What started out four years ago as this odd new school model – high schoolers on the community college campus, taking a mix of high school and college classes and graduating in five years instead of four – has now come to full fruition.
Students have been housed in available classroom spaces on the Piedmont Community College campus for the first three years of the program. But this year Person Early College of Innovation and Leadership – PECIL for short – has its own facility on the campus.
A large triple-wide mobile unit sits across the driveway from the existing college buildings. Students still take a mixture of high school and college courses and so they are regularly crossing the driveway heading for one campus or the other depending on which class they’re headed to.
The new facility includes administrative offices for the school and classrooms for the high school level classes students will take.
On Thursday, the school system and the business community turned out to celebrate the opening of the new facility, which was put to use at the beginning of the school year.
Mayor Merilyn Newell said Thursday’s celebration was about more than just a new building. “We’re here to celebrate this new facility, but we also want to celebrate the potential of these students,” Newell said to the approximately 200 students gathered together to join in the celebration.
Person County commissioner Ray Jeffers encouraged PECIL students to take what they learn at PECIL and after the further their education beyond high school, come back to Person County. “Continue to invest in your education the way you already have. And when you go away to college, come back and reinvest in your community the way we’ve invested in you,” Jeffers said.
Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce Past President Hunt Fitzgerald also addressed the students directly.
“You’re really fortunate to have this opportunity,” Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t have anything like this when I came along.”
PCC president Pamela Senegal said PECIL was one of the first things she learned about when she took the job at PCC. She said the college is excited about its partnership with the school system to establish a permanent home for PECIL, but she hinted at more things to come for students.
“There are a lot of things happening. I can’t tell you about them right now, but let’s just say it involves scholarship money,” Senegal said.
PECIL principal Shirlrona Johnson is probably happier than anyone to have a permanent home for her school. “We are really happy to be in our own space,” Johnson said. “We do a lot of collaborative learning. We want classes to be student-centered. Movement is required. This allows for a lot more of that collaborative learning.”
Johnson said the students have also expressed pride in having a building to call their own. “When we were moving in over the summer, a lot of our students volunteered their time to help move things in. They did a lot of work,” Johnson said.