A morning downpour didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the group gathered under a tent Thursday near Maides Park in Wilmington to celebrate a permanent campus for the state's first single-gender public charter school.
Construction of the five-building campus for GLOW, Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington, will start with the first of two buildings that will eventually comprise an 18,600-square-foot middle school. The 200 middle school students enrolled in GLOW currently attend classes at 606 S. College Road.
"We are very soon going to start building a building...It's going to be a really cool building. It's going to sit on 30-and-a-half acres of land that was donated by the Cameron family here in town. It's going to be almost 60,000 square feet [the campus overall] of 21st Century, cutting-edge educational space designed by the folks at LS3P, built by the folks at Monteith Construction Company, and it is going to be a wonderful, wonderful place to call home," said Todd Godbey, president and CEO of GLOW NC, during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.
Construction costs are estimated at about $14 million for a site that in addition to the middle school buildings is also expected to include a nearly 20,000-square-foot high school; a 7,000-square-foot media center and maker space; and a nearly 13,000-square-foot facility for administration, a cafeteria, multi-purpose room and main office.
GLOW opened at its South College Road location
in Wilmington in 2016 with 100 sixth-graders, but the journey toward establishing the school started five years ago. In 2013, at a Greater Wilmington Business Journal Power Breakfast, retired TV executive Judy Girard and Georgia Miller, wife of then-University of North Carolina Wilmington Chancellor Gary Miller, announced that they had started a nonprofit to develop the school.
GLOW is part of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which began in East Harlem. A group that included Girard and a contingency of Wilmington leaders, including Mayor Bill Saffo and District Attorney Ben David, visited the Harlem school that inspired GLOW five years ago. Girard shared some memories of that trip, of the girls who explained the challenges they faced when it came to going to college.
"One of the big pushes at this school is to get kids into college and higher education and then to be leaders in their communities and the country," Girard said during Thursday's event.
The network focuses on students from disadvantaged backgrounds who would be the first in their families to go to college. Principal Laura Hunter said Thursday that GLOW draws girls from Brunswick, Columbus and Pender counties, in addition to New Hanover County.
"We have them all in the cradle that is GLOW Academy," Hunter said.
She said GLOW aims to produce leaders and add to the area's workforce.
Addressing the topic of jobs in the Wilmington area, Girard said, "It is my hope that in the next phase of growth in this community, that these kids can come back and work here, that there'll be jobs for them, that there'll be opportunities for them to lead in Wilmington, because right now I'm not so sure that's the case. It seems to me that's the next hurdle to go through here. Having said that, these girls are amazing...they are an amazing group of young women who are definitely going to graduate and make an impact on the world."
Daniela Ayers, project designer with LS3P, said the group working on the campus has permits for the site work and hopes to start pouring the foundations for the first building around the middle of June, with an estimated completion date in June 2019.
PICTURED ABOVE: Kay Dougherty, a GLOW volunteer, and Bob Jones, GLOW's senior development director, look at some of the site plans for the academy's campus before the start of a ceremonial groundbreaking event for the school on Thursday. (Photo by Cece Nunn)