By Seth Daniel
For 100 years, Cambridge College built an amazing foundation of educating adults – many of them being adults who were balancing work and family life with their continuing education – on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and now they are embarking on the next chapter of their history in a consolidated, modern location in Charlestown’s Hood Park campus.
Cambridge College had been looking for a new location for some time, noting that their property could be monetized and they could move into a consolidated location with modern amenities and parking.
After looking at numerous sites as far away as Quincy, they settled on the Hood Park campus in Charlestown and found a new home that is right in the sweet spot of where their students live and work – that being in places like Charlestown, Winthrop, Chelsea, Everett, East Boston and Revere.
On Thursday morning, Oct. 19, Cambridge College gathered scores of dignitaries, staff, board members and supporters at its campus for a grand opening celebration.
“After many, many great years in Cambridge, this is a large moment for us,” said President Deborah Jackson before cutting the ceremonial ribbon. “It’s been an amazing story up to now and will be for the next century here in Charlestown.”
Jackson said the school talked with the owners of Hood Park about four years ago when they first began to investigate moving out of Cambridge. She said they looked at many, many different locations, but just always circled back to the Hood Park campus.
“This isn’t so much about where we left – we love Cambridge – but really about where we are now,” said Jackson. “Our students are from the Greater Boston area and all the cities and towns surrounding Charlestown. They come from work downtown and from the hospitals in the area…We found out along the way this was an important area for the Mayor of Boston and the City of Boston…We really feel like we’ve gotten in on the ground floor of what will be the embodiment of a new community. It’s a wonderful community already and it will only get better.”
Mayor Martin Walsh attended the Grand Opening and welcomed Cambridge College to the City of Boston – saying it is a valuable institution to help adults achieve their educational goals.
“People come here from every neighborhood in Boston and beyond,” he said. “A lot of them, college wasn’t in the cards for them at age 18, and wasn’t in the cards for them at age 32, but they had big dreams. I wasn’t ready for college. I went back late in life. It was in my early 30s. It took me a long time.”
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said Cambridge College represents an opportunity for those who didn’t have the ability to go to college when they were younger, and it opens doors for students of all ages.
“Education is the great equalizer, but family is the great stabilizer,” she said. “Cambridge College supports both of these things.”
Board Chair Susan Ifill, an alum of Cambridge College, said, “We’re bringing to Charlestown a different sort of revolution.”
Ifill said a very real concern for students at the college – and even when she was a student – is the ability to have easy parking and easy access to the MBTA. Both of those things are readily available in the new Charlestown campus, where several programs that were spread amongst several different locations have been consolidated.
“After we looked everywhere, Charlestown just hit all the right marks,” she said.
About 50 percent of the students take public transportation and about 50 percent drive, Jackson said. Finding a place with parking was a real consideration, especially considering their student body mostly comes to class after a stressful day at work.
“That was a huge barrier for our students,” she said. “Many were coming from work downtown and looking for parking for 20 minutes. That was a huge impediment for our students and one of the major reasons we chose this site.”
Additionally, there are better amenities for students, such as nooks to study and booths for group projects. There are new science labs and technology labs – as well as the introduction of the One Stop Center, where students can get answers to many questions.
Most importantly, Jackson said they are very serious in their programming to train workers to fill the skills gap that is growing in the job market. She cited a Georgetown University study that found by 2020 there will be five million jobs unfilled because there aren’t workers with the skills to fill them.
“We look at what our programs do to prepare our graduates for employment in the job markets,” she said. “We do a lot of analysis of labor market trends and drive our programs towards those needs. We know where the needs are and what to gear our programs to.”
Some of the major programming they focus on are medical/health care, Information Technology, digital communications, BioTech/Pharma, and K-12 teachers.
That, she said, makes the college’s students more marketable.
She also said that they produce a very diverse group of graduates, with a great proportion of the graduates from the School of Education being from diverse backgrounds.
Jackson said there were many reasons why some said the move couldn’t happen, but more voices were behind them in making the move.
“Our new home is the foundation for the next chapter in the long Cambridge College story,” she concluded.