MIAMI , September 25, 2007 – Nestled in one of the county's fastest-growing cities, Miami Dade College 's eighth and newest campus is making great strides.

One year after opening, the student population of the Doral-based West Campus has soared from less than 150 to more than 2,000 this fall term.

Ana DeMahy, director of administrative and student services, checks enrollment numbers daily, sometimes twice a day. ''It's a huge growth,'' DeMahy said one recent day, smiling as she turned in her chair to look at the figures again.

The West Campus, at 3800 NW 115th Ave. , is developing and evolving along with its host city that incorporated in 2003. Executive Director Toni Bilbao, who functions as campus president, believes it's an ideal match.

''This is an exciting place to be, building from the ground up,'' said Bilbao . ``We are working to build strong ties with the community we serve.''

Bilbao and DeMahy are part of a small, yet dedicated, staff that has learned to count on one another like family. In August, Bilbao called faculty members to invite them to orientation. She often walks around, smiling and waving at campus personnel, making sure everything is in running smoothly.

It's that kind of personal attention that draws students such as Humberto Belisario to the campus, favoring a learning environment where everybody knows one another.

''Last semester, most of my friends were in the same classes with me,'' Belisario said. ``It gave us the opportunity to be close.''

The 18-year-old mechanical engineering student came from Venezuela six years ago and is first in his family to attend college.

''We have the highest percentage of first-time-in-college students at MDC,'' Bilbao said. ``There is such a need in this community. A lot of folks were not going to school because other campuses were too far.''

The West Campus began primarily as an institution specializing in business administration, with courses designed to fit the needs of companies in the city. Today, the campus offers more than 230 classes offered in a range of subjects, including English, real estate, and computers.

A YoungBiz workshop series, introduced in 2006, attracted middle and high school students interested in developing entrepreneurship skills. Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez was present to address parents and students.

Campus officials partnered with the cultural arts community to co-sponsor the first gallery night, set for early November. Located on the first floor, the gallery will open with an exhibition called The Surface -- Beneath and Beyond that will feature contemporary works by Miami-based artists.

The campus has also created the MDC archives, a compilation of thousands of photos, documents and memorabilia that show the history of the college from 1960. This digital library is slated to become a historical reference for the city, as well.

''We want to keep a grasp on our history, which is tied in so many ways to the community,'' said college archivist Rene Ramos.

Lilly Madrigal, 19, is taking advantage of the opportunities the college offers. The mass communications major is a student reporter on MDC In Focus, a television program created by the college to showcase its students, faculty and staff.

Madrigal, born in Miami to Cuban parents, said she enjoys the international environment at the West Campus whose students represent nearly 50 countries.

''I have visited six out of the eight campuses and what I see here is a lot of diversity,'' Madrigal said.

Soon, there will be more to see. Set on about 270,000 square feet, the campus site includes a three-story building with 22 multi-media classrooms and two side warehouses where construction of more classrooms will begin soon.

''My goals are for the campus to offer a complete business program and continue growing and creating strong ties with the community,'' Bilbao said. ``I'm really looking forward to our official dedication ceremony set for early next year.''

Media contacts: Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710, Beverly Counts Rodrigues, MDC director of media relations 305-237-3949 or Juan C. Mendieta, MDC director of communications 305-237-7611