— By Hannah Dorss —
John Paul the Great Catholic University’s most recent accomplishment is the opening of a Student Center on Grand Avenue across from the school’s academic building. JPCatholic students are in a buzz over this newly built and furnished space where they will be able to study, have meetings, chat, and hang out.
Kevin Meziere, head of Technology and Real Estate for JPCatholic, says, “We really want the students to claim this space for their own.” The new Student Center was built with this goal in mind. For example, there is a chalkboard wall for students to draw and visualize on, a coffee station to encourage thought and quality conversation, a big fireplace to relax by, and a TV for community movie nights. Additionally, the second floor hosts the offices of various school departments that are dedicated to student welfare, such as Student Life, Financial Aid, Career Services, and Registration.
Previously, students only had the option of congregating in the common townhome known as “the Perch” and the student library in the academic building. The Student Center, however, supplies them with a bigger, more comfortable, and more central space. Dr. Connolly calls the Student Center “The campus living room.”
The idea of having a big, multi-use communal space for JPCatholic students was conceived around three years ago by Dr. Derry Connolly, his wife Lidy, and Kevin Meziere, who were all heavily involved in the subsequent phases of bringing the project to completion. Funding, permitting, and building each brought unique challenges along with it, but all agree that obtaining city permits was the trickiest part.
In all things, however, God’s providence was at work, says Dr. Connolly. JPCatholic built the Student Center only because of generous donations from three different foundations, the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the Dan Murphy Foundation, and Tom and Margot Kyd. At one point in the building process, JPCatholic was $150,000 short, and was hoping to not have to borrow money. Everyone prayed for God’s help and JPCatholic went forward with the building. Before long, their prayers were answered in a donation that met the funding needs to the very dollar. Dr. Connolly and Lidy explain that the whole process of building the Student Center was similarly led by grace.
The new Student Center is truly a nest of sorts for the students, a place they can call their own, build community spirit, and spend quality time with each other. While this particular project is complete now, more plans are in the works, including student dorms, a chapel, and an auditorium. “We’re just sitting waiting for God’s next miracle,” concludes Dr. Connolly.