When Tremel Bynum arrived at Clinton Junior College last month to begin his final semester, he was pleasantly surprised.
He found his residence hall remade anew with brightly colored floor tiles, freshly painted walls and a revamped study area lined with comfortable furniture and computer stations.
"It looks way better," said Bynum, 21, who's studying business administration and plans to transfer to Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.
Over the summer, Clinton spent just more than $400,000 renovating its residence halls, one each for men and women. The school rewired the buildings, replaced lighting, installed a new alarm system with security cameras and remodeled rooms. The women's dorm got a new roof.
The money came mostly from grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy; $25,000 was donated by the Chester-based Lutz Foundation.
"We were elated, given the economy," Clinton President Elaine Copeland said.
The renovations are the latest in a slow but steady renewal of the 117-year old historically black college off Crawford Road in Rock Hill.
In recent years, the two-year liberal arts school has built a new library, renovated its book store and student affairs building.
Copeland said she hopes to soon raise enough money to renovate a science lab and the residence hall restrooms. The men's dorm also needs a new roof, she said.
She is excited about the revamped residence halls, both of which are more than 35 years old.
"We were really concerned with the safety and surroundings," she said.
Students are happy too.
"The rooms look more alive," said Samantha Dunham, an 18-year-old liberal arts major from Rock Hill who plans to study law. "It looks nice in there."
Bynum recalled life before the renovations.
"I would turn my TV on and when I'd plug in my fridge, the power would go out," he said.
That doesn't happen anymore. Because Bynum, the student body president, is an honors student, he gets a larger, private room.
Bynum, who came to the school from Charlotte, credits the faculty for propelling him to succeed. He wants to give back.
"Before I came to Clinton, I was working straight out of high school," said Bynum, who originally put off college because he couldn't afford it.
"When I got here I just felt welcomed. It's like a family. Everybody bonds here. If I do get rich, I really want to donate to this school."
Clinton Junior College will begin its 117th year with a convocation ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. today on campus, 1029 Crawford Road.
The school's choir will perform and former state House representative Bessie Moody Lawrence is the guest speaker.