Though BRTC is clearly a “technical” college, it would be difficult to find a college anywhere that more exemplifies the term “community college” than does BRTC. In many ways, it is difficult to see a separation between the college and the community.
BRTC’s main campus is in historic Randolph County, an area defined by rolling hills and pristine wooded areas, rich delta farmland, and five free-flowing rivers. With a population of about 18,000, the county is considered home to some of the earliest settlers migrating west of the Mississippi in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase. The town where BRTC is located, Pocahontas, population about 7,000, maintains a strong sense of heritage with its well-preserved Court Square and its three museums, the Randolph County Heritage Museum, honoring the county’s river and cultural history, the Eddie Mae Herron Center Museum preserving the county’s African American history and culture, and the new Randolph County Museum of Historical Transportation and Commerce in the town’s old train Depot. Both venues provide an assortment of educational programs and activities, often in partnership with BRTC.
The Dalton community of northern Randolph County is home to BRTC’s Project REACH. An acronym for Researching Early Arkansas Cultural Heritage, REACH consists of two frontier-era log structures built by pioneering early settlers and enslaved workers. The Rice-Upshaw House, ca. 1827, believed to be the oldest structure of its type in the state, and the Looney Tavern, ca. 1833, were researched and restored by the college and now serve as virtual “classrooms” for the college and the community.
Though decidedly rural and agricultural in its core, the area has sought and welcomed industrial development and resultant economic opportunities. Several large employers in and near Pocahontas provide employment in various manufacturing sectors. Emerging employment opportunities are helping to make this a community of growing diversity, and a place where BRTC’s role in education and job training is more vital than ever.
The growing city of the college’s main campus is home not only to BRTC but also to the highly respected Pocahontas School District, the county’s largest pre-K-12 school with about 1,800 students, and St. Paul Catholic School, a private school serving 127 students in grades pre-K through 6. Pocahontas also is home to the county’s hospital, St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center and two nursing homes, Randolph County Nursing Home and Pocahontas Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. These are among the facilities where BRTC’s PN and RN students complete clinical training.
Regionally acclaimed, The Downtown Playhouse, is now in its third season of sell-out shows. The productions, under the direction of BRTC’s Speech and Communications instructor, range from drama to comedy to musicals, drawing audiences from around the state and providing stagecraft and performance opportunities to students and non-students in a uniquely and artistically designed historic building.
Pocahontas is a small city, but clearly is a place where progress is not only a core value, but also a reality, as evidenced by the recently constructed Pocahontas Aquatic Center and the soon to be constructed new elementary school, both facilities funded when voters approved small sales tax and millage increases. Also available are a wide variety of school and community sporting options, as well as community-based classes in vocal and instrumental music and drama.
Paragould, a growing town of more than 26,000, is home to BRTC’s off-campus site and its Industrial Training Center. Situated atop Crowley’s Ridge and located along the Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway, Paragould is less than 20 miles from the region’s largest population center, Jonesboro. The city features an extensive Parks system including an impressive Community Center where an aquatic center and outdoor water park combine with the region’s many natural resources to provide endless recreational opportunities. Nearby Lake Frierson and Crowley’s Ridge State Park offer year-round fishing, camping and hiking. Paragould is also home to two highly rated large public school districts, Greene County Tech and Paragould School District, and numerous sporting venues. The Collins Theater, constructed in 1925, has a proud history in the community and provides a wide range of entertainment. The Collins now serves as a modern community arts center spanning a wide spectrum of genres.
Described as “one of the strongest manufacturing centers in Arkansas,” Paragould has experienced the restoration of historic landmarks, the construction of new facilities, and numerous commercial and industrial investments. More than 6,000 of its workforce are employed in one of the city’s many manufacturing operations. Those operations produce everything from rail cars to shock absorbers to retail display fixtures to plastics, presenting an ongoing demand for BRTC’s workforce training opportunities. Excellent medical facilities include Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, one of BRTC’s clinical sites for nursing students, and a new medical park.