(Photo by Tony Post) WSU President Chuck Wight welcomes attendees to the official opening of the Continuing Education Center located on 29
(Photo by Tony Post) WSU President Charles Wight welcomes attendees to the official opening of the Community Education Center on Thursday.

Thursday evening marked the opening of Weber State University’s new Community Education Center, an office focused on attracting more community members and providing them with opportunities to receive higher education. The center’s opening was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception providing food and tours of the new off-campus location.

The center is especially focused on providing support and higher education opportunities to underserved members of the Ogden and WSU community, including minorities, low-income groups and first-generation prospective students. The center will match prospective students with advisers to help them through every step in the process of enrolling and succeeding in higher education.

“There’s lots of talk about barriers to higher education — money, commitment, time,” said WSU President Charles Wight. “But sometimes the barrier is just a sense that they can’t do it. And part of the mission of this center is to disabuse people of the notion that they can’t do it. They can do it. And all it takes is a little bit of organization, people pointing other people in the right direction, and really letting wonderful things happen.”

The Community Education Center, housed at 2955 Harrison Blvd., Ogden, is also home to two other offices. The Melba S. Lehner Children’s School will help provide learning programs for the children of those involved with the Community Education Center, and the Community Research Extension of the Center for Community Engaged Learning will evaluate and measure projects and programs of the Center for Community Engaged Learning.

“I’d like to emphasize that Weber State is and always has been an open-admissions institution,” Wight said. “That means that everyone is welcome to an education here. We need to make sure they feel welcome. That’s the purpose of this facility. In many ways, this purple awning here just signifies that this is another front door to the university, through which all are welcome.”

Also honored at the ceremony was the Oportunidad Scholarship fund and Steve Ballard, owner of Sonora Grill at The Junction in downtown Ogden, for all he’s done to bring about the scholarship. The Oportunidad Scholarship was created to help low-income, first-generation college students who have attended high school in Utah for three or more years and are ineligible for assistance from FAFSA.

Michael Vaughan, the university provost, said he sees the new center as reciprocal, not merely WSU helping the community. Vaughan said the university will get as much or more back from the community as it puts into the center and assistance it offers the community. Vaughan said he also sees the center as a continuation of the core values WSU holds.

“In a way this is new, in a way this is old,” Vaughan said. “Weber State’s mission from its inception is to provide an education to students who would not otherwise receive education because of location, because of income, because of a variety of circumstances. We’re committed to that. Weber State has been doing it for 125 years. We’re going to do it for 125 years more. This is just one more way that Weber State does that.”

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