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Building on community levy support and decades of academic excellence, the Ottawa Hills Schools Foundation has unveiled a $2.2 million fundraising campaign to reinvent how students in every grade learn and develop as leaders.

Formally known as the Full STEAM Ahead Capital Campaign, the initiative primarily focuses on adding enhancements to the new academic spaces coming to the Junior/Senior High School: The Foundry, The Science and Research Corridor, and The ARTlab. With the urging of campaign co-chairs Drs. Anjali and Anil Gupta, the project has expanded to include enhancements at the Elementary School. There, the fundraising hopes to create new projects, curriculum, and hands-on student experiences in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).

The June 2 campaign kick-off, coupled with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new facilities, comes just seven months after Villagers approved a $8.5 million bond levy. That levy raised the money to build The Foundry (originally known as the Learning Commons) and extensive upgrades to STEAM classrooms. It also finances the installation of modern heating, cooling, and ventilation systems throughout the building, sections of which opened in 1939.

“Today’s groundbreaking truly opens the doors to an exciting future for Ottawa Hills Local Schools and begins a process of transformation not only to our buildings and the look of the schools, but a true transformation and growth of student learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Adam Fineske.

An early believer in the future possibilities of the project was Dr. Anjali Gupta, a 1999 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School. “The teachers, students, and staff throughout Ottawa Hills are what makes the school a leader in the state,” she said. “We’re excited for this campaign because we think it will provide amazing enhancements to the infrastructure that the levy is already providing. It will give the students and staff a better opportunity to showcase just how amazing the school is and provide the tools for all the students to realize their full potential.”

For current and future generations of students, The Foundry is expected to transform how they learn.

“I am excited to have a place to go to before, during, and after school to study and work, where I have support from my teachers and tutors and to have many different learning tools available,” said Rose Hajjar, an incoming 9th grader next year.

“The Foundry will be a place for group projects, meetings, study groups, test preparation, hands-on research or even just a quiet place to think. It can be whatever we need it to be.”

Other speakers at the kick-off event included the campaign’s honorary chairs: John Swigart (’96)and Jim White (’58). Mr. Swigart and wife Shanie are parents to students in the Classes of 2024 and  2028. Mr. White is a parent to a member of the Class of 1989.

Soon after the ceremony, construction crews began the work of clearing the courtyard and preparing for demolition. Meanwhile, a community advisory team will begin working with the building’s academic leaders to develop the programming and services of The Foundry. Parents/Villagers Lisa Brown and Michele Walker are leading that effort.

“Being at the top is amazing, but we have to continue to grow and change if we want to remain at the top,” said Dr. Fineske. “In our growing and changing district, we must not lose focus that all students learn differently, they achieve and contribute to society in a variety of ways, and we should celebrate all of these contributions. That is what the heart of our new facilities, the Full STEAM Ahead campaign and our goals as a district are all about.”