The Heights Foundation/Heights Center broke ground on the $11.8 million Heights Early Learning and Education Center on Wednesday, September 18. The 36,000 square foot, 3 story building located on Hagie Drive in Harlem Heights is the latest addition to The Heights Foundation/Heights Center campus and will serve as the new home for GLAD Kids Early Learning Center, serving children birth to five years, and the Harlem Heights Community Charter School, an elementary school with grades K-5.
In addition to classroom space, the colorful building has a large multipurpose room with a capacity to serve meals for 180 students. The building has music and art labs designed with access to an outdoor roof terrace to encourage arts exploration and interaction with the environment. The terrace will also host the aquaponics and hydroponics gardens. An outdoor play pavilion is included as part of the design for PE activities. All classrooms have been designed with natural light, flexibility and technology in mind.
82% of the project’s budget has been raised in a silent campaign. Major donors include David Lucas, Jim and Gaye Pigott, The Fernandez Family Foundation, Joe and Joann Catti, Dinah Bloomhall and FineMark Bank, as well as several anonymous donors. In her remarks to the audience at the groundbreaking, Kathryn Kelly, Founder, President and CEO of The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center thanked the donors, the strong families of Harlem Heights, some with four generations in the neighborhood; the staff of The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center, The Heights Charter School and GLAD Kids; board members of The Foundation and the charter school; volunteers and community partners including Westminster Presbyterian, Zion Lutheran, Rotary of Sanibel-Captiva and Fort Myers South, FineMark Bank, Community Cooperative, Senior Friendship Centers and The United Way.
“We know that when kids are provided resources, including community support and a decent education, they thrive and flourish,” said Kelly. “Our charter school was conceived because we saw the difference we made in the academic performance of our AfterSchool kids. We knew that if we could help them be successful in school with just a few hours each afternoon, our impact would be multiplied if we had them all day. We are raising life-long learners and they are thriving.” 108 students grades K-4 currently attend The Harlem Heights Community Charter School that is housed in the existing community center and several modules.
The Heights Foundation merged with Gladiolus Learning and Development (GLAD Kids) in January of 2019. GLAD Kids is housed in an older building in the Harlem Heights neighborhood. Prior to the merger, GLAD had started a capital campaign to build a new building, and donors agreed to fund the new building on The Heights Foundation campus that will house both GLAD Kids and the Heights Charter School.
Owen-Ames-Kimball is the general contractor for the project. RG Architects designed the building and TDM Consulting is the civil engineering and site planning firm.
For more information about supporting The Heights Early Learning and Education Center, contact Kathryn Kelly at (239) 482-7706 or Kathryn@heightsfoundation.org. For more information about The Heights Foundation visit www.heightsfoundation.org.
About The Heights Foundation and The Heights Center
The Heights Foundation works to build self-sufficient families in the Harlem Heights neighborhood. The mission is to support education and wellness, promote family and community development, and provide the benefits of enrichment and the arts. The Heights Center, supported by The Heights Foundation, is a place for Education, Opportunity, and Enrichment. GLAD Kids is a child care and pre-k center serving more than 80 children birth-five. The Harlem Heights Community Charter School currently serves kindergarten through fourth grade and will expand to serve up to fifth grade.
Harlem Heights was originally settled as a rural agricultural community. Approximately 780 children live in a mixture of single-family homes and multi-family apartments. Demographically, the population is approximately 70% Hispanic, 20% African-American, and 8% Caucasian. The poverty rate for children in Harlem Heights is more than twice the county average, with family income 40% below the county average. Families are not able to easily access family support services located in downtown Fort Myers, and benefit greatly from programs located within the neighborhood.