Although classes started back in January, Central Carolina Technical College’s (CCTC) new Kershaw County campus celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 8. Around 150 people, including many VIPs, crowded into a portion of new space devoted to the Kershaw County Economic Development Office for some welcoming and inspirational words.
That ceremony ended with the surprise announcement, complete with a certificate noting it, that the late Fred R. Sheheen’s name would somehow be incorporated into CCTC at Kershaw County in the near future.
Many of the same people who were inside the building also participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony a short time later and then took a tour of the facility.
Near the beginning of the program, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen said it was his opponent in his race for his uncle’s State House seat 18 years ago, James D’Alessio, who came up with then vision for Camden and Kershaw County to be home to a college campus.
“Now, I can’t say that I have a lot of great ideas, but I know good ideas when I hear them and, James, that was the first time I’d hear that idea and I thank you for making something happen through your efforts,” Sheheen said.
He then went on to thank the late Max Ford, former Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise and current Chairman Julian Burns for embracing the idea along with the mayors of Camden, Elgin and Bethune, as well as Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce.
“But it doesn’t just take a vision to make something like this happen, it takes collaboration and, boy, do we have collaboration in this county,” Sheheen said, pointing out the school district’s efforts in having a referendum passed that is allowing it to build the companion Applied Technology Education Campus next door.
At the same time, Sheheen said previous collaborative efforts have failed because they lacked one key ingredient: hard work.
“We have hard work in this,” he said. “Let me tell you, when I look at Central Carolina and the leadership that Tim Hardee … this man worked tirelessly to make this campus a reality. Our county administrator, Vic Carpenter worked tirelessly to make this happen. Our county council chairman, the other members of county council, who worked so hard with vision and collaboratively to make these things happen…. Michael Mikota who came in and said, ‘I’m ready to finish the job,’ thank you. It’s been unbelievable.”
Sheheen also thanked fellow legislative delegation members State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk, of Kershaw County, and State Sen. Tom McElveen, of Sumter County.
“That hard work meant that your legislative delegation brought $8 million to Kershaw County to help build this facility,” he said.
Sheheen closed his remarks by saying, “We have chartered the future in Kershaw County … because we know that those who shape the future are the future.”
Funderburk said that for as long as she can remember, Kershaw County residents have lamented the fact that their children often have to leave home to follow their dreams.
“Today, we are changing that narrative,” she said. “The opportunities that are going to open up for the youth of Kershaw County have just taken a quantum leap. Job opportunities depend on training opportunities, and with the opening of this spectacular expansion … the training will be here so that the jobs will be here.”
Funderburk said the opening of the new CCTC campus is “what courage and faith and action … and teamwork” look like.
“Those gathered here today … said ‘yes’ to this vision so that the people entering the workforce can say ‘yes’ to their future -- to reach for and be their highest God-given potential,” she said, by studying Ralph Waldo Emerson and mechatronics.
Funderburk concluded her remarks by declaring, “Welcome to your future, Kershaw County.”
McElveen, now the father to a 2-week-old newborn, spoke briefly, saying it makes him, Funderburk and Sheheen “feel good to know that we’re going to have students who are educated and ready and have the skills to fill those jobs.”
Burns started off his talk by saying that Wise, his predecessor as chairman, would say “We did it.” (For Burns’ full statement, see his letter to the editor on page 3.)
Mikota compared the collaborative effort to the “A-Team” of 1980s television fame, quoting the lead character, John “Hannibal” Smith’s oft-spoken line, “I love it when a plan comes together” and recognized the CCTC faculty and staff, calling them the “K-Team.”
“We are the future of higher education, not just in South Carolina (and) not just in the United States, but globally. Look at the companies that are represented in our four-county area -- Kershaw, Lee, Sumter and Clarendon counties … about 80 square miles larger than Delaware,” Mikota said. “We are on a global playing field and it’s important to talk about the successes we’ve had.”
He listed the Central Scholars program, of which Kershaw County is the leader; meeting demand by having about 92 percent of CCTC’s students find jobs in their field within the first six months after graduation; and things to come -- mechatronics, nursing and other future programs.
Mikota also connected the historical aspect of opening the new campus and the history of Kershaw County in terms of Camden being the oldest inland city of South Carolina, and that the campus is located on land that was once part of Mulberry Plantation.
Quoting President Thomas Jefferson, Mikota said the collaboration is “setting up happiness and a legacy,” with the “pursuit of happiness” linked to being able to “work in a job you love.”
On the legacy side, Mikota recalled visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and passing by the College of William & Mary’s Wren Hall, which opened in the 1690s and is the oldest academic building in continuous use.
“Think about what that legacy will be, think about what those generations will have 325 years from now in this facility,” he said.
Mikota then said that part of that legacy will be represented by incorporating the name of a man committed to education in Kershaw County, Fred R. Sheheen, into the name of the facility. He said a dedication ceremony will be held at a later date unveiling the official name and the plaques doing so. The Sheheen family gathered for pictures with CCTC Area Commissioners Paul Napper and Terry Hancock, who then all joined in for the official ribbon cutting outside a few moments later.