MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) – Driving down Charleston Avenue in Mattoon, you see a lot of familiar buildings. Like the consolidated communications building. But now, that building is getting some new life.

“Starting from the basement and working your way to the top, we’ve got communications, we’ve got a child care pathway, info tech IT, HVAC, green energy, Mecha Tronics, and solar wind energy with the green energy, construction manufacturing, and architecture, we’ve got leadership institute, and on the top floor we’ve got culinary arts,” Mclain Schaefer, the director of LIFT, said.

It’s being transformed into a regional innovation and technology center for high schoolers, called LIFT.

“The idea of LIFT or Leaders Innovating for Tomorrow addresses a kind of a relevance gap that’s happening right now in education,” Christy Hild, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, said. “Schools are very traditional places. Many of the things that are happening are probably similar to what you or I had happen when we were back in high school, but the world students are graduating to be a part of is much different.”

It’s something the people in Mattoon have been dreaming about for years. It’s a way to connect students to career pathways and programs that will help them navigate the post high school graduation world.

Whether that means going into construction, culinary arts or anywhere in between LIFT wants to provide a place where students in their region can excel.

“We’ve got a lot of students that are just absolutely thrilled with the opportunity to take part in something like this in its first year, and things that maybe wouldn’t have been offered at their high school that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do now regionally is an option. So, there’s really a lot of excitement around it,” Schaefer, said.

And put those skills back into Our Town Mattoon.

“This notion of LIFT is all about lifting your future, lifting your opportunities, but then the impact that LIFT has on our region. It really elevates the experiences in Coles County, and it shows students that place based work might become a thing of the past that you can lead from anywhere. Technology allows us to connect and collaborate on a grander scale,” Hild said.

The building is still being renovated, but they plan to have a grand opening this August.

You can learn more about the program and everything they have to offer, here.