FORESTVILLE – Bishop McNamara High School administrators, students and alumni joined state and local political figures, industry leaders and community members for the groundbreaking ceremony for what many esteem a prospective “game changer” for Prince George’s County’s academic community.
The La Reine Science and Innovation Center will be a 20,000 square foot educational facility expected to enhance the region’s economic stability and prosperity by focusing on the professional development of county residents for STEM-related jobs, according to school officials.
Present to give special remarks at the Dec. 12 ceremony were Maryland State Senate President Mike Miller, Maryland State Sen. Melony Griffith, Del. Dereck E. Davis (District 25) and Del. Michael A. Jackson (District 27B) and State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.
“This is a game changer for our community,” said Diana Leon Brown, director of strategic partnerships with the Office of the County Executive. “This is a small step for the school and a big step for the county.”
Also, the center will feature an audio-visual studio and media room, presentation space, science and innovation labs, and teacher planning and project-based learning rooms.
McNamara President and CEO Marco Clark emceed the program. Throughout his time at the podium, the 1985 graduate honored distinguished guests, dignitaries, fellow alumni and project partners and sponsors.
The facility, which will sit on the campus of McNamara on Marlboro Pike, carries the namesake of La Reine High School, an all-girls school in Suitland that had to shut its doors in 1992 due to declining enrollment. After nearly 10 years, Clark’s vision is beginning to come to fruition.
“I think the dream for this began back in 2010,” Clark said. “We knew that there’s such a dire need for engineers, more people in the technology field. But even more importantly than that, those fields are so underrepresented by minorities and women.”
For Clark, the groundbreaking and opening of the cutting-edge innovation center, to an extent, serves as a “resurrection” of the defunct school’s name and mission.
“It was really very important to me, and to the history and the tradition and the values of this school community to tangibly recognize, to be intentional about recognizing the partnership with La Reine High School and the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters who founded them,” Clark said.
“This is a resurrection moment in many ways, and a celebration of an educational legacy that’s been making a difference all over the world,” he continued.
Bishop McNamara students will occupy the facility during the day. After school hours, according to school officials, the center will function as a hub for adult learners in CTE (career technology education) hoping to earn certificate programs in cybersecurity, CCNA (Cisco certified network associate) and other certifications in various fields.
La Reine Science and Innovation Center, a $12.5 million project, will offer seven classrooms – five of which are designated as customary science labs focusing on chemistry, physics and health science.
Steve Proctor co-chairs the Executive Corporate Partnership Committee (ECPC) with his wife, Dianne. The ECPC is responsible for the fundraising efforts of the La Reine project. The committee is an amalgamation of community leaders, business leaders and religious leaders who meet regularly to come up with methods to support the project financially, Proctor said.
The ECPC began fundraising for the La Reine Innovation and Science Center a little less than a year ago and has raised $6.25 million, halfway to its goal of $12.5 million, added Proctor.
Also in attendance for the ceremony was McNamara Principal Dian Carter and community philanthropist and entrepreneur Wanda Durant.
The school’s students will benefit from the new courses that will be offered in science and innovation and additional after-school programs for local students, Carter said. Her aspirations are to one day form a partnership with Prince George’s Community College, Bowie State University and University of Maryland-College Park to offer evening university courses at the La Reine Center.
“It’s really exciting for students to know they have the opportunity to be involved in science, technology, engineering (and) mathematics programs,” Carter said. “It broadens the horizons for students and gives them a lot more opportunities.”
Durant, also a motivational speaker, called the groundbreaking “exceptional” and said she believes the STEM-related programs offered by La Reine will prepare local students for the future.
“The effect of this building on our community has exponential value. I mean, it goes beyond what we can think or imagine,” said Durant, the mother of basketball player and county native Kevin Durant. “We know that it’s needed, and it shows our community that we’re in this together, that we have to band together forms many segments of our communities to create the environment for our children to learn and to succeed.”
With a stated vision to innovate, transform and thrive, the innovation center will be fashioned as a “hub for technology, collaboration and discovery by offering new academic programs in science, technology, cybersecurity, engineering, entrepreneurship and multimedia,” and is set to open June 2021.
Clark said the science and innovation center would sit near the campus’s front-circle entrance, and anticipates construction on the facility to begin in March 2020.
“In this Washington metropolitan region, there is no other facility like this anywhere around the Beltway,” he said. “I hope and I pray that this has an impact that brings light, not just to Bishop McNamara High School, that it brings light to this community of Forestville and District Heights – a positive light – and can be a beacon of hope.”