IS BROOKLYN Park destined to become the educational hub of Anne Arundel County?
First a new middle school opened. Next came the Chesapeake Arts Center and its offerings in art, drama, technical theater and just about everything else involving the arts.
Then North County Recreation Center began holding classes in crafts and physical fitness. Last but not least, North County Senior Center has offered classes on subjects ranging from computer science to organic gardening.
Anne Arundel Community College is the latest educational institution to cross over the Beltway. This fall, the college will offer credit and noncredit classes at Brooklyn Park Middle School, 190 Hammonds Lane.
Community college spokeswoman Debbie McDaniel-Shaughney said the school is coming to Brooklyn Park because residents want it there.
"The need was expressed -- not only by the business chamber but also by the people who take classes at our main campus and at our other sites. People have told us how nice it would be to be able to take classes after work without making that long drive to Arnold. We went out to the community and asked the residents what sort of classes they wanted. In the future it may be possible to complete an entire course of study at Brooklyn Park," she said.
Brooklyn Park Middle left quite an impression on college officials, she said.
"We were very impressed with the school. The cooking area is just beautiful. It's phenomenal. I wasn't familiar with Brooklyn Park, but I drove through the area and it's beautiful," she said.
The movement to offer classes in locations where the public wants them is a trend in higher education that AACC is embracing. The college has also opened a site in South County.
"It is a trend to go where the students are. But also, enrollment is increasing. We're bursting at the seams. The final numbers aren't in yet, but it looks like we are going to have another banner year," said McDaniel-Shaughney.
The college serves students of all ages.
"It's a mix, really. Lifelong learners are working adults who want to learn new skills or update their existing skills. Maybe they want to try to start a new career or just want to be prepared in case the economy suffers and they need to learn something new," said McDaniel-Shaughney.
"The traditional college-age students are coming because we are so affordable," she added. "We have smaller classes, and they know that they can have the same or better-quality education than they can get at a four-year school."
The National Alliance of Businesses named Anne Arundel its Community College of the Year last year.
"The decision was made because of our programs. We do so much with the employers in the area. They chose us over all the other community colleges in the country," she said.
AACC will hold an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 at Brooklyn Park Middle School. Representative from the admissions and financial aid offices, and members of the faculty will be on hand to answer questions about courses and programs.
Prospective students are encouraged to stop by and acquaint themselves with the facilities and course offerings.