Makeover Coming For City Colleges’ West Side Learning Center | WBEZ
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Makeover Coming For City Colleges’ West Side Learning Center

A visit to the Malcolm X College satellite campus in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood can feel like taking a trip to the 1980s.

The 30-year-old West Side Learning Center has a dark brick exterior and large signs that use the same font as the logo from the 1980’s TV show, Miami Vice.

When City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado took his first tour of the building a year ago, he said something needed to change.

“It just didn’t feel like it was up to standard — The new standard City Colleges has developed over the years,” Salgado said.

On Thursday, Salgado was joined by West Side aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce this neighborhood learning center is getting a $5 million upgrade. City leaders said they wanted the satellite campus to bring the modern feel of Malcolm X, which opened a new campus two years ago on the Near West Side, directly into specific neighborhoods where residents need more economic opportunities.

“I don't want people to look down Chicago Avenue, see the promise of Chicago, and feel like its 20,000 miles a way,” Emanuel said. “This facility will not just be new. It will be the lynchpin to all the jobs and careers in Chicago and rather than recruiting around the city, they’ll be recruiting and hiring from within the city of Chicago.”

Malcolm X College focuses on health science programs like nursing, dental hygiene and personal fitness training. The satellite campus, at 4624 W. Madison Avenue, provides adult education and general professional development courses as well as an eight-week basic nursing assistant certificate program.

The renovation includes two new biology labs, a new adult education space, new classrooms, computer labs and nursing labs. It will also include a 3,000-square-foot community room for the public.

“Part of it is to make it a more attractive facility and to create some spaces for community to come in and utilize the building,” Salgado said. “So they can also become more informed about the program in the building.”

But he also wants to revitalize a center that helps West Side residents who may need extra help before they can pursue a community college degree or enter the workforce.

“We’re creating a system that is both access and quality,” Salgado said. “That really digs deep into local community and meets residents exactly where they are.”

The West Side Learning Center is one of five satellite campuses across the city. It’s unclear if City Colleges has any plans to renovate other satellite locations. Renovations should be complete by fall 2020 with construction starting next spring.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

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