‘Building the Dream’ expansion program underway at North Florida School of Special Education

‘Building the Dream’ expansion program underway at North Florida School of Special Education
Jacksonville First Lady Molly Curry reads the story, “The Walking Tree,” an adaptation of the popular “The Giving Tree.”

Touching and heartwarming or, as Mayor Lenny Curry said, “This is a first, this is really cool. To me, I get to see what this represents. We’ve had academics, art, music, sports…a horse that just walked down the middle of the event.”

Jacksonville’s mayor was speaking about the ceremonial groundbreaking for the North Florida School of Special Education’s campus expansion Feb. 21. His wife, Molly, who has become involved in supporting the Arlington-based school, had a role in the ceremony, too, reading “The Walking Tree,” a story written for the school.

“This will be like no other celebration you’ve ever attended. Our students will participate, and we are going to use all five of our senses to help us celebrate and understand what this groundbreaking means to us today,” said Sally Hazelip, Head of School.

With sounds of construction underway in the background, the celebration also marks the successful end of a $6 million capital campaign to add 32,000 square feet of space for academics, physical education and a therapeutic equestrian center.

The project began with a gift of five acres of land from the Ida Mae Stevens Foundation in 2014, kicking off the Angel of the Woods capital campaign headed by San Marco resident Kit Thomas, and finishing with a $500,000 challenge grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Fund. Over 200 ‘angels’ participated in the $6 million capital campaign.

“Five years ago, when Doug Milne and the Ida Mae Stevens Foundation gifted the school with 4.5 acres, Sally instilled in each of us the power of dreaming. She had the dream of a new 32,000 square foot building to offer the opportunity for more children to attend, to have an education complex with state-of-the-art instruction, a physical education center where students could run, play and develop and an urban equine therapy program where our students and others throughout NEFL could benefit. It has been Sally’s phenomenal power of vision and perseverance that has been the catalyst to make this happen,” said John Macdonald, NFSSE board president.

“Throughout this campaign we never lost sight of what our friend Laurie DuBow is often heard saying ‘Let us never forget what we are doing here is for the children, all children, it has always been, it is now, and it will always be,’” quoted Hazelip.

The new campus will solidify NFSSE’s place as the leading educational institution for those with mild to moderate intellectual differences in Northeast Florida, said Macdonald.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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