Jacksonville Mayor Budgets For $8 Million Investment In EWC
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is proposing a more than $8 million city investment in Edward Waters College, the oldest historically black college in Florida. The money would pay for a new community athletic field and refurbished campus housing.
EWC President Nat Glover said the changes will make the students and surrounding community safer and healthier.
EWC junior Jakori Duffy had just finished microbiology class Wednesday when he heard about the proposed athletic field. He said, as a football player, he thinks it’s needed.
“We actually need something nice to play on so we can stay healthy during the season,” Duffy said.
Curry wants to put $4 million into the new field, which will be built between the college and the old James Weldon Johnson Academic and Career Training Center building EWC acquired last year from the Duval County School District.
Glover said home football games would be played on the new field, instead of at area high schools. It will also be a place for the community to exercise, he added. Edward Waters is in an area of town, called Health Zone 1, which has the greatest unmet health needs in Duval resulting in high rates of diabetes and heart disease.
“So to have access to recreational facilities that will facilitate a healthy environment,” Glover said. “There will be a track around the football field where people can come in a safe environment and walk the track.”
But Glover said he’s most excited about $4.4 million proposed for refurbishing one of the school’s all-male dormitories, plagued by air conditioning issues and mold.
Glover said 95 percent of EWC students use financial aid, but the dorm conditions negatively affect retention at the school. He said this investment will help retain students who can’t afford to drop out.
“They will end up ... taxpaying, revenue producing and serving this community,” he said. “If they drop out, then it will be just the opposite. That price tag will be 10 times as much, all the way up from unemployment to the prison system.”
Curry said EWC has stepped up and created a “beacon of light” for the community.
“(This) sends a message to other neighborhoods in all of Jacksonville, set a goal, strive towards the goal, your city and community will recognize you and step up and be with you,” Curry said.
If City Council approves the funding, Curry said construction could start within a year. The mayor is set to release his full proposed budget July 17.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride