JOLIET – Joliet Central High School students Breanah Ceranek and Miryam Perez on Monday practiced the speech they plan to give later this week inside the school’s new cafeteria to commemorate the grand opening of the student center.
The cafeteria is one of several new spaces inside the student center addition to the historic Joliet Central building that students such as Ceranek and Perez will have access to as of next week.
The cafeteria will hold 600 students, about 250 more than the previous one located on the fourth floor of Central.
“It’s awesome,” Perez said of the new building.
District officials will celebrate the grand opening of the state-of-the-art student center and galleria from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. The $28 million construction project, which broke ground June 9, 2014, is down to its finishing touches this week as district officials plan for students to regularly use it starting Feb. 1.
“[Students] deserve to have facilities they can be proud of,” said Cheryl McCarthy, superintendent of Joliet Township High School District 204.
McCarthy said the center will provide students with the tools to work harder, learn more and give back to the community.
Besides a new cafeteria and kitchen, the students will have access to a bookstore, collaboration spaces, a technology help desk, presentation rooms and a student-run office for Abri Credit Union – a longtime district partner – located in the center.
Ceranek and Perez said their favorite part about the student center was the galleria space, which rises several floors and includes a clock tower.
“It’s beautiful,” Perez said.
Joe Lopez, district building and grounds director, said restoration work was done to some areas and entrances of Central, which connects to the student center.
The architecture of the center is consistent with the Central building, which is more than 100 years old and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 12, 1982.
“We really wanted to capture the historic elements of the building and bring it into the new building,” Lopez said.
He said the stone on the walls seen in the student center is not real but came close in look to the limestone on the Central building.
At the main entrance of the new cafeteria is the same quote from Diogenes that is in the Central auditorium: “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”
The cafeteria is decorated with banners representing character attributes and featuring District 204 students. Two murals inside also feature students and celebrate the academy structure of the district.
Central Principal Shad Hallihan said he was excited for the new building.
“We have such a beautiful, historic building. Just adding to it gives [students] more opportunities and spaces,” Hallihan said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Student center and galleria grand opening
WHEN: 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Joliet Central High School, 201 Jefferson St., Joliet
ETC: Parking is available in all lots, all doors will be open and JROTC students will assist visitors.
STUDENT CENTER DETAILS
• New cafeteria
• Galleria space
• Student bookstore
• Technology help desk
• Collaboration spaces