“Back to School Week” is often the most thrilling and the hectic time for students (As a student I have experienced this first hand). The campus atmosphere is filled with excitement, expectation and the ringing of laughter. In between purchasing textbooks and memorizing course schedules students are busy reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, getting involved in campus activities and moving into their dorms. For many students in rural areas, these activities fade at the end of the day as they return home. However, there is a growing movement amongst rural community colleges to extend the college experience.
Colleges like Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) are offering dormitory housing to students. Students living on campus is common place at major colleges and universities however, is seldom seen in rural community colleges. This is changing. During a recent tour promoting “Back to School Week” Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien discovered first hand just how so.
At a recent stop in New York Mr. O’Brien attended the grand opening of the FMCC Student Housing facility dubbed “Raiders Hall”. As the Guest Speaker Mr. O’Brien’s day started early and a little haphazard as my struggle with a GPS, organizing a an impromptu staff meeting, and an equally impromptu campus tour (see note on GPS difficulties) were highlights but not the main event.
Mr. O’Brien was in town promoting “Back to School Week” against the back drop of FMCC’s newly complete dormitory. The idea of dormitories at rural community colleges is taking hold in upstate New York. Through a $11.3 million dollar Community Facilities loan, FMCC is able enhance the college experience for rural residence.
Raiders Hall is (in my opinion.) such a wonderful example of how Rural Development funds can make a huge difference in rural educational facilities. As Mr. O’Brien noted it is essential that rural areas, like Johnstown, have access to the best educational technology, training and facilities in order to gain the skills necessary to meet local economic demands as well as to compete on a national and even an international level.
I am proud to be part of endeavors like this. Helping rural communities achieve their vision, in this case, educational goals, is what makes Rural Development such a special agency.