(Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 03--What once housed a downtown Logansport pet shop is now home to a job- and hobby-oriented training center with classes on everything from making lip balm to using computer-aided design programs.
Upgrades Training Center opened just after the Cass County Fair at 109 S. Fifth St. after several weeks of remodels at the former location of Rudy's Critters. Erica Hopkins, formerly a trainer with Ivy Tech Corporate College, said she'd even found -- and removed -- one dead rat from a back room where the pet store had bred the rats it sold. Her office now is in a small room that used to be a hallway where goldfish and crickets were stored.
"It took us eight weeks to redo this," Hopkins said. But judging by the before-and-after photos popping up on the flat-screen TV mounted next to some snack shelves in the student lounge area, it's no surprise.
Old shelving has vanished and new flooring was put down, not to mention the new, blue-tone paint on almost every surface.
The "traditional" classroom, which seats a maximum of 18, is now equipped with a dry-erase board, a digital projector and an instructor's computer at the back. A utility sink is hidden in a nook just off of the classroom's side door, where the restroom, several coat hooks and a bank of wall plugs -- a charging station for students' electronics -- is also located.
Upgrades' other classroom houses six student computer stations plus the teacher's station and a printer that's networked to every computer in the center.
Hopkins has three more computers she intends to set up in that room and aims to add more to bring the total of students' stations to a dozen in the next few months.
It's all part of Hopkins' goal to get more people connected with low-cost classes, whether it's to learn job-related skills or simply to pick up a new hobby.
She based the center on a business plan she developed in 2011, which originally modeled the center as a nonprofit agency focused on job skills. She said she intends to run the center along the lines of a nonprofit, even though it's technically a full-fledged business.
"I abhor red tape," Hopkins explained -- and there would have been a lot of it if she'd gone with a nonprofit model. "The concept's the same. It's just that I didn't have to do all the red tape."
This way, she said, she can get suggestions from area individuals or organizations regarding what classes they'd be interested in and respond to them more quickly.
Upgrades kicked off with a couponing class. Its most recent class covered making your own lip balm. A local do-it-yourselfer, Teresa Montgomery, took four class participants through the process of understanding the chemistry of making lip balm and provided the ingredients and utensils to practice making it hands-on.
Montgomery pulled out a digital scale near the beginning of the hands-on portion and showed the class members how to use it to measure the right amounts of cocoa butter and other ingredients based on weight rather than size.
"Of all the things I make, this is the simplest to do," Montgomery said. "Everything else would take a second class, probably."
Some of Upgrades' classes do take place over several sessions. Hopkins expects to launch the first cohort of a yearlong series in August teaching computer-aided design. She's working with local computer technician Jesus Hernandez of Greatech Services to develop a certificate program in computer repair, too.
Hopkins has heard requests for classes on a host of other subjects -- CPR, knitting and quilting, even how to use an iPhone.
"I want to connect local experts with the public," she said. "If the public asks for something, there's no reason I can't develop it."
Upgrades Training Center is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, until 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and until 2 p.m. Saturdays. Class schedules and other information is available by calling Upgrades at 574-753-5100, logging on to upgradestrainingcenter.com or visiting the center's Facebook page.
Reach Sarah Einselen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
New business Upgrades Training Center 109 S. Fifth St. 574-753-5100 upgradestrainingcenter.com
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