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CCHS dedicates new Renee Powell Learning Commons

Central Catholic alum, pro golfer Renee Powell honored by alma mater

Amy L. Knapp
Massillon Independent

Feb. 22, 2024

Key Points
The Renee Powell Learning Commons was dedicated Wednesday at Central Catholic High School.
The renovated space at Powell's alma mater was once the school's library.
The space includes study areas, a digital conference room and a state-of-the-art computer lab.

PERRY TWP. – Standing in the former library at Central Catholic High School, Renee Powell has come full circle.

Life is a journey that you don't know where it will lead you, the 1964 graduate told the crowd.

The East Canton native, who became the second African American to compete on the LPGA Tour and the first African American woman to become a member of the PGA, was in awe of the honor bestowed upon her by her alma mater.

On Wednesday, a newly renovated space at Central was dedicated as the Renee Powell Learning Commons.

"I'm so touched. It's really, wow," Powell said as she stood before a mural featuring a larger-than-life picture of her. "I've been all over the world but to be seen and honored in my own hometown and own school, I didn't realize how meaningful and touching it is."

"It was an outdated space," Oates said. "Besides the gym and cafeteria, it was the biggest space and it was underutilized."

Plans to transform the former library were put into motion in 2019 but came to a halt when COVID hit.

About two and half years later, fundraising efforts resumed and the space began to take shape.

"It was a labor of love," Oates added.

Officials had hoped to open the renovated space to students at the start of the school year but several obstacles, including material delays, postponed completion.

"I'm thrilled how it came out," Oates said. "The kids haven't seen it yet but they have been asking when it will be done."

There were several financial contributors to the project but one contributor, Terry Nolan, brought the idea of honoring Powell to school officials.

Oates said Nolan approached officials after meeting Powell and was impressed by her story. He wanted to do something to recognize her accomplishments.

What's in the Central Catholic Learning Commons?
The Learning Commons has a student study area, a digital conference room, and a state-of-the-art technology lab featuring new computers for student use, a sublimation printer, a tumbler press, a T-shirt press, and a green screen for use by students and staff. There is movable seating for groups of students as well as individual study pods.

A large mural created by local artist Dirk Rozich showcases photos from Powell's life and career and her family life.

The Rev. Donald King, president of the Stark County Catholic Schools, said the recognition of Powell — who he attended school with — stands as a reminder to every student that passes through the Learning Commons that they can do whatever they want to.

Senior Tim Short was on hand for the unveiling of the new space. The student body president worked on setting up the computers housed in the area.

While he will get to enjoy the space for only a few months before graduation, Short is excited for the students who will come after him, including his sister, Jacklin, who will be a freshman next year.

The new equipment in the makers' space sets Central apart from others, he said.

Several classes will be able to use the new technology such as marketing, entrepreneurship, business and art. Additional equipment — a laser printer and laser engraver — also will be available to students.

"I'm happy it will be here for others," he said. "The nice thing here at Central is the things you do are not only for those before you or now, it is for those who will come behind you."

Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or [email protected]. To read more, visit The Canton Repository.

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