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The Okaloosa-Walton College District Board of Trustees held a ribbon cutting and dedication of the college's new classroom and student services facilities at the OWC Robert L. F. Sikes Center in Crestview on Tuesday, September 21.

The eight-month renovation project converted 7,500 square feet of space at the Sikes Center which formerly housed the City of Crestview public library into five new classrooms -- including a computer lab -- and student services space. The $338,470 project has doubled the size of the college's Crestview location to now include 11 classrooms, a testing room and two large computer labs in a total space of 18,900 square feet. More than 1,000 students annually attend classes at the college's Sikes Center, which offers a full slate of college-credit and non-credit classes.

OWC began holding adult education and other courses in the Robert L. F. Sikes Public Library in Crestview in 1982 and has held courses at other locations throughout north Okaloosa County over the years. However, the need for a full-time location in the northern part of the county became apparent as the general population and OW student enrollment from the area continued to grow.

In 1993, OWC purchased the library building from the city for one million dollars ($1,000,000); acquiring the existing facility with surrounding acreage, furnishings, and other materials. The city continued to operate a public library at the site through a lease agreement with the college until May 2002.

Following the purchase of the Sikes building, OW began operation of a full-time educational center at the site and in 1995, the college constructed and a new wing (6,864 square feet) at the Sikes Center, containing six additional classrooms and administrative/student services space.

In addition to the educational benefits it provides, the college's presence in Crestview has been cited by north county leaders as essential for the community's economic growth. One of the factors that potential industries look for in an area is the availability of higher education.

The OWC Sikes Center also houses memorabilia from the late US Congressman Robert L.F. Sikes, including a re-creation of the congressman's office, complete with a stuffed raccoon dubbed the "He-Coon" that was emblematic of Sikes' nearly 40 years representing Florida's First District in Congress. Congressman Sikes' long involvement with OWC began with the inception of the college. It was through his leadership that the present site of the Niceville campus was acquired.

OWC Robert L.F. Sikes Education Center is located at 805 East Highway 90 in Crestview. The Center's Director is Mr. Gail Kaltz. Call the Center at 689-7911 for information about class offerings.

OWC Sikes Center Statistics:
2003-2004 Academic Year:
1,150 students
897 Credit - 78%
253 Non-credit (Adult Basic Education, English-as-a-Second Language, GED prep) - 22%
Female students - 737 or 64%
Male students - 413 or 36%
817 students from Okaloosa County - 71%
274 students from other counties - 23%
59 students from Walton County - 5%
Average student age: 28

For the Fall 2004 term, the OWC Sikes Center is offering nearly 50 classes including free Adult Education for adults who don't have a High School diploma and English-as-a-Second-Language classes, and college courses such as Accounting, Economics, Introduction To Business, Management, Organizational Behavior, English Composition, College Prep Reading, Speech, Computer Science classes, Humanities Intro, Introduction To Philosophy, Introduction To Ethics, Humanities Cinema Appreciation, College Algebra, College Prep Algebra 1, Intermediate Algebra, Math For Liberal Art, Statistics, General Biology, Earth Science, Physical Science, Sociology, Human Growth & Development, Psychology and College Success.

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