Artist's rendering of what the workforce center could look like. Courtesy of Mountain Gateway Community College.

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Here’s what the site looks like today. Courtesy of Mountain Gateway Community College.

Mountain Gateway gets grant

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded a $3 million grant to the Mountain Gateway Community College Real Estate Foundation for renovation of a workforce development center in Buena Vista.

This project will support the establishment of a manufacturing training center, to be located in a 18,750-square-foot building that once housed the Courtesy Ford dealership at 2019 Forest Avenue in downtown Buena Vista. This EDA grant will be matched with $750,000 in local funds and is expected to create or retain 110 jobs and generate $2 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates, according to a release from Mountain Gateway.

“We have now raised over $4.5 million toward the estimated $5.3 million project,” said MGCC President Dr. John Rainone in a statement. He said he was confident that the remaining amount will be raised.

He said he anticipates that the construction and renovation will begin in early 2023, be completed in about 10 months, and be ready to accept students by the fall of 2024.

Rainone said the new workforce training center will be named the Wilson Workforce Development Center, after Buena Vista native and VMI graduate Joe Wilson, who made the purchase of the building possible

The CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs to be scheduled at the new Wilson Center will include heavy trades such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical and plumbing, diesel mechanic, machine tool, welding, building trades and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). All of the training falls under the FastForward program, which offers tuition assistance for Virginia residents to train for in-demand jobs.

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Friedlander appointed to Virginia’s Rare Disease Council

Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to serve on the commonwealth’s Rare Disease Council. 

The General Assembly formed the council in March 2021 to better understand the scope of rare diseases in the commonwealth and their impact on Virginians. Its experts report back to the governor and legislators.

The council has the authority to conduct research and consult with experts to develop policy recommendations related to improving access to health care for people with rare diseases, the impact of health insurance coverage on their access to health care, and the impact of providing coverage for these people under the state program for medical assistance services.

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Author Silas House to headline first Teaching in Appalachia Conference at UVA Wise

Author Silas House will headline the University of Virginia’s College at Wise’s first Teaching in Appalachia Conference this month.

Silas House. Photo by Tasha Thomas/Courtesy of UVA Wise.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 22 at the David J. Prior Convocation Center. The conference is focused on providing Appalachian-area teachers with resources for immediate use in their classrooms. Registration is $20.

Assistant professor of education Ricky Mullins created the conference because he saw a need to provide support for teachers, focused specifically on the challenges and successes of being a teacher in the Central Appalachian region, according to a news release from the school.

“Sometimes, because our region is so far removed from other parts of the state, it can feel like we are alone,” Mullins said. “This conference will provide resources, strategies and ideas that not only support all learners, but also connect to the rich culture of the Appalachian region.”

UVA Wise professors will present best practices on a range of topics including Appalachian dialects, environmental issues, music innovation, mathematics, children’s literature and conflict resolution.

Silas House, an acclaimed Appalachian novelist, professor and creative nonfiction writer, will speak twice. On Oct. 21, the UVA Wise education department and Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are sponsoring “A Conversation with Silas House” for students, but the public is also welcome. The talk will begin at 1 p.m. at Cantrell Hall, and a book signing will follow at 2:30 p.m. at the UVA Wise library. House’s books will be available for purchase and attendees can also bring their own copies for him to sign.

On Oct. 22, House will present his talk on “Education in Appalachia.” His talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. at the David J. Prior Convocation Center.

House is the author of six novels including his latest book, “Lark Ascending.” His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Advocate, Garden and Gun and Oxford American. A Kentucky native and former commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” House is the recipient of the Nautilus Award, an E.B. White Award, the Appalachian Book of the Year and the Lee Smith Award, among others. House was also an executive producer and one of the subjects of the film “Hillbilly,” a documentary that examines Appalachian stereotypes in media and culture and the exploitation of Appalachian people.

For more information about the Teaching in Appalachia conference or to register, visit

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Teresa Ramey (left), vice president of community, diversity and inclusion, with Laura Tucker (right), Salem resident and winner of the 2022 Charles Brown Award. Courtesy of Roanoke College.

Roanoke College gives award to Laura Tucker

Roanoke College has give this year’s Charles Brown Award to Laura Tucker of Salem for “her history of public service including mentoring students and bringing together the community to celebrate what is fun and unique about the city,” according to a release from the college.

The award, presented at Roanoke College’s annual Salem Appreciation Breakfast, recognizes Salem residents who have made significant professional and civic contributions to the city’s quality of life.  

The award is named after Charles Brown, Roanoke College’s first dean and a former mayor of Salem. It was first presented in 1997.  

Tucker serves her community both as a staffer with the Salem Water Department and as an instructional assistant in the Salem City Schools. She also volunteers with multiple initiatives.  

Through Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia, a nonprofit that works with students, Tucker mentors Salem elementary schoolers and leads programs designed to introduce them to concepts about financial literacy, good citizenship, entrepreneurship, career paths and more. 

That organization, which works with community volunteers across a 17-county region, named Tucker its volunteer of the year in 2018.  

When Tucker’s hometown was marking its 215th birthday, she co-founded a grassroots social media group called Salem215 that was dedicated to highlighting positive happenings around the city. The group worked to promote local businesses, organized community events, posted updates from city council meetings and compiled a comprehensive weekly calendar of “Things to Do in Salem.” 

Tucker also is an advocate for Roanoke College’s Toy Like Me program, a partnership of faculty, students and staff that modifies toys so that children with disabilities and medical conditions can see positive reflections of themselves. Tucker not only donates to the program but also refers children to it and assists with modifying toys.

The 2022 award was presented Wednesday morning at an event on campus attended by about 75 Roanoke College representatives, city leaders and community members.