The school received $1.3 million dollars from Melba Shewmaker to renovate and furnish the Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center.
"It just tears my heart up every time I hear... a child is abused, or killed or missing," Shewmaker says. "It's going to be a wonderful day whenever we see the training begin."
The Minnesota-based NCPTC was created by Victor Vieth, a former child abuse prosecutor on a mission to train professionals to catch clues of abuse earlier.
"The ultimate goal is to end child abuse," Vieth says. "One case tears you apart and handling 100 or so in my career, left me with a thought that we had to do something other than to fish these kids out of the river maybe we needed to look upstream to find out what's driving so many down."
The center expanded to the Northwest Arkansas Community College Campus in 2010, and thousands of police, prosecutors, and social workers have taken the training. However, Vieth says the school needs to create a state of the art facility to realize the program's full potential.
"It allows us to make the training that much more realistic," he says. "It's a big country, and this is really premised on that hands on training and laboratory environment."
The school plans to renovate a former oncology clinic on campus into the center which will include traditional classrooms, and 10,000 feet of hands-on training space, including a mock courtroom, exam rooms, and even a mock crime scene.
"By exposing folks to those sorts of traumatic events now, they can prepare themselves number one emotionally, and two they can prepare themselves cognitively," he says. "How do I think in this sort of scenario, what sort of things should I be documenting."
NWACC President Becky Paneitz says Shewmaker's gift, along with more than $200,000 in other donations announced Monday will allow the school to begin the renovation.
"I am really hopeful we can break ground on this project in late November," she says. "Raising money in this climate has been difficult for all nonprofits, but... folks understand how critical it is to get this center done so we can continue the training, but continue it in a live, hands-on environment."
Shewmaker hopes her gift will change lives.
"It's such a sad thing that happens to them," she says. "I want to say all the children, but if it just protects half of them it's well worth the cost."
The school still needs to raise about $800,000 dollars to complete the $3 million fundraising campaign, which includes the $2.5 million renovation, and $500,000 for information technologies. According to NWACC, construction should take about eight months once the funds are in place.
"We're almost there," Vieth says. "The train's hit the station, a little bit more money that will put in fuel and then we'll be able to get out of the station."
For more information about the NCPTC, visit this site.