CLINTON — For Vanessa Campos, the Richland Community College Clinton Extension Center played a large part in her educational journey.
“I attended classes at the old Clinton extension center (in Clinton High School),” said the 25-year-old, who graduated from Richland in 2008. “It was a great experience, and I really fell in love with Richland.”
Five years after graduating from the community college, Campos was one of many who witnessed the next chapter in Richland’s history Wednesday as the new education center opened.
“I’m really thrilled about this,” Campos said as she stood in the entryway of the 4,400-square-foot, standalone building that will provide more dual-credit, technical training and continuing education opportunities for community members.
Addressing Richland faculty and staff, area residents and Clinton school, business and government officials, Richland President Gayle Saunders couldn’t contain her excitement about the new center.
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“This is something we’ve been dreaming about for many, many years,” she said of the facility just south of the high school. “Less than a year ago, we stood under a tent in this very spot and spoke of advancing Richland’s educational mission … and tonight, we’re enjoying the advancement of that mission.”
Although Richland has had a facility in Clinton High School since 1977, Saunders said the new building, which was built by Keystone Homes and which the college hopes to buy within the next 10 years, will allow the college to reach not only more high school students but also adults.
“Before, the extension center had to abide by the high school’s hours, but this building will give the adult population as much opportunity to access Richland classes as the high school students do,” she said.
“This facility will help more students get college credit (while still in high school) and take some of the financial burden off mom and dad, and that’s so exciting to me,” said Clinton Superintendent Jeff Holmes. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts (for this opportunity) for our students.”
Ruth Stauffer, executive director of the DeWitt County Development Council, hopes the center, which includes three classrooms, a conference room and multipurpose space, also will increase economic development.
“The ability to educate our workforce and our young … will only grow with this facility,” she said. “It’s a wonderful economic asset for our community.”
With continuing and professional education classes beginning at the education center next week and a wider array of dual-credit and technical classes starting in mid-January, Campos said she’s eager to enroll. “I’m hoping I can find a class I want to take here because I’d love to use this facility,” she said.