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In the past 18 months local residents have demonstrated they feel educational opportunities are a very important aspect in the future success of this community according to a report from Jo Shroeder of the Lemhi Education Project.

In her presentation to the February 20 meeting of the Salmon City Council Shroeder outlined what the group has accomplished in its short history and how much the community has contributed towards the efforts to develop accessible higher-education opportunities.

Shroeder said over 30 students have earned a total of 160 credits through the trial North Idaho College Outreach program and more credits have been obtained through other schools. The whole purpose of the LEP organization has been to find ways for local residents and students to obtain affordable higher-education without having to leave the area.

To that end $41,000 has been raised locally in addition to $6,000 in grants and $4,000 in student scholarships. Schroeder said Lemhi County has contributed $20,000 over the last two years bringing the total amount raised towards establishing accredited post-secondary educational courses to $71,000.

The project is currently working toward starting a welding program and to do that ventilation and electrical systems at the high school shop need to be upgraded so several students will be able to work at the same time. LEP is also acting as a coordinator with Discovery Care Center, the hospital and the Eastern Idaho Technical College to develop a local Licensed Practical Nurse program. Schroeder said there are already people being tutored at the hospital in preparation for nursing program entrance exams. LEP wants to make General Education Development (GED) testing available locally when the state is ready to make that possible, which may be next year.

She presented council members with packets of information containing statistics and LEP goals of the past and future. Included were excerpts from the Cityís Comprehensive Plan. One portion of that plan is dedicated to promoting efforts between industry and education to provide for industrial needs. Shroeder used the welding project as a fitting example. Another focuses on creating living wage jobs so that young people who have left the area to obtain higher education will have a reason to return. She said having higher-education opportunities here would eliminate the need to leave, therefore fulfilling the Comprehensive Planís goal, and would be far more affordable for the student as well as good for the local economy.

Last October North Idaho College officials said they could not fund an outreach center in a community where local tax dollars are not being budgeted into the effort. Shroeder said while that was a blow to the groupís vision of being an NIC Outreach Center it has also freed the organizers to choose a greater variety of projects important to this community and a decision was made to continue LEP efforts. To that end a secure base of revenue is needed to fund a directorís position. She said the lack of a leader to specifically coordinate, advertise and promote programs as well as be on hand at all times is the reason past efforts towards long distance educational programs at the Salmon Valley Business and Innovation Center have not lasted.

She asked the City Council to consider allocating $15,000 towards the Lemhi Education Project and said she will be asking the same amount from the county. Councilman Jim Baker pointed out that city residents also pay county taxes and when the county and the city donate tax monies to the same project, city residents are actually paying double. Schroeder replied there are other resources that could be considered such as tax revenues the city receives from liquor sales. Councilman Jesse Bender suggested that since the cityís Finance Team is in the midst of working on setting its own future goals, the question of LEP funding could be pursued with the team.

Schroeder was invited to attend the March meeting of the Finance Team where the topic of securing affordable, higher-education opportunities will be continued.

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