Barber-Scotia College alumni say they will never give up on their beloved school despite various issues over the last decade, including accreditation.
“It gave me my first start, and without Scotia, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Azalea Howie said.
Howie, a 1975 graduate, said she often recalls the 156-year-old college’s heyday anytime she passes by the campus. It’s been in a partial state of disrepair for years.
“It’s been heartbreaking, but you know, there is a God,” she said. “There is a God and Scotia is coming back.”
This past weekend, dozens of alums joined forces with community members for a campus day of service.
“You got so many older people that went to Barber-Scotia that’s not able to come out and help,” Dometra Mercer said. “Like, I didn’t go to Barber-Scotia, but I live in the community and I’m able to help.”
Cleanups like these are a first big step by Scotia’s new leadership to hopefully charter a new, more positive path to the school one day being viable again.
“This is not just trash, but this is history as well,” Orlando Jacobs said.
This particular cleanup focused on the student union. It’s a building almost frozen in time from when students roamed the halls.
“Everybody wants the school to return, and it’s going to take a process, and it’s going to be step by step,” Howie said.
Those at the cleanup said they’re committed to doing whatever it takes -- not just for the college, but for Concord and Cabarrus County.
“We know at the end of the day, this is something for us, and if we can, as a community, work together to fix it and to help it go along for future generations, then that is the most important thing here today -- for me, and I’m sure her as well,” Jacobs said.
A new president at the helm
Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe spoke with the college’s new president about why he took the job despite its history.
“There’s a bigger lens on historically Black colleges and universities because of the whole conversation around, ‘Are they valid? Are they necessary?’” said Christopher Rey, president. “And we can have that conversation that, ‘Yes. Yes. We absolutely are.’”
Rey said taking the helm of the institution is an opportunity to make history.
“A part of it was faith,” Rey said. “Me believing that I could actually make a difference.”
Rey talked about why he wanted the job.
“This is what people see you as, but this is what it could be, that’s why I took it on because I wasn’t afraid of the fact that they had lost their accreditation,” Rey said. “I wasn’t afraid of the fact that there was dilapidated infrastructure. I dealt with that as mayor of a city.”
One of his biggest duties will be addressing several buildings on campus in disrepair.
The city has deemed some of them uninhabitable.
He pointed out that Graves Hall, the oldest facility, will be a residence hall again.
“I don’t have any intentions on tearing it down, because it’s a huge part of the history of Barber-Scotia, so my goal is to have it gutted and have it rebuilt to be a residence hall,” Rey said.
A five-member Cabarrus County board upheld a decision to deny the school tax-exempt status for 12 of the 14 pieces of land the school owns.
It could mean a tax bill that Barber-Scotia hasn’t seen in its entire history.
The plan is to keep the entire footprint of the college and not scale back, and Rey said they are working with the county to get that done.
Rey said he’s facing the school’s challenges head-on.
“I think that there’s a lot of people that are secretly rooting for Barber-Scotia,” Rey said. “They understand the history of this institution. They understand that 156 years of what this institution did for this community, but I also think there was a weariness of the institution not having an all-the-way-thought-through plan.”
Rey said he and the leadership team he is building are in the beginning phases of a five-year strategic plan to return the college to viability, which starts with applying for accreditation next spring.
(WATCH BELOW: Concord dissolves task force formed to revitalize Barber-Scotia College)