WATERTOWN — After five years of planning, the first dormitory at Jefferson Community College was opened Monday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a picnic.
“Wow, is this not a truly incredible facility? Yes, I’m clapping for my building,” said college President Carole A. McCoy. “In 2008 we put a bold statement in our brand new strategic plan. That statement read ‘Initiative 1.6 : create a residential experience for students that promotes academic achievement and social development.’ I don’t think that any of us could picture the road that we would go down to get from making that statement to this reality.”
The ribbon-cutting was attended by more than 100 people, including students, faculty and interested members of the general public. It was the official opening of East Hall, JCC’s new 294-bed residence hall. Those in attendance were able to take the first look inside the open- concept lobby, classroom space, study space and “Tech Nook” with seven computers and a printer, and dorm rooms.
The 98,000-square-foot, $17 million facility provides JCC students with on-campus housing for the first time. The college, one of 64 campuses including 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, was founded in 1961.
A presentation was given by several speakers before the ribbon cutting. They included Mrs. McCoy; Jack N. Donato, president of the Faculty Student Association board of directors; Joseph J. LaClair, past president of the Jefferson Community College Foundation board; Mark Purcell, owner of Purcell Construction Corp.; Hollis C. Harrington, resident assistant and second-year JCC student; and Betsy D. Penrose, vice president for students.
“The opening of East Hall is a day that will long be talked about in the campus history,” said Mrs. McCoy. “It will be seen as a transformative event that brought about an enhanced learning environment on campus, increased student success and furthered Jefferson Community College as the college of choice for the north country. To all of you, thank you again — we couldn’t have done it without every single one of you.”
In 2008 the college conducted a feasibility study for dormitories, which were also included in the strategic plan for 2008 to 2013.
Karen M. Freeman, JCC marketing and public relations officer, said the funding for the dormitories was secured in the spring of 2013, and Purcell’s ground-breaking for construction was in June.
“It’s not just a building; it’s really the whole residence hall experience the college is getting,” Mrs. Freeman said. “The building is a place to live, but having resident students will be a whole new ball game.”
Mr. Donato said it was the combined effort of school administrators, contractors, financial advisers and students that brought the dormitories to where it is today.
“The completion of East Hall marks a new chapter for the (Faculty Student Association) and the college community and foreshadows great change that will bring many new opportunities to our campus,” Mr. Donato said. “However, it is the new opportunities to student learning and personal growth that are the most exciting. As we stand here today, scissors in hand, the FSA looks forward to once again serving the college and students in the most important mission of the college and the community — that more may be enlightened.”
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said that after touring the dorm she can see the facility is a fantastic spot for students to study and enjoy living.
“This is a nice, modern beautiful space,” Mrs. Russell said. She said expansive windows embrace the natural beauty outside the building. She said it will be positive for the region to have more students coming in.
Mrs. Freeman said about 78 percent of the 294-bed dormitory’s space has been reserved and each day the school receives new housing applications and new student enrollment forms.
Dorm residents have the choice of living in a six-person suite with two single and two double rooms, a five-person suite with one double room and three single rooms or a four-person suite with two double rooms.
All suites have a bathroom, a kitchenette with a microwave, sink and refrigerator, and a living room with a couch, chairs and a table. The fully furnished bedrooms come with a desk, a wardrobe, a dresser and a bed for each student.
The college worked with interior designers and received feedback from current and former students about all furniture in the dorms to create a living space for the freshmen and sophomores.
Mr. Harrington, the resident assistant, said since he and the other resident advisers moved in last week they have been going through training to prepare for move-in day on Friday morning.
“As a member of the residence life staff, I’ve lived here for the past week, which is a relatively short period of time but it’s more than long enough to feel the benefits of having a residential community,” Mr. Harrington said.
“Moving in with seven other strangers and being told that in less than two weeks you’ll be responsible to support several hundred students is a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. Initially it seems like it can’t be done but now I can say with 100 percent confidence that it can and will be accomplished.”
He said that during the past week the staff has attended several workshops and training sessions.
Through training, he said, the group is collectively confident it can set a good example as the first group of resident assistants at the college.
“We no longer consider ourselves just a team, but rather we’re a dedicated and supportive family — and that family is about to grow exponentially with our new residents arriving this week. Like any good family, our office is there to provide and support an environment that produces academic achievement and growth,” Mr. Harrington said. “Welcome to our home away from home. Welcome to East Residence Hall.”