Fifteen years after opening the original Luray-Page Center in the former Wrangler annex building on Hawksbill Street, Laurel Ridge celebrated the grand opening of its new permanent site in Luray on Friday, Sept. 10.
The Russell A. and Rodney A. Jenkins Hall opened in January, but the class schedule was limited due to the pandemic. The opening was formally marked with tours and speeches by President Kim Blosser, Virginia’s Community Colleges Chancellor Glenn DuBois, Virginia Secretary of Labor Megan Healy and 2018 graduate Brianna Sine.
The 13,000-square-foot facility features classrooms, science and health labs, a trades lab, a boardroom and student commons areas. The Jenkins family donated land the facility sits on behind Wal-Mart – as well as site work and a monetary gift. The Laurel Ridge Educational foundation and fundraising campaign committee secured generous donations from individuals, the town of Luray, Page County, businesses and organizations, as well as state and grant funding, to help complete the center.
“Community is in our name for a reason, and our commitment to our students and our communities is stronger than ever,” Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser said at the ceremony. “Jenkins Hall is a true example of the value of community – since it was built by this community – and it will serve not only as a place for our students to learn, but also as a catalyst for economic development and a place where individuals have hope and opportunity. For the first time in Page County, we have science and trades labs, and we can offer new health professions and workforce-training programs.”
The college is now a satellite site for a physical therapy assistant degree program in partnership with Germanna Community College and Page Memorial Hospital. Workforce Solutions is offering phlebotomy, medical office assistant, HVAC and heavy equipment operator classes.
“With its modern, state-of-the art labs, the center represents a huge step forward from the former Wrangler building,” Chancellor DuBois said. “Virginia’s community colleges were created some 55 years ago to do what no one else would – offer affordable access to higher education and workforce training. The powerful and dynamic ways Virginia has grown and changed since then have only confirmed the wisdom of those who created us, and it affirms the need for our colleges to grow and change in dynamic ways, too.”
The chancellor offered the five-year-old FastForward program and the brand-new G3 program as two examples of innovation at the community college level. FastForward programs quickly – and economically – put graduates into 40 high-demand fields, and represent the Virginia Community College System’s fastest-growing enrollment segment.
“FastForward graduates see an increase in their take-home pay ranging anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent,” Chancellor DuBois said. “And this year we’re seeing an increase of more than 40 percent in FastForward enrollment. That’s also true for G3-eligible programs. G3 is a last-dollar scholarship that can make enrollment free for students taking select high-demand programs on our academic credit side.”
Both FastForward and G3 programs are offered at Jenkins Hall.
2018 graduate Brianna Sine, now an officer with Luray Police Department, said Jenkins Hall will serve as an “asset to both the students and the community.”
“Community colleges are one of the few institutions and public spaces where individuals possessing divergent values, attitudes, and beliefs gather and discuss, debate, learn, and share a personal challenge,” said Sine, who, earned her associate degree a month before her graduation from Luray High School through the dual-enrollment program. “It is where people of varying ages, life experiences, ideologies, races and ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds convene and discuss ideas and concepts.
“Laurel Ridge has opened so many doors in my life. Thanks in combination to the affordable course offerings at Laurel Ridge and the foundation to success it can provide, I am able to stand here today with no student loan debt and future plans to continue my educational journey.”