THE CHALLENGE: As the school’s STEM program gained in popularity, it became difficult to coordinate overlapping activities because classrooms and work areas were spread throughout the campus. In 2003 students approached their teachers with an idea: imagine if all STEM students could gather in one collaborative learning space with convenient access to resources and technology. Their plans reflected a new type of learning environment, from the arrangement of classrooms to the floor-to-ceiling windows enclosing the space.
But where to begin? And who would fund such a big idea? At Omaha North students dream big, overcome obstacles, and achieve the impossible. And this was no exception.
THE CHAMPIONS: Principal Gene Haines and Architecture and Civil Engineering teacher Dr. Lee Kallstrom led the charge, speaking to alumni and corporate foundations in the hopes of securing funding to realize the students’ vision.
THE SOLUTION: Students tackled the design with enthusiasm and attention to detail, and presented their plan to the school board, who approved but could not provide funding. The students remained steadfast - budgets were tight, but their determination inspired everyone. To realize their dream they would need funding from the community.
For two years, students made presentations to local civic groups. Principal Gene Haines and his staff spoke to alumni and corporate foundations. The Sherwood Foundation (sponsors of NElovesPS) donated seed money, and more donations trickled in -- until students presented their plans to the Vikings of Distinction, distinguished alumni of Omaha North recognized for exceptional achievements in their chosen fields. In the audience that day was Dr. George Haddix who, inspired by the students’ passion, donated $5 million to make their dream and reality. Architect Jeff Dolezal of RDG Design and Planning helped bring the students’ ideas into the final plans, staying true to their original ideas.
THE RESULTS: Opened in October, 2010, the Haddix Center houses award winning students and faculty, and boasts an impressive list of distinctions, including being the first school in Nebraska to earn LEED certification. The new facility is home to the only biomedical sciences program in the Midwest that is certified by Project Lead the Way, an initiative designed to encourage students, especially women and minorities, to consider careers in engineering through hands-on learning.
The Haddix Center houses all engineering programs, as well as science and math classes. Its unique features include the digital media classroom, complete with green screen and sound studio, and a two-story greenhouse with rooftop garden.
For more information on Omaha North Magnet School and its STEM program, visit its web site at http://www.ops.org/HIGH/NORTH/.