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Harrison Center Provides Opportunities to Change Lives in North St. Louis

October 06, 2010

Harrison Education Center  
STLCC's new Harrison Education Center will be
dedicated in ceremonies that begin at 1 p.m. Oct. 8
at 3140 Cass Ave.

An opportunity to change lives in an underserved area of St. Louis and revitalize the JeffVanderLou Neighborhood is now a reality.

Classes began in St. Louis Community College’s new William J. Harrison Education Center in August, serving as a bridge to higher education at the Forest Park campus, as well as providing job training for residents of north St. Louis City and parts of north St. Louis County.

What started with two classrooms and 2,000 square feet of space in 1994 has grown into a new $10.5 million, state-of-the-art education center. Located at 3140 Cass Ave., the center will be dedicated Friday, Oct. 8. An open house is planned 12:30-4 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that begins at 1 p.m.

Chancellor Zelema Harris, this year’s Lifetime Achiever in Education Award honoree from the St. Louis American Foundation, will be joined by elected officials and community leaders in the dedication ceremony. The Vashon High School drumline will entertain.

Tours will be available of the first “green’ public higher education facility of its kind in the city of St. Louis. The 31,000-square-foot center was designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification, the second-highest achievable as designated by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The center is named for the late William J. Harrison, who played a major role in helping the college initially establish the off-site learning center. He served as associate dean of academic support and continuing education at Forest Park until his death in June 1994.

“He wanted to expand into the community, to have easy access to higher education, right in the neighborhood. College can be intimidating, the whole process of enrolling, but if you take away the intimidation, students find out college can be a reality for them,” said Karen Bailey, the center's acting manager.

“It’s important to be here in the JeffVanderLou area, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the city and is plagued by high crime rates," Bailey added. "College is critical in helping the community re-invent itself. I really see the center being the hub of the community, almost a cornerstone.”

Administrators anticipate expanding partnerships with nearby St. Louis Public Schools and other community organizations. The center is across from Vashon High School and near the Clyde C. Miller Academy. Twenty-three Vashon seniors currently are earning dual credit this fall, in pre-algebra and oral communications.

Rosie Williams, who has taught math for five years for STLCC and spent 30 years in the public school system, said giving high school students dual credit has given them a sense of pride. She teaches Vashon students pre-algebra.

“It’s a necessity to have something to feel good about, and this gives you that ray of hope. They can think, ‘You can see a school right here in the middle of decay. I like the growth. I like it here,’” Williams said.

Bobby Edwards, an adjunct communications instructor, said the location will inspire better outcomes. “It’s a step forward for the community – just seeing the adults go to school, I would think that would motivate students. It’s something they can see right out their front door and see lives being changed,” he said.

This fall, 37 courses are offered. Bailey expects enrollment to double by spring semester, for which registration begins Oct. 27. For more information, call 314-763-6000.