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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An institution important to Kentucky's African-American history is now looking to the future.
Simmons College has become the only accredited private black college in Kentucky.
The college is known as the birthplace of black higher education in Louisville. Now the birthplace itself has been reborn.
Simmons was founded in 1879 by freed black slaves and named for its second president.
The school flourished until the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But in 2007, Kevin Cosby, the pastor of Louisville's largest African American church, became Simmons 13th president, with a vision to rebuild.
Now seven years later, the announcement that the vision has become reality.
"Making Simmons the first and only private African-American institution accredited in the state of Kentucky. We are officially accredited," Cosby announced to an overflow crowd at the college.
The achievement drew praise from both ends of the political spectrum and hope that Simmons can become the catalyst for a rebirth of west Louisville.
"It provides a symbol of aspirations and academic achievement for west Louisville. It provides role models," said U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville.
"I think education is the great equalizer. And with education it's the way you get ahead," said U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
The celebration included an announcement of a $2 million gift from the Gheen's Foundation. And both the school and the students are also now eligible to receive federal funds.
"Now we can get those Pell grants. We can get that financial aid. We can have those scholarships and things of that sort," said student Jamaal Pickens.
Right now, Simmons has 130 students. Cosby says the next challenge is convincing young people to value what Simmons has to offer.
"We want to get young people to move from rapping to reading; to develop the God-given capacities that God has given them but has gone undeveloped. And that's what's going to take place at Simmons," he said.
And now, armed with accreditation, Simmons College plans an aggressive marketing campaign to attract students not just from Louisville but from around the country.