SFCC Lake Placid Center Offers Convenience While Preserving History
Take a look at the exterior of the South Florida Community College Lake Placid Center and it’s easy to see there’s a story behind it. Built even before the Hotel Jacaranda, the SFCC Lake Placid Center is the oldest building the college owns. It offers one of the more unique histories of the area while providing a convenient location for students living in Lake Placid to take the classes they need.
The SFCC Lake Placid Center was originally called the Lake Placid School when the first building, Building 100, was constructed in the early 1920s. “It was a community public school back in a time when students in all grades went to the same school,” said Randy Paeplow, director, SFCC Lake Placid Center. “The school served grades one through 12 until the 1970s.”
Throughout the years, more buildings were added on – Building 400 in the 1940s, Building 200 and 500 in the 1950s, and Building 300 in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the Lake Placid School was converted solely to a middle school, which it remained until the mid-1980s. Then, in 1989, the SFCC Foundation, Inc. purchased the school for $1 from the Highlands County School Board.
“The Highlands County School Board donated it, but property can’t just be given away, so the SFCC Foundation, Inc. purchased the building for $1, which paid for the paperwork and transfer fee,” said Don Appelquist, dean, Resource Development, SFCC Foundation, Inc. The foundation then donated the building to the college.
SFCC’s Lake Placid Center is also a bit of a tourist attraction. Located in the Town of Murals, the center would not be complete without a mural or two of its own. With murals “Dr. Melvil Dewey,” developer of Lake Placid and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, painted in 1991 by artists Roy Hampton and Terry Smith and located on Building 100, and “Airboat,” featuring a family riding an airboat through a lake, painted in 1993 by artist and SFCC alumnus Keith Goodson on Building 500, SFCC’s Lake Placid Center is a popular stop along the Mural Society’s mural tour. “We get a number of people who will come by the campus to look at the murals,” Paeplow said. “They’ve assisted the Mural Society in bringing visitors into Lake Placid and teaching about the history of our town.”
But while visitors may appreciate the beauty and nostalgia of the campus, students who live in Lake Placid appreciate the center for its convenience. Centrally located in downtown Lake Placid, the SFCC Lake Placid Center provides all of the services students need when enrolling at SFCC. “With the price of gas close to $4 a gallon, it’s a benefit to students to have a campus in Lake Placid so they don’t have to travel,” Paeplow said. “We are a complete center where students can handle all of their financial aid, advising, registration, and testing requirements, the same services they would receive at any of the other campuses.”
“I haven’t had to travel to the Highlands Campus yet,” said first-year student Yuribia Terrone. “I’ve been able to enroll and take all of my classes here. It’s helpful to not have to worry about driving all that way.”
To provide Lake Placid students with the same instructional resources as well as bring the center up to date with the other SFCC campuses, the SFCC Lake Placid Center underwent a $1.8 million remodel in 2009 that included adding a science lab, a computer lab, and a lecture room with a Smart podium. The library has also grown. “With help from Library Services, we’ve been able to expand our collection with current resources we didn’t have access to before,” Paeplow said.
The center offers a variety of classes including academic courses for associate in arts degree-seeking students; adult education for GED, ABE, and ESOL students; and community education classes such as Zumba Toning, aerobics, and clogging as well as business workshops and computer classes. “We also work with instructors to offer prerequisite classes toward specific programs if needed, and soon we will be able to offer classes toward the bachelor’s degree program,” Paeplow said.
Exercise instructor Kathy Rouse has taught step aerobics, minigym, and most recently, Zumba Toning, for the Community Education department at the SFCC Lake Placid Center for 20 years. Her students range in age from their early 20s all the way up to their mid-80s. “Many have been taking classes with me here at the center for years,” Rouse said. Though there are other locations in Lake Placid that offer exercise classes, Rouse’s students stick with her. “I think the main reasons are the SFCC Lake Placid Center’s location,” she said. “We’re right in the center of Lake Placid, so it’s convenient. We also offer inexpensive drop-in pricing as well as a monthly fee, and we have a variety of classes students can choose from. We also have Zumba Toning, which is not available anywhere else as of yet. There’s just a wide variety of options here that might not be available elsewhere.”
“I like the environment,” said Community Education Student Paula Kincaid. “I’ve been coming back for 13 years because of the people and the variety of classes. It’s a benefit to all of us to have the center here.”
“The SFCC Lake Placid Center has been a huge asset to the college and our students,” Appelquist said. “The building would have probably become an eyesore and maybe even remained empty or torn down had the college not been given the opportunity to acquire and put it to use. It’s a piece of Lake Placid history.”