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Functional, decorative expansion underway at HCC SouthShore

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image “This is how it’s going to look,” Dr. Allen Witt (left), HCC SouthShore president, explains as he and Myra Williams, the college’s evening coordinator, examine plans for another expansion on the Ruskin campus. Melody Jameson Photo

Hillsborough Community College SouthShore campus here is expanding – again.

By MELODY JAMESON

RUSKIN – Driven by a student population predicted for 2020 but arriving today, the Hillsborough Community College SouthShore campus here is expanding – again.

The $600,000 project now underway will add space for various student services in several areas of the facility not yet four years old, according to Dr. Allen Witt, college president. The new features are of both functional and decorative natures, increasing convenience as well as eye appeal, he added.

The HCC satellite, which opened as an educational “center” in the multi-site, county-wide college network in 2008 and attracted 1,652 students its first year, welcomed 5,909 registrants for the 2010-2011 academic year, Witt noted. Plus, HCC SouthShore also now is ranked as a full-fledged campus.

As part of the exterior revamping, a striking bronze sculpture of the school mascot purchased by student government – a broad-winged hawk preparing to settle to earth from flight - will find a permanent home on the campus located in the northeast corner of East Shell Point Road and 24th Street. The plan is to mount the raptor with a four-foot wing span on a large boulder near the campus flag pole, Witt said.

Among the most notable construction aspects of the current expansion is a large permanent gazebo for student use, tucked between the two long classroom wings that comprise the college’s primary building and sited conveniently adjacent to the well-stocked, well-used snack shop. It’s designed to give students a place to lounge or to study in a comfortable, shaded but open environment.

Another new structure is the enclosed student center near the gazebo where classmates youthful and mature, starting careers or changing them, aiming for degrees or for vocational certifications, can gather year around to eat, talk, study or use electronic equipment.

At the opposite end of the covered, ground-level student quad that stretches between and parallel with the two classroom wings, another visual feature is planned - a large re-circulating water fountain to ensure a steady, restful gurgling stream. It, too, is a gift to the school from the student government, Witt said.

More functional but equally important, the expansion plan calls for internal structural renovations that will create both a book store and a more student friendly financial aid office. A real, working book store was overlooked in the original building design, Witt noted, adding that the earliest students purchased books for their classes from a collection that was brought to the college each morning and packed up for transport away from it at the end of each day. The new book store will house and display all of the tomes needed for each class on the academic subject roster, he said.

Similarly, the new financial aid office being carved out of the first-floor student services section will provide space for student use in completing forms as well as for consultation with a financial aid counselor.

The two-year school, built on land donated by the Dickman family whose antecedents originally settled Ruskin and contributed to the community’s first college built early in the 20th century, already has undergone what Witt described as a “phenomenal period of growth.”

Its classroom space was exhausted last year, requiring addition of 10 portables to the campus on the building’s south side and even more classroom space is being arranged, Witt said. During evening hours, some HCC classes are being conducted in classroom facilities within Earl Lennard High School immediately to the west, he added, and renting space for appropriate classes in the South County’s new Firehouse Cultural Center is being discussed.

The HCC campus budget now tops $4.5 million and a second college building on the campus probably is in its not-too-distant future, the president noted. “We have a long way to go,” he summed up, “before we satisfy the need.”

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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