LIVE OAK, Fla. — North Florida College President Jon Grosskopf tried to avoid the obvious.
But with an estimated 220 people from Suwannee County and the surrounding communities attending the grand opening of the college’s new Live Oak location in the old Union Passenger Depot, it just fit too well.
“All aboard,” Grosskopf mentioned as one of the corny metaphors that he could make during his brief address following the ribbon cutting for the new learning station Thursday evening. “It fits.”
The community was certainly all on board with the possibilities that the learning station could bring to Live Oak and Suwannee County.
According to NFC officials, during the first week that the Live Oak location was open (July 8-11), seven students enrolled in classes. Nine more were scheduled to take a test that is a precursor to enrolling this week.
“The level of support, interest and turnout to the Live Oak location so far has been outstanding,” said Kim Scarboro, the director of advancement for the college, adding that there has been a buzz about the new location on NFC’s various social media pages.
Frank Davis, the mayor of Live Oak, was also abuzz about the community’s support of the college.
“We are (very excited about the new location),” said Davis, a North Florida Junior College alum. “It was, I think, an overwhelming response. Just very, very positive. They should be very happy with the response Live Oak and Suwannee County gave them.”
But Grosskopf said it fit in more ways than just that.
“What railroads did was they brought opportunity to people no matter where they were during the development of our nation,” he said. “That’s exactly what North Florida College does. No matter where you are, we help you figure out where you want to be and get you there. So the metaphor is apt even though it’s corny.”
That aspect of NFC and what it can bring to Live Oak and Suwannee County had Jimmy Norris on board from the moment he heard of the interest in bringing a location here. Norris, the county’s economic development director and the Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce’s executive director previously, helped bring the learning station into reality.
Norris said that location can help eliminate some of the issues the county faces as it tries to lure new development: a trained workforce.
“It’s a huge deal,” Norris said, adding NFC can help provide additional training besides a two-year or four-year degree and will fit in perfectly alongside RIVEROAK Technical College in doing that.
“As we all know workforce is the No. 1 challenge that we face and when businesses are looking to come to Suwannee County they want to know that either we have the workforce or we can get them trained up.”
According to Grosskopf, that is exactly what NFC wants to do: serve the needs of Suwannee County.
That means, for now, enrollment, financial aid and academic advising assistance available every day at the Live Oak location, which is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and 1-5 p.m. on Fridays. Additional advisors and enrollment specialists will be on location every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The college is also waiving the $20 admission application fee for anyone that completes an application at the Live Oak location.
NFC courses offered in Live Oak this fall include College Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Freshman English I and a free Strategies in Student Success class.
It has also meant expanding the NFC family, one that was enthusiastic about joining.
“It was so refreshing to see the city officials out there, the county officials out there, Chamber (officials) were there…there was a great turnout from all the different entities,” Norris said. “And they were all there to support North Florida College
“That’s what it is going to take for us to become a successful community is all of us coming out and supporting each other.”
Added Grosskopf: “We consider North Florida College a family environment and all of a sudden we have all these uncles and aunts and cousins who have joined our family and really made us feel welcome.
“Thank you for becoming part of our family and letting us become part of yours.”