By MARK RENFREE
PATERSON, NJ – It’s Pillar time in the Silk City as the Christian college opens its newest location in the renovated Beaux-Arts building. The downtown seat of the school’s operations in Paterson marks a new era for not only the college and its students, but the building as well.
Built in 1814 as the home of one of the city’s co-founders, Peter Colt, the Beaux-Arts building also served as police headquarters from 1869 to 1979. After being bought in 2016 and renovated last year, the property is now home to Pillar College, which city officials and community leaders hope will provide a unique educational opportunity for residents.
“As you can see in this Beaux-Arts building, which was once our police station, you can see that opportunity exists and opportunity will thrive,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “When education, inspiration and opportunity meet it can only mean success for every student that comes here for support at Pillar College.”
In Paterson, Pillar offers students the BLEND and LEAD programs. BLEND (Bi-Lingual Entry Degree) is a program that allows students to take general education classes like math, biology and history in their native language while simultaneously enrolled in English as a Second Language.
“A key distinction of Pillar’s BLEND program is that unlike other college programs that require ESL competency at level four or five before any academic classes can be taken, our BLEND program allows students to take core academic instruction immediately,” said Dr. Joseph Andino, BLEND Program Chair.
The LEAD (Life-Enhancing Accelerated Degree) gives students who are working or have families the flexibility they need to complete their bachelor’s degree. The program is tailored to adult learners and offers the opportunity to earn the degree in 20 months.
Pillar is also focusing on boosting the city’s entrepreneurial enterprises with the Pillar Center for Transformative Work (PCTW), an incubator program that trains urban entrepreneurs and businesses to grow alongside their local communities.
“I’m so excited about what we can do here and how we can serve the people of Paterson,” said Pillar COO Rupert Hayles. “Our vision … is to offer significant opportunities for students in and throughout New Jersey.”
Pillar has operated in the city since 2013, holding its first classes out of Passaic County Community College. It then moved to its own space in 2016 at Hamilton Plaza. Now with Pillar having cut the ribbon on its new home (111 Washington Street), local officials and college leaders are looking to expand its impact in the area.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was the culmination of years of work and partnership between a variety of groups throughout the city. From religious and community leaders like Pastor Mike McDuffie and the Rev. Dr. Randall Lassiter to schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer and other local officials.
“Partnerships are so important … because I know what we need and I know we cannot do it alone,” said Shafer. “The people in the city of Paterson, in our district, profited so much from this program and I know that the students that we have in our school right now are going to profit even more because it’s right here.”
Shafer recalled how the district and Pillar worked together on a program to help instructional assistants and paraprofessionals in the city’s schools earn credits to become teachers.
“Now, what better way to do this than have our own in-house people, most of them living in Paterson being instructional assistants or paraprofessionals, get that degree and move up so we can hire them as teachers for our kids. That’s what Pillar college is able to do for us,” she said.
About Pillar College
Pillar College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and is a member of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), Pillar College offers Associate, Bachelor and Master Degree programs. Pillar College has locations in Newark, Somerset, Plainfield and Paterson and Jersey City, New Jersey. Pillar College educates, inspires and equips students for excellent scholarship, service and leadership. Rooted in and committed to Christian faith and love, Pillar College fosters intellectual, spiritual and social development among its diverse student population. Founded in 1908.