EAST MANATEE -- The difference between the old and new Manatee Institute campus is "like prehistoric and modern," said Sharon Dunbar Lewis, a student in Business Technology.
She was one of the students attending the first day of classes on the new campus at 6305 53rd Ave. E.
"The size is enormous. The updates are just great!" she said.
Lewis had trained for cosmetology at the original west campus and earned certified nursing assistant credentials at another school, so she's familiar with what's traditionally offered.
"The modern technology that's in this school -- it's awesome. Everything is digitized and more advanced here. At the old school it was like chalkboard, even in computer class," Lewis said.
"When I took cosmetology we didn't have all the pedicure chairs, we just had the basics. It's wonderful. It's a nice facility," added the Palmetto resident.
Most of the students have been thrilled with the $44.3 million campus, according to Mary Cantrell, MTI director.
"As I was walking in this morning, a student was walking back to her car. I said, 'Hi,' and asked her what she thought of the new building. She said, 'Oh, it's beautiful. I have to go get my camera.' It's just so wonderful to hear a student so excited about a school.
"I've heard a couple of people comment, this isn't a school, it's a mall. And you know what, it is a mall; it's a mall for what you will be doing for the rest of your working life. You can come here and choose a career. It's our mall," Cantrell said.
Allan Jackson, a culinary arts student and Lakewood High graduate, called this campus 10 times better and a 10 times better learning place.
"They don't treat us like kids, they trust us 100 percent," Jackson said, "and they trust us to get the job done."
"It's really updated and the technology is so much better," said Rachel Walker, a student in the Patient Care Technical program in conjunction with Lakewood Ranch High School. "I love it. It's going to help our future a lot more. I feel like it's going to be a lot better learning experience for some reason. Everything seems so much more new and it's more updated so it's better."
"I like it, but it's something to get used to," said Jose Valle, an HVAC and Manatee High School student,
Better technology, newer tools and a better room for working in the shop are highlights for Fernando Coiote of Bradenton, a student in the automotive program.
"We have more than just one room, and for the shop we have more space, so we can gather in different areas," Coiote observed.
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7024.