Student Center Reno Success

Nyati Misra ’23 looks at how the renovated student center is being utilized.

Nyati Misra, Editor

“A place to connect, debate, laugh, play, meet, and relax.” That’s what dean of students Jed Wartman, an essential planner of the renovation and expansion of the French student center, sought to create. Amidst the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, Governor’s core student hub was successfully renovated prior to the 2020-2021 school year.

Though the update was long needed, many students and employees were skeptical of the plans that had been presented to the community months in advance. “I won’t say I wasn’t worried,” Danielle Kingsbury, the Wellness and Life Skills teacher told The Governor. “It’s a big ask, especially during all this.” And yet, there was no time as prudent as the present. Associate dean of students Faith Kagwa told The Governor, “[The timing] was important, being able to start the year with the outdoor pieces and even the new furniture really helps.”

In a range of months so clustered with thoughts of hybrid schooling and social distancing protocols, it was quite a spectacle to see the campus manage to evolve while everything else seemingly devolved. Various students were in awe at the renovation’s speed. When asked, one blatantly stated, “We delivered.”

 And with that delivery, the response has struck the community. Dozens of students regularly gather in the vast atrium, at any busy hour on campus, a game of pool or ping pong is being held, and flocks of students can be seen sprawled across leather couches. Though the center’s use has definitely been fulfilled, it’s “almost too much in this climate” says Kingsbury. It is still being stifled in one area: potential. “Next year this will be a clear resource, I mean, right now, everything’s paused, and I think even with this, in any other normal year, day students would get access to the bathroom and shower and other new facilities. Things would be so different,” Kingsbury continued.

Though the facade of a new, shiny space is still very much apparent, many of the pieces were chosen to outlast the novelty of the center. Kagwa described her vision for the center’s design as “sturdy and mobile” while also emphasizing the necessity to “not only withstand our numerous events, it must withstand students.” As projected in initial plans, the flexibility of the space is a top priority. As Wartman explained, “On any given evening the space could host three separate events and then be reconfigured the next evening to accommodate one large event for the entire community.” Numerous events can be held, only aided by the built-in stage. Dances and guilds, previously held in the Wilkie center, could move to a more clearly student-oriented location. It is clear that the student center’s renovations exceed the expectations of accommodating both students and their activities.

Currently, all grades can be seen both gathering and conversing. As members of The Governor have experienced student center culture pre-COVID, it was the silent norm that solely 9th graders found it their place to congregate. Asking current members of faculty in the building if all years will continue to use the space received varying answers. Some were extremely hopeful, even to the point of responding, “Of course.” Others shared the sentiment that the population in the student center is fully dependent on the inner workings: “It’s truly about the programming we put out to draw people in,” said Kingsbury. What can be assured is that the space’s longevity will be fulfilled as it overflows daily with eager students. When asked why students are attracted to the new space, Mr. Ceglarski, current history teacher, expresses, “I imagine students love it now because it’s inviting. I’m not convinced that it was inviting back then.” 

Even through the striking changes made to the Peter Marshall French student center, the old one will always hold a direct and memorable place in our hearts. Whether it be carpeting or furniture, the old center’s nostalgia remains. Kagwa states it best, “I just miss my office.” And just like her, perhaps without admittance, change has been welcomed and renewed. 

The Governor’s Academy has strangely achieved the wild and unpredicted feat of progress.