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The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area, and the reporting focuses on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

New Utah Tech learning center is a sign of Hildale’s recommitment to public education

Utah Tech Water Canyon Center ribbon cutting, May 17, 2022
Lexi Peery
Officials from Utah Tech University, Hildale and Washington County School District pose for a ribbon cutting at a new learning center in Hildale, May 17, 2022.

There’s a new Utah Tech University learning center in Hildale to help high school students prepare for college.

It was only seven years ago that Water Canyon High School opened and public education started to make a comeback in the small community. In 2001, most students withdrew from school after Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leader Warren Jeffs requested it.

During its first year in 2015, there was only one graduate at Water Canyon. This year they have 47.

The new center is connected to the high school. Students can become certified nursing assistants, as well as take a variety of current enrollment courses. This is another step forward for the community, said Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop.

“All of my life, we've always gone down the hill to go to school, to go to work, to further anything that we needed,” she said at a ribbon cutting Tuesday. “To be able to stay home and just have that accessible, I think is the key … for the kids just right here.”

Water Canyon High School, Hildale, Southern Utah, May 17, 2022
Lexi Peery
Water Canyon High School in Hildale, May 17, 2022. It opened in 2015, marking a return of public education in the Southern Utah town. A new learning center to prepare students for college is connected to it.

Jessop added it’s helpful to have such an affordable option for students since they can take discounted college-level classes while living at home.

Water Canyon Principal Steve Showalter said the center will help bring other opportunities to the community, so people can enhance it, rather than just move somewhere else.

“We're starting to be able to build the community belief that education is important,” he said. “We're going to value education because it gives our children here choices. And what I want for each and every kid here is for them to be able to choose what they want to do.”

Utah Tech also has similar centers in Southern Utah in Kanab and Hurricane. Nancy Hauck, the associate provost for community and global engagement at the university, said rural students in Washington County need to have the same opportunities as students in urban areas.

“We're just so thrilled to see that they go from this unsure first-generation student, whose parents didn't get a college degree, to going, ‘I'm smart, I can stack up right up against other college students,’” Hauck said.

She said they hope to offer evening classes for others in the community in the future.

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