College of the Florida Keys President Jonathan Gueverra addresses the crowd during a celebration ceremony on Aug. 19. Stephanie Scuderi, College of the Florida Keys board chair, and state Rep. Holly Raschein are also pictured.

A new chapter for the College of the Florida Keys started on Aug. 19. 

Go back 54 years when the Florida Keys Junior College opened its campus on Stock Island, tuition was just $9 with 500 students enrolled. 

Fast-forward to today: more than 1,200 students enter programs that are integral to the Keys — nursing, culinary and hospitality, engineering technology and marine science, to name a few. Add to that a new name, a fresh logo and work to bring a new facility in Key Largo, and there’s plenty of excitement and energy running up and down the Keys.  

Stephanie Scuderi, chair of the board for College of the Florida Keys, said it best at the “Brand New Day” celebration last Monday. 

“Simply stated, we will and always will be the community college,” she said. “Today, the College of the Florida Keys celebrates a new name and reflects our growth that will be fitting as we sail ahead to many exciting initiatives on the horizon.”

For President Jonathan Gueverra, the name change was something he and others waited a while to see. Thanks to legislation spearheaded by state Rep. Holly Raschein in the Florida House, state lawmakers gave a unanimous “yes” during session this year. 

And while the name change and new logo are no doubt exciting, so, too, is the news surrounding the residence hall and athletics kicking off this fall. 

“The energy is very high, I think,” Gueverra said. “Our residence hall here on campus is completely full. We’ve got 100 beds, and we’ve got 100 students living there with people waiting to get in. There’s a project that people hope we start up pretty soon because we’re supposed to build another 200 beds. That’s something we had to get permission from the state. We just can’t go ‘we want some more dorms’ because we’re in an area of critical concern.”

As for sports, Gueverra says they’ll be starting off with swimming with the hope to bring on beach volleyball. 

“I’ve always said ‘Let’s do things for athletics that are related to the sand and the water,’” he said. “Ultimately, we might do things like crew (rowing) and those kinds of things that make us who we really are.”

On the academic side, Gueverra said the institution is launching its bachelor’s degree in nursing. In addition, the college is introducing a bachelor of applied science in hospitality as well as a bachelor of science in marine resource management and conservation.

“There’s so much going on,” Gueverra said. 

The college’s world-class marine science, diving and marine engineering programs and facilities attract students from all over the world to come, study and research. And with innovative programs like engineering technology that train students to harness energy to produce renewable energy, the College of The Florida Keys is developing students for careers to shape the Keys of tomorrow. 

In Key Largo, work is underway on a state-of-the-art Upper Keys Center that will allow the college to expand workforce training and apprenticeship programs locally. The new facility will replace the college’s increasingly limited space at Coral Shores High School, and will allow the college to double its capacity to serve more than 300 students annually. See more next week. 

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