary location allows the college to maintain a presence in the Capitol Hill district.
Close to its roots
The college established the center in 2000 with grants from the U.S. Department of Education and Southwestern Bell Communications.
Initially, the center was housed in Capitol Hill Elementary School; after that, it moved into the nearby Latino Community Development Agency.
The center's location in Capitol Hill is an extension of the college's roots in south Oklahoma City, said OCCC President Paul Sechrist. When it was founded in 1972, the college's original name was South Oklahoma City Junior College.
Although its main campus has since moved to its location at 7777 S May Ave. and its service area has expanded beyond south Oklahoma City, the college still has a commitment to the Capitol Hill district, Sechrist said.
“Our roots are 40 years ago, right here,” he said. “We always wanted to be right here in the heart of Capitol Hill, right here on 25th Street.”
The center includes two classrooms and two computer labs, as well as a small library that the center plans to open up to community organizations for use as meeting space. The two computer labs provide free Internet access to community members when they aren't in use for a class, Gallegos said.
The center offers a range of courses geared toward the needs of the heavily Hispanic, high-
“We provide the kind of classes that are relevant to our community,” he said.
Gallegos said he hopes eventually to see the center offer Spanish courses to English speakers. Ideally, the center would partner English-speaking students with Spanish-
“Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't,” he said. “We're going to give it a shot.”
As the center grows, he said, he and other leaders will meet with community members to try and find out what classes residents might be interested in taking. That could mean visiting elementary schools, holding informal meetings and even going door to door, he said.
Depending on the interests of the community, those classes could include topics ranging from using social network sites to gardening, he said.
Tools for success
The center plays a critical role in the Capitol Hill district, Gallegos said. In a low-income area, centers such as this one can act as drivers of economic development, he said, giving people the tools they need to get jobs that pay more than minimum wage.
The center also offers empowerment, he said. Students come into the center with little or no knowledge in a particular area and leave with a better understanding.
For some, Gallegos said, that may mean being computer-
“This is the area that needs the most training,” he said. “Above all, we are here to serve our Oklahoma City community.”