WARNER ROBINS -- As they stood in the middle of a Houston County field, state political and education officials couldnt hide their excitement.
Its sort of like the day before Christmas for me, said state Rep. Larry ONeal, R-Bonaire. Its an exciting time.
ONeal and other officials were envisioning the future Georgia Military and Veterans Education and Training Support Center, which will stand near Robins Air Force Base and Huntington Middle School, and will offer educational services to veterans and active military members.
It was one stop on a tour of the area for Ron Jackson, commissioner for the Technical College System of Georgia, and other officials. The tour included stops at the Houston County Career Academy, where Central Georgia Technical College offers dual enrollment courses; the Macon Promise Center, where Central Georgia Tech runs adult education courses and other activities, and the Central Georgia Tech Milledgeville campus.
The event was a way for Jackson and others to discuss the goals of local colleges, as well as chat with the community about potential collaborations.
The military training center, also known as the Gateway Center, represents such a collaboration. With the help of land donated by the city of Warner Robins, the technical college system is partnering with the University System of Georgia to offer military-focused college classes and workforce training. The state has set aside $10 million for the project.
Officials expect to break ground soon and hope to open the center in early 2015, Jackson said.
We want to make it a one-stop shop for military families, for veterans and for active military to get the training they need, he said.
It will be a place where they can get job advice, as well as college courses and workforce training. Additionally, the college system is looking into offering college credit for military training. Class tuition would be the same as other technical college and university system fees, Jackson said.
Its very hard for veterans to navigate the transition from military life to civilian life, Jackson said. The higher education system in Georgia is here to support them.
The project is not only a priority for education officials but also for leaders across the state. As far as he knows, the Gateway Center will be the first facility of its kind in the nation, ONeal said.
Here is Georgia, again out front and setting (an example) instead of following course, he said.
At a Tuesday luncheon at the soon-to-open Promise Center on Anthony Road in Macon, Mayor Robert Reichert lauded Central Georgia Technical Colleges adult-education endeavor there.
The center, on the south side of the Unionville community between Pio Nono Avenue and Henderson Stadium, will teach, among other things, GED preparation, reading and citizenship.
This Promise Neighborhood center is a facility where multiple organizations can come together and do their thing, Reichert said.
Jackson, the tech college commissioner, called it a critically important effort. He said more than half the people who live in the neighborhoods around the center dont have a high school diploma.
But you put a program this close to them and you do an outreach and you grab them and catch them, Jackson said.
The courses are set to start in January. Organizers expect an enrollment of about 50.
But the sky is the limit, said Brenda Brown, Central Georgia Techs vice president for adult education. If 100 show up the first day, were going to serve them.
Telegraph staff writer Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report.