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October 14, 2011

ULM faculty instrumental in West Ouachita Senior Center's national accreditation

The West Ouachita Senior Center recently became the first in Louisiana to earn a prestigious national accreditation with help and guidance from University of Louisiana at Monroe faculty and continued support from ULM students.

The WOSC was awarded accreditation from the National Institute of Senior Centers.

This type of accreditation is rare, and in the case of the WOSC is only the 201st center in the nation to earn the accreditation - a number comprising only about two percent of senior centers nationwide.

ULM faculty members Dr. Charlotte Owens, Dr. Paula Griswold and Patty Costello all served as committee members during the process.

Interim Department Head of Gerontology, Sociology and Political Science Dr. Karen Kopera-Frye was also one of the contributing committee members and served as the external evaluator for the application process.

Other professionals instrumental to the accreditation were Dr. Marty Steffenson, chair of the WOSC Board of Directors and organizing force for accreditation application.; Patty Costello from the Senior Community Service Employment Program; and Jeanette Ellington, executive director of WOSC and a ULM alumnae, holding a bachelor's, master's, and education specialist degree through the ULM College of Education and Human Development.

The accreditation makes the center more than just a recreational facility for local seniors; it is a go-to for health screenings, food distribution, senior programming, and weather evacuation housing.

"There were nine areas of evaluation," said Kopera-Frye. "After 18 months of hard work, the center can now be designated as a center of excellence."

The nine areas of evaluation are a series of standards that must be met in order to earn accreditation.

Among those areas are purpose and planning; community connections; governance; administration and human resources; program development and implementation; evaluation; fiscal and asset responsibility; records and reports; and facility and operations.

According to Kopera-Frye, the rigorous application materials sent in impressed officials in Washington, D.C. to the point that they will now use many of the evaluation and assessment tools designed by Kopera-Frye as barometers for handing out new accreditations.

"The center now runs like a major corporation, and this accreditation opens the doors to more funding for the center," said Kopera-Frye.

ULM and the WOSC have a 28-year partnership that includes student internships in gerontology and speech and language pathology, fieldwork and projects, health screenings from nursing students, and collaboration with the ULM Older Worker Program.

Kopera-Frye is also the Biedenharn Endowed Chair in Gerontology.

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