FAIRMONT — Palatine Park is open again and Pierpont Community & Technical College is taking full advantage of it.

Saturday, Pierpont administrators and faculty were in the park giving away food, drinks, T-shirts and, most importantly, scholarships every hour.

“We’re celebrating a return to some normalcy and celebrating community, which is a large part of who we are,” said Michael Waide, provost and vice-president of academic affairs at Pierpont.

The college had cornhole set up and the Palatine stage was surrounded by listeners as the band Big Eyed Phish filled the park with music.

“We want to make sure our students feel socially-connected to really support their academic side,” Waide said. “But today’s success is all in part of our student affairs team. That group understands that being a part of the community fosters that learning for our students.”

One of the attractions for the students was that every hour, Pierpont gave away four, $500 scholarships. Two to current students and two to future students.

“It’s so exciting, this is one of the first events we’ve been able to attend as a school, so it’s exciting to get back to normal,” said Lyla Grandstaff, vice president of student services and enrollment. “It’s so great to reach out to the community and to be a part of Fairmont again.”

The faculty were not alone in their excitement. Abigail Stillwell, who is majoring in Veterinary Technology, was one of the current students who won a scholarship. She said she’s happy to see the park alive again.

“It feels amazing to be around people again,” Stillwell said. “I just love seeing people’s faces again. It’s so nice to be out.”

The concert was a nice addition, but the $500 scholarship was a great surprise for Stillwell.

“I’m glad I was drawn to win the scholarship,” Stillwell said. “This will definitely be going toward books.”

Coming out of the pandemic, as social distancing and masks fade, all in attendance were happy to be together and see each other’s faces, including Pierpont’s President Anthony Hancock.

“We’re coming out of a pandemic, coming out of a separation, our morale is pretty good at the institution and I just wanted all of us to take a pause, get together in fellowship, and get together and relax,” Hancock said.

Hancock, who is entering his sixth month as president at Pierpont, said that since his tenure thus far has been consumed by COVID-19 regulations, the trip to the park was a welcomed change of pace.

“For me, today is one of those days where we kick back, don’t talk about work and just have a good time,” Hancock said. “It’s fellowship with each other and it’s important for the soul and spirit of our institution.”

Pierpont is also planning an open-house at the Advanced Technology Center on June 9 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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