New COA campus provides welcoming spot for Dare Days kickoff

Published 10:49 am Thursday, June 9, 2022

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Dare Days 2022 kicked off its three-day event at the brand-new College of The Albemarle (COA) Dare campus on Friday, June 3. Guests of all ages gathered on the campus lawn to listen to local bands, enjoy food from local food trucks and participate in activities all while taking in the sights of Manteo’s newest addition.

“We’re so excited to see people on campus and see life fill this space,” said Dr. Jack Bagwell, President of COA. The community has been highly anticipating the arrival of the new Dare campus. Dare Days served as the first time the community as a whole was invited to experience the long-awaited project.

“I have been waiting patiently,” Bagwell shared, “but a building is not a college; life is what changes a building into a college.” The president said he had to “recalibrate” his expectations when it came to the new COA campus, as he had been told this may just be the “biggest thing to happen to Manteo in a very long time.” He noted that at the end of the day, this final result was better than what everyone had envisioned.

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Clark Twiddy, a long-time advocate for the college and member of the foundation, expressed his delight with the new building: “We are so proud of this.” He shared that the goal is to keep students enrolled by giving them something they can be proud of too. “We hope this is a way to keep students here.”

Along with giving students a campus they can fully embrace and enjoy, the goal is to open the space to the community. Dr. Catherine DeHart, executive director of the foundation, shared that as a community college – or “the college of the community” – COA ultimately would like the community to be able to enjoy the new campus as much as the students, faculty and staff. “We are trying to make this more public,” she said.

In addition to holding classes, the new building may serve as a site for trainings, nonprofit events, movie nights and more. DeHart described one of the rooms in the new building that has her in awe: “It’s a three-piece room, basically one big room that can be sectioned off, using the greatest technology I’ve ever seen in a classroom.”

Bagwell said, “We’re going to do college stuff, but we’ve been telling the community that we want everyone to come out. We want this to be a center point for the community.”

What better way to start sharing the space with the community than by beginning Dare Days on campus? Michele Bunce, program manager for the Town of Manteo, said “we decided to start [the event] here with this beautiful new campus because the space is perfect for this.”

Bunce shared that the Dare Days planning committee worked extremely hard this year to plan for such an event. “It was a big team effort between [town] staff, volunteers and COA staff. We had a subcommittee made up of members of the community and they planned all of this.”

The subcommittee looked a little different this year, with the addition of a local high school student in the mix. Sarah Lynn Phillips, recent Manteo High School graduate, joined the planning team. “She was phenomenal,” Bunce said, “and she stirred enough excitement in the high school that now more students are saying they want to join next year.”

Bunce said the goal this year was to not only revitalize the event after a two-year hiatus, but to connect and celebrate the community. “We wanted to tie in every piece of our community, from our local bands to our local vendors . . . even at the Cookhouse on Sunday we have people of the Hispanic community singing and participating; that is a whole other part of the community we have reached. That’s what we wanted.”