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Rebecca Rider column: The times are a changin’

In 2011 I took a semester off from college and spent three months living in Denver and two months overseas in South Africa and Mozambique. When I came back home, I noticed the differences: we had a new stove, a new dishwasher, some new paint. When I expressed surprise, my parents asked if I’d expected things to stay the same, just because I wasn’t around. I hadn’t, but that didn’t make the changes any less startling.

I feel the same way now, covering education in the same county in which I received my own. Last week, I toured the new buildings at RCCC’s north campus. They’re beautiful spaces, but I felt almost displaced walking through them.

The 600 building saw the most renovations – it’s also the building where I had most of my classes while I was a student. The new classrooms are beautiful and bright, and an indoor atrium provides spaces for students to meet, study and pass the time.

It’s exactly what I would have wanted as a student. How often did I think my classrooms were dim, uninviting and out of date? How often did I do my homework in the cafeteria or the old chairs in the library and wish there was somewhere more comfortable?

As is the law of wishes, there’s always a catch. The reminder that the world moves on, with or without you.

The room where I had my very first college course is no longer there. It was a sociology class. I won’t pretend that I remember much about the class content, and I did not pursue a career in sociology – but it was my first, true, college course. And for the first time in my school career, I got to sleep in. Gone, too, is the classroom in the far back corner where I met a now close friend.

It’s not a new feeling. I can’t walk the halls of my high school, because the school is no longer there – it moved buildings a year or so after I graduated. The building itself is still there, but I wouldn’t be allowed in. And it, too, has been renovated.

In the next few years, I may see other changes. The consolidation debate is burning hot and bright, and it’s possible my elementary school may be up for the cut. No schools have been named, and none will be for a long time yet. But I think about the possibility of it.

The fields where I played softball, gone. The mums I planted, the back garden that my brother built for his Eagle Scout project, the handprint and glass marble stepping stones my class made that still, last I saw, sat out front – gone.

It’s a disorienting thought, to say the least. Even if it’s not picked for consolidation, it’s inevitable that, one day, my school will stand empty. Right now, the façade of my high school building is the same one I remember, the floors of RCCC’s 600 building still have the cracks I remember – but things are changing.

I didn’t expect the world to pause, exactly as I remembered it; but I don’t think I ever envisioned holding up a magnifying glass to every alteration, either. And I’m still unsure whether I think being around to see all these things is a privilege, or whether I look forward to the future of them.

But one thing’s for sure: it’s definitely going to be interesting.

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