Group sends college letters

Published 10:01 pm Friday, April 1, 2016

The Friends of Suffolk group that is advocating for a community college location downtown has sent letters to City Council members and college officials to tout the idea.

“We have the voices of people, and now we want the community leaders to weigh in,” said Ralph Nahra, a downtown real estate investor and a leader of the group. His contact information is given at the bottom of the letters.

The group believes a community college located in the core downtown would become an “economic engine” for the revitalization of downtown, according to the letter.

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Other benefits include easier access for students who do not have their own transportation, easy access by employers to workforce development programs, a center of cultural activity in addition to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, a location to facilitate adult education programs and an attraction for people to come downtown.

“Once you bring a center of learning or community college downtown, it builds up and eventually becomes a major center of learning,” Nahra said. “It does take time.”

Nahra said the ideal place to start the project would be the land the city purchased for a new library location, which has yet to be built. The land is between Lee and South streets along West Washington Street.

“It becomes part of the community,” Nahra said, adding that he would expect Suffolk enrollment in Paul D. Camp Community College to double or triple “overnight.”

City Councilman Don Goldberg, whose borough includes the location Nahra mentioned, said he received the letter and is reviewing it.

“We need to be real sensitive to what we bring downtown and what can work and what can’t work,” he said. “There’s a lot more to making downtown work than something like that. There’s a lot more involved in what we need to do.”

The letter to the Chancellor Glenn DuBois of the Virginia Community College System reads, “It is anticipated that by having a college campus downtown, the enrollment would jump into the thousands in a couple of years. The students, especially those from limited income families, would be eternally grateful for helping them on the road to higher education.”

The letter to City Council members reads, “Our students need you. Our merchants need you. Our citizens need your guidance and support in revitalizing the downtown area and moving the community supported concept forward.”