BY CLYDE HUGHES, AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – Jermaine Harvey grew up in Atlantic City and his family has attended Stockton University in nearby Galloway for years, so the senior knew he could not pass up the opportunity to take part in the institution’s new campus along the city’s famed Boardwalk.
Harvey, a senior, and more than 1,500 other students will be on hand for the first day of classes at Stockton’s new Atlantic City campus after Labor Day. In a tour of the campus by the news media this week, Harvey and other students could hardly contain their excitement, particular in their dorm rooms with beach views that homeowners pay millions for.
“For me, it was real shock (learning about the new campus) because I’m from Atlantic City,” Harvey said. “My family has been going to Stockton for generations. Seeing my hometown connect with a school I always knew I would end up at … I was very excited to be part of this.
“I went from a person who was barely involved on campus to working with residents’ life and getting a job there in hopes to becoming an (resident assistant). I’m standing here because I saw the possibility of this being in my hometown,” he added.
Brian Jackson, the chief operating officer of the Atlantic City campus, and Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said that the campus is the university’s commitment to be part of the community in a larger way. They said that while Stockton is not the lone answer to some of the problems the city face, they see it as part of the solution.
“We see Atlantic City as an incredible asset because we can offer the best of both worlds for our students,” Jackson said. “They can have the incredible setting of an international park on a Galloway campus with lakes, trees and all of that. Other students may want something a little different.
“It’s an urban setting that also happens to be on the Boardwalk, so it gives our students a variety of settings. We see this as a way to recruit more students who feel more comfortable in an urban setting. We also see having a presence in Atlantic City for the citizens here as to possibly be a beacon of opportunity that higher education is accessible,” he added.
Stockton’s presence is something that also excited Kaleem Shabazz, president the Atlantic City NAACP and Ward 3 city councilman. He said that university represents hope in the city that has a minority population of roughly 54 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census figures.
According to College Data.com, Stockton’s student population is 12.2 percent Hispanic and 7.1 percent African-American.
“That’s what we need and that’s what the NAACP wants to be partners in,” Shabazz told Front Runner New Jersey this week. “We have to engage Stockton. We can’t assume that it’s going to happen. If Stockton wants it to happen then we on the community-side have to have opportunities to engage.
“Our youngsters need to have those experiences. I know it sounds funny, but a lot of those youngsters have never been outside of Atlantic City. Galloway is just 12 miles away, but for many of them, it might as well be 1,200 miles away. If they don’t have transportation, the reality of going to campus there is not real. That reality, though, will change this fall,” he added.
For Dionia Henderson, a Stockton graduate student from Burlington, she saw the Atlantic City campus as a great opportunity after spending four years in the university’s suburban setting in Galloway.
“I have been a Stockton student since I was a freshman, on the Galloway campus” Henderson said. “When they told us they were building (a campus) in Atlantic City, I thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to see what it would be like away from the main campus. When I came here I was so pleased and ecstatic by what it looked like with all the new furniture. I never got so excited about a new couch in all of my life.”
Laura Eguia, another graduate student who will be attending the campus, said while the beach-side views are attractive, what she sees in the new campus are opportunities.
“We have a lot of opportunities to collaborate with community partners, the restaurants and local businesses,” Eguia said. “It’s given us so many chances to show students new things and get them acclimated into a new environment than a suburban forest area. It being a beach city, there’s so much going on and we’re so excited.”
Aly Smialowicz, another graduate student, added that despite some worries about students being so close to the gaming community, she saw the location as an advantage.
“I think it’s an advantage because we have a lot of hospitality and tourism students,” Smialowicz said. “You step outside of this building and you’re in your classroom. They have a chance of learning and working at the same time. It’s an opportunity for internships, jobs and future jobs after college.”
Stockton’s Atlantic City dorms that sit off the Boardwalk has more than 500 beds and four family housing units. The $178.3 million campus sits at the location of the old Atlantic City High School that had been long torn down and sat empty for years. Across the street will be the campus’s main academic building, which houses the Fannie Lou Hamer Events Room.
The room is named after the iconic civil rights leader in recognition of her 1964 speech at the National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City and founded the Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented there. Jackson the room will be formally dedicated in Hamer’s honor in the fall.
When Stockton University Atlantic City opens in less than a week, it will mark a new dawn for the university, Atlantic City and the city’s residents.
Feature Photo: Aly Smialowicz, Dionia Henderson, Laura Eguia and Jermaine Harvey talk with the media during tour. Photo by Meredith Winner, CEO Mer-Made Photography.
Second Photo: Kaleem Shabazz, courtesy of City of Atlantic City.
Video: Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography.