In a speech at this month’s 119th Founders Day Celebration at Rock Hill’s Clinton Junior College, Bishop Joseph Johnson predicted that the school would be a four-year institution by 2014. That goal certainly doesn’t appear as difficult to achieve as it once did.
Johnson, a retired bishop of the AME Zion church, is former chairman of the board of trustees for the college. His speech also noted that Clinton serves as an example of overcoming the odds to reach success.
We suspect few would argue with that assessment. Clinton has survived some difficult challenges through the years.
The Great Depression and, more recently, the recession have presented financial challenges. At other times, the school suffered from lack of accreditation and federal funds.
Even the support of the AME Zion Church, which founded Clinton Junior College and continues to provide crucial financial and spiritual support, has wavered at times. It has even considered closing the school.
But this traditionally African-American school off Crawford Road has persevered. And, in many respects, it appears to be growing and thriving.
Much of that can be attributed to Elaine Copeland, who became the school’s president in 2002. She has overseen renovations to nearly every inch of the campus, including dorm rooms, the library, science labs and classrooms.
In 2011, Clinton opened the Millennium Cafe, an adjunct to the dining hall where students can choose from a varied menu at an array of food stations.
With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Clinton has hired teachers in physics and environmental science. That helped facilitate a research project to study ways to clean up water pollution.
Clinton now offers programs in liberal arts, business, religion, early childhood and science. And, beginning next fall, the school will offer a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion.
Those courses represent a significant step in moving Clinton closer to becoming a four-year institution.
Even now, though, the school provides an affordable alternative for students who do not have the means to attend one of the state’s four-year universities. And Clinton, with an enrollment of about 160 students, offers the educational foundation to continue their studies at other AME Zion-affiliated four-year schools, such as Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.
Copeland has a long-term goal of raising enough money to build an academic, athletic and wellness center, which she views as critical to Clinton’s mission. It’s one more way to expand opportunities for those who might not otherwise have a way to get a higher education.
Clinton Junior College has survived through often difficult times for 119 years, and we suspect that with the support of the church and the community it will continue to surmount new challenges in the years ahead.