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Joliet Central unveils new student center, galleria at grand opening ceremony

Joliet Central High School (Handout)

A ribbon cutting, live high school band performance and campus tours were some of the highlights at Joliet Central High School’s grand opening for the student center and galleria on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

With the addition of a student center and galleria, officials at Joliet Central High School hope to combine reflections of the campus’s past and future.

Among those in attendance for the event were current students and their families, as well as alumni and city officials.

Students have called Joliet Central High School their home for nearly 120 years. Each year at commencement, diploma-seeking individuals form new bonds to the school as alumni.

With construction efforts having taken place over the last three years, campus life sees a number of changes. The campus updates allow space for a new cafeteria, kitchen, help desk, Fieldhouse, student credit union and more. In total, the entire project adds 43,154 square feet. School officials budgeted $28 million for project, issuing bonds over the life a three-year debt extension.

Kristine Schlismann, community relations director at the Joliet Township High School District 204, believes the upgrades shows the school’s commitment to students.

“It’s student-centered,” she said. “The space is flexible by design so students can come and enjoy themselves. It’s a space for everyone.”

Shad Hallihan, principal for Joliet Central, shared a few remarks at the grand opening ceremony, expressing his excitement for the evening’s festivities and those in attendance.

“It’s not just the current people associated with Central that make this a special place,” he said. “It’s the thousands of former students and staff, who even decades after they’ve leave here, continue to love Joliet Central and continue to proudly identify themselves as Steelman.”

As Hallihan pointed out, school officials hope the new updates made on campus will help in serving current students and the rest of the community.

Christine Roberts Pershey, a graduate from the class of 1977, was very active in the music program as a student at Joliet Central.

She said although she hasn’t been on campus since 1980, she said it meant a lot to her being in attendance for the grand opening ceremony.

“This was my school,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to take a tour of the school with my kids because this was my treasure.”

Pershey said three generations of her family have attended Joliet Central so that played a part in her return, as well.

Junior Gabriel Hernandez was in attendance with members of the JC Engineers. He said he couldn’t imagine not being there to see the new upgrades.

“I really wanted to see how it turned out,” he said. “The building started when I first started going here.”

Hernandez said he believes the new additions really speak to the school’s commitment to its students.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s a pretty good addition,” he said. “It’s a great way to get students to interact.”

Chris Kolloross, of Joliet, was there because she has a daughter who is currently a junior at the school and two other children who are alumni.

“I was very excited to see it,” she said. “I’ve been watching the construction as it was building, just curious to see how it looked from the outside.”

Schlismann said it’s worth noting how the updates allow the high school to carry on its historic visual character, while adding on modern elements.

Kolloross said she was impressed in taking a look at the updates made on campus.

“They kept the eye for the historical details and the seamless flow from the old building to the new,” she said.

Donations were being accepted at the time of the event.

All proceeds would help in funding student scholarships.

The grand opening ceremony for the student center and galleria at Joliet Central High School was sponsored by Gilbane and Wight & Company.