FKCC welcomes first students to residence hall
By Jason Koler
Dominic Crapello cannot open his bedroom window, but the first year Florida Keys Community College student couldn’t care less because the shimmering waters of the gulf offer a view unlike any other dorm in America.
“I love swimming, diving, boating and being around water,” said the south Miami native. “This is perfect.”
Crapello is one of the first inhabitant’s of FKCC’s new residence hall, Lagoon Landing and he is closer to the Florida Bay than he is to a Circle K.
He was among 80 other students moving into the building this past Saturday as staff and faculty of the college helped lug bedding, clothing, and other essentials up two and three flights of stairs.
“What didn’t I bring? Xbox, printer, dive tanks and dive equipment,” said Crapello, speaking eagerly about a future in underwater criminology. With more than five years as a certified diver, the 18 year old has already participated in missing person searches in the Everglades.
He cited the FKCC’s esteemed marine science program as his reason for enrolling in and moving to the southernmost college.
“I was looking at a couple others,” he said. “But realized this was the place I wanted to be.”
Along with other incoming students from places like Dallas, Tallahassee, Germany, Iowa, New York, and Islamorada he will have two days to become acquainted with his new environs before classes start.
Lagoon Landing is set up like “quads.” Each unit has 4 or 5 bedrooms, 2 full baths, and a common area complete with a kitchen featuring stainless appliances.
Most of the rooms have some kind of view of Florida Bay.
Easing the transition will be the RAs, or Residence Assistants, like Erin Scott and Chelsea DeMore who have been trained in fire drills and how to assist disabled students.
Sherolyn Hopkins FKCC’s Residence Advisor, says safety is priority number one, but Lagoon Landing will be “a place where students can learn and grow and live together in harmony. We are here to build a community that everyone feels included and that we live safely together.”
A Residence Hall Association will be formed to give students a voice and to develop activities that will attract other non-resident students to get more involved with campus life.
But for now, the first order of business is to hang posters and put away clothes.
20 year old Dallas, Texas native Matt Rodgers said the first item of his to go on the walls will be a Bob Marley tapestry.
His future plans include a career as a boat mechanic.
“I grew up wakeboarding, so being on the water is like second nature for me,” he said.
Amber Ernst-Leonard, FKCC’s Director of Public Relations said that of the 82 students now living in Lagoon Landing, more than half are from out of state.
“The vast majority are from outside of the county,” Leonard said. “We do have a few from Monroe County.”
Crapello’s parents, who live only a couple hundred miles away, will still experience “empty nest” syndrome.
His father said, “On the ride home there will be 118 miles of tears,” as the boy’s mother began to tear up again.
Although the 30,000 sq ft facility came with an $8.2 million price tag, students will pay about $800 a month for a room that also includes a screened in porch, waterfront views, fitness center, and the college’s swimming pool and tennis courts.
According to FKCC’s Dean of Marine Science Dr. Patrick Rice, the lagoon will be off limits and he has a ideas of how to curtail clandestine night dives – or dips.
“I want to put a sign on the lagoon that says, ‘Danger Sea Creatures: Enter at Your Own Risk,’ or ‘Shark Research: Be careful,’” he half-joked, full aware of the fact that the Florida Keys Community College just inched a bit past community, and a little closer to university.
“Its an exciting time,” said FKCC President Dr. Larry Tyree. “Studies have shown that the more students are engaged in an institution, the more likely they are to be successful. This college will never be the same as a result of the creation and opening of Lagoon Landing.”