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GLOW Hosts Chef Robert Irvine; Plans To Name School Building For Althea Gibson

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 8, 2019
GLOW Academy announced Friday it will name a building on its new middle and high school campus Gibson Hall, honoring tennis legend Althea Gibson.

The news came the same day as the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington's fourth Celebrity Chef event held at the Country Club of Landfall on Friday.

The two-day event to raise funds for the all-girls charter school featured several meals prepared by Robert Irvine, a celebrity chef known for hosting Food Network shows such as Restaurant: Impossible and Dinner: Impossible.

GLOW is in the midst of constructing its permanent campus near Maides Park in Wilmington. The new campus is planned to have four buildings; an administrative building, middle school, high school and media center.

When complete, the campus will total about 60,000 square feet and will allow the school to house about 700 students, when it reaches full enrollment in the 2022-23 academic year.

It is not yet determined which building will be named Gibson Hall, officials said in the Friday release. 

GLOW Academy students have previously honored Gibson -- the first African-American to win Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Doubles and the U.S. Open in the late 1950s and who has Wilmington ties -- by lobbying the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) to erect a statue in her honor in Flushing Meadows, the home of the U.S. Open, officials said in the release.

Last February, the USTA "informed the students that their letters made an impact and that a statue honoring Althea Gibson will be unveiled at the 2019 U.S. Open," stated the release.

Laura Hunter, GLOW's principal, said Friday that events such as the Celebrity Chef event Friday not only raise funds to build the school, they also go toward programs for students, including afterschool programs, trips off campus and programs that allow the school to bring in experts and professionals.

"All of this money matters to our girls because it expands their experiences and opportunities," she said. 

There are about 240 enrolled students currently in 12,000 square feet of space in a building off South College Road that houses the school now.

"We are busting at the seems ... it is tight. So we are ready to move into our new building this summer and add our ninth-grade class, and really grow," Hunter said at Friday's event.

The event started with a dinner Thursday night, serving 28 people, Irvine said Friday. There were about 140 people at the Friday breakfast, followed by a lunch event for more than 300 people, he said.

Irvine said ahead of the lunch Friday that the goal is "to make lots of money to build that ... school, of which these young ladies totally deserve."

Irvine said he visited GLOW on Thursday, spending about 20 minutes in each classroom.

"I was totally amazed. And I mean it changed my life to see young girls that were happy, friendly -- studying things [like] Egyptian studies, World War II history -- just things that are very close to my heart, when I grew up. And I wish my school would have had a curriculum like GLOW does," Irvine said. 

Irvine has been involved in a lot of programs through his foundation and will continue to be involved in GLOW even after the event, he said adding, "because I truly believe ... in what they are doing."

"We are grooming future female leaders at GLOW that I truly believe will take the world by storm. And the more we can do as a community, the more we can do as quasi-celebrities to bring light to it; I'm in all day," he said. "Because it really is going to make a difference. Wilmington will be known for, not only for what it is known for now, but because of GLOW."

Several local chefs were on board to help with the event, which brought some locally-sourced goods to the table.

Christi Ferretti, owner of Pine Valley Market, played a role in organizing the chef event. Chefs Anna Echols, of One Belle Bakery, Lori Eaton, a private chef, and Matt Barbaretta, a sous chef at Figure Eight Island Yacht Club, also participated in the event.

Locally-sourced food was purchased from Seaview Crab Co. and Terra Vita Microgreens, and Lewis Farms donated winter berries for the event, Ferretti said.

Irvine is the fourth Food Network star to come to the Wilmington area for the GLOW chef event, along with Emeril Lagasse in 2016, Giada De Laurentiis in 2017 and Guy Fieri in 2018. The celebrity chef events "reflect the career of GLOW Academy Founder Judy Girard, who was president of the Food Network from 1994 to 2004," according to a release. 
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