Patience Nentwich, a 19-year-old with a big personality, already knows how to rebuild a Ford pickup truck motor but she came to Texas State Technical College in Waco to learn how to work on diesel engines.
Joshua Lumbreras, 21, is from a hard-working family in the West Texas town of Lamesa and he wants to sharpen his skills at TSTC for a career in welding.
While both students are happy to be at TSTC, they are even happier to be among the first residents of TSTC’s new Griffith Hall, the first new student housing facility built on campus in at least 25 years. It opened this week.
“It is beautiful,” Lumbreras said of the three-floor, 246-bed dorm. “It’s better than my house back home, for sure.”
While Lumbreras was in his room Thursday afternoon putting away a few things, Nentwich, from Wibaux, Montana, was the life of the party in the new dorm’s spacious lobby, playing foosball, pool and joking with the new friends she has met in the past few days.
“I love it here” she said. “This place is absolutely fantastic, much better than where I had been living before. I have made a lot of new friends here and everyone is so cool. I like to hang out with them. They have become like my best friends since I met them and that was like yesterday.”
The new 98,000-square-foot dorm, built on land once occupied by two War War II-era barracks for the former James Connally Air Force Base, cost about $20 million and was funded by the TSTC Foundation, TSTC housing director Jeremiah Bland said. Griffith Hall was named for Thomas Griffith, lead engineer and project manager for the historic Waco Suspension Bridge that spans the Brazos River in downtown Waco.
As of Thursday, 210 students were living in the new facility, which features microwaves and small refrigerators in each room and a laundry room. A variety of floor plans include one-bedroom, one-bath units; two-bedroom, two-bath units; and two-bedroom, one-bath units.
The first students started moving in Saturday morning, but Bland said he was not so sure when he left Friday evening that would happen. As of last Wednesday and Thursday, there was still a lot of work to be done before students could live there, Bland said.
“The contractor made a herculean effort, for sure,” Bland said. “As of Wednesday and Thursday of last week, we were still in heavy construction. They worked around the clock and by Saturday morning, we were ready to go. It’s been a whirlwind the last few days.”
With the addition of Griffith Hall, about 900 students now live on campus. Other TSTC-owned student housing facilities include Village Oaks, Red River and 134 houses and duplexes that still stand in the Brazos Community portion of the sprawling campus.
The new building is part of a plan to modernize the former Air Force base that includes the demolition of almost 500 original base homes built in the 1950s and early 1960s that served as residences for military personnel and their families, and later, TSTC students.
Demolition started in August 2020. When the demolition job is done, which also will include other buildings on campus and the old original dorm, Lavaca Hall, the residential area on the southwest portion of campus will become an open green space that can be used for parks or future developments, TSTC officials have said.