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The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors on Tuesday approved allocating $900,000 for Project ADMIT, a new advanced engineering and computer technology integration curriculum planned in the Wilkes County schools.

The amount approved is 75 percent of $1.2 million requested from Golden LEAF for the $1.7 million initiative, which is designed to prepare students for a wide range of high tech jobs. ADMIT stands for Advancing Development in Manufacturing and Integrated Technology.

The $900,000 grant is earmarked for costs of constructing facilities for advanced engineering and computer technology integration classes at North Wilkes, Wilkes Central and West Wilkes high schools, said Golden LEAF spokesman Pat Cabe. Officials said East Wilkes already has the facilities it needs.

The expanded facilities will accommodate welding, construction, advanced engineering and transportation technology instruction. Project ADMIT is designed to help students earn industry credentials and get internships and apprenticeships.

Ms. Cabe said the grant is conditioned on additional funds needed to advance the project being secured.

Dr. Marty Hemric, Wilkes school superintendent, said this morning that he is optimistic about raising additional money needed to fully fund the initiative as planned.

Hemric said businesses, foundations and other sources would be contacted to raise the additional funds. He said an application was submitted for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $135,000 to help fund equipment.

“We are very happy with the commitment we received from Golden LEAF in support of the program. Nine hundred thousand is substantial and will be the core” funding for Project ADMIT, he said.

Hemric said in February that $240,000 needed as a local match for the Golden LEAF grant had been raised with pledges that included $60,000 apiece from the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. (EDC) Wilkes County commissioners and Wilkes County Board of Education.

Financial support also includes $60,000 from Wilkes Community College, $25,000 from Wilkes Communications, $10,000 from Duke Energy and additional funds from other sources.

 Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president, said college officials have discussed the possibility of WCC providing up to $200,000 in equipment for Project ADMIT. “I am not sure how Golden LEAF’s decision to partially fund the project will impact the amount WCC or any other contributor will ultimately commit,” Cox added.

Project ADMIT represents a partnership between the Wilkes schools and WCC, with involvement of the EDC, county government and others.

Instructors for the expanded curriculum are coming from WCC through the Career and College Promise program, which already offers local high school students dual high school and community college course credit.

The new lab facilities and equipment planned as part of Project ADMIT aren’t needed for introductory classes in the new advanced engineering and computer technology curriculum so these classes will start next fall, said Hemric, adding that students started registering for them a few months ago.

More advanced classes requiring the new lab facilities and equipment could be offered as early as next spring, which Hemric said could result in having to shift and double up with existing facilities at the high schools for the short term. He said this won’t result in existing programs being displaced.

“We foresee having the new program fully in place in four years and being able to serve 240 to 300 of our youths in these two programs (advanced engineering and computer technology integration curriculum) at any one time,” said Hemric.

He said students will be able to earn diplomas and certificates that should help them secure jobs in these fields.

Hemric said it should also demonstrate to a broad range of businesses that Wilkes County is a place with people ready to fill jobs in the fields of advanced engineering and computer technology integration.

Project ADMIT was among 24 proposals in the Northwest and Sandhills prosperity zones that were invited by Golden LEAF to apply for funds through Golden LEAF’s Community Based Grants Initiative.

Those 24 requests totaled $22,327,453, but only $12 million was available through the Community Based Grants Initiative.

 Other grants awarded in area counties through the Community Based Grants Initiative Tuesday included:

• $930,560 to Alexander County to provide sewer infrastructure to serve the Shurtape plant and preserve 160 jobs at that site;

• $330,000 to the Alleghany County Library for renovation and expansion costs related to co-locating the Library with the local workforce offices to handle increased demand;

• $946,152 to Ashe Memorial Hospital for renovation and expansion of its Emergency Department, which accounts for 90 percent of the admissions to the hospital;

• $750,000 to Avery County Schools in support of STEM education improvements for middle and high school students in the district;

• $750,000 to Western Piedmont Community College in support of expansion and modernization of a facility to serve its Industrial Systems Technology program and support Mechatronics training;

• $120,000 to extend water infrastructure into the Yancey County Commercial Park in Burnsville;

• $350,000 to Mitchell County Schools for STEM discovery labs at the middle and high school;

• $750,000 to Catawba Valley Community College for equipment and credentialing costs for career pathway programs in composite material manufacturing, automotive/aviation, mechatronics/robotics and logistics;

• $400,000 to Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute for equipment and classroom renovation to provide improved training pathways for jobs currently available with local employers in a wide variety of manufacturing and technical occupations.

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