SANFORD — Grant Holmes Sr. felt a bit overwhelmed walking the halls of the restored W.B. Wicker School, now known as the W.B. Wicker Business Campus.
“I didn’t expect to see what I see now,” he said. “It feels really great to see the building is back and being used for educational purposes again.”
Holmes was at Wicker for the open house for Central Carolina Community College’s Lifelong Learning Center. The Center occupies most of the space in the former school as well as two classroom pods on the property.
The Lifelong Learning Center includes CCCC’s Adult Education and Continuing Education programs as well as the administrative office of the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. The college’s dental hygiene and dental assisting programs are also located at Wicker.
Visitors commented on the beauty of the restored Wicker building, as well as how it and the classroom pods provide a spacious and well-equipped learning environment. It is a far cry from the cramped and aged quarters of the former Jonesboro School where the college held its Basic Education and many of its Continuing Education classes until the move to Wicker over the past few months.
“I like it,” said phlebotomy technician student Apollonia McLean, who was helping to do blood sugar checks at the open house. “It’s a new learning environment — it feels more school-y, much better than Jonesboro.”
Visitors to the open house could have their blood sugar or vision checked by students in the college’s Continuing Education phlebotomy technician or optometric assistant programs. There were also displays of several other classes offered, including sewing, jewelry making and cake decorating. They could also walk through the clinical area for the college’s dental programs and see some Continuing Education and Adult Education classes.
Many who came for the open house were alumni and former teachers at W.B. Wicker School, which was built in the 1920s with partial funding by the Rosenwald Foundation. The foundation helped fund the construction of many schools in the South for black children and youth in the early part of the 20th century. Wicker is one of the few remaining Rosenwald schools and has been placed on the U.S. Interior Department’s list of historical places.
Holmes is both an alumni and teacher. He graduated from Wicker in 1955, when the school was the pride of Sanford’s black community. He returned in 1968 as an elementary music teacher.
In 1969, public school integration resulted in Wicker’s students being moved to Sanford High School. Wicker was used as a middle school and for other purposes until it was permanently closed in 1990. The handsome brick building deteriorated rapidly once it was abandoned.
In 1997, Sanford attorney William Wilson Jr. purchased the property to prevent its being razed and, in 2001, deeded it to Brick Capital Community Development Corporation. BCCDC, with strong community support, oversaw the extensive restoration and renovation of the school.
The building has been completely restored. Having the college move its Lee County Adult Education, Continuing Education, and Workforce Development programs into the facility has brought it back to its original use as an educational institution.
“This is my dream come true,” said Kate Rumely, BCCDC executive director since 1997. “I’m thrilled. I hoped this would happen from the very beginning, but this is beyond what we anticipated. Good things happen when communities work together.”
The college first rented space at Wicker for its dental hygiene and dental assisting programs, which started in 2007. In 2010, the college moved its Lee County Adult Education and Continuing Education programs from the Jonesboro Center, a former Lee County elementary school, to the Wicker Business Campus.
“We are in a facility new that the students and teachers can be proud of,” said CCCC President Bud Marchant. “The college has also become part of this community and shares the pride they and Brick Capital Community Development Corporation take in it. Wicker has come full-circle. It’s once again a thriving educational institution serving this community.”
For more information on the college’s Continuing Education or Adult Basic Education programs in Lee County or Workforce Development, call the LLC at (919) 775-2122, or visit the college’s Web site, www.cccc.edu/