Major gift leads to a loving renovation at Schlarman Academy in Danville

Making Schlarman's Catholic Academy more prominent was important for Father Bowan Schmitt, pastor, and Gail Lewis, principal. This quote from Philippians greets everyone who walks through the doors of the south campus. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

DANVILLE — To go with the new school year, the south campus of Schlarman Academy has a new look, thanks to a major gift from Rudy and Sylvia Mezosi, and the continuing support of school families and parishioners.

Everyone got a sneak peek at the renovation during an open house on Aug. 13. Then the school community gathered on the grounds of the north campus for a back-to-school picnic, complete with games and a “bounce house.”

The remodeled preschool was the most popular area Schlarman Academy’s south campus during the open house Aug. 13. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Nancy O’Kane, president of the Schlarman Foundation, said Mr. Mezosi, a longtime parishioner, donated $100,000 and asked that it be used to update the classrooms in the building, which houses the preschool, grade school and middle school. Funds were also used to replace the parking lot for the parish and school.

“We revamped the preschool. We put in new lights here,” she told The Catholic Post while standing in the noticeably brighter gym. “When you walk into the gym now they go on and if there’s no activity they go off.”

She motioned to the main hallway, which had been a dark green with tiles to match. Now there are neutral tones on the walls and flooring that make it seem much bigger. O’Kane said the new flooring, which cost nearly $16,000, was an example of how school supporters worked to raise additional funds to complete the job.

Parents and parishioners raised another $2,800 so new toys and equipment could be purchased for the preschool, the most active place during the open house.

And they continue to be generous, according to Gail Lewis, principal.

“Someone just stopped me and told me they were donating four more lights for the gym because they wanted it a little brighter,” she said with a smile.

IMPROVED CATHOLIC IDENTITY

Father Bowan Schmitt, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Danville and the canonical pastor of the school, said that in addition to giving the 50-year-old building “a little extra love and care,” his wish list included adding more religious features so people would have no doubt they were in a Catholic school.

A mural in the “Hall of Saints” at the south campus of Schlarman Academy in Danville. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“We’re living by Christian values and not only should it be evident in the staff and curriculum, but in the visible things that we see through signs and statues and images to enhance what we’re promoting through the school,” he said.

One addition is a series of panels created by artist Maria Gonzalez, a friend of his. One is placed opposite of each door in the main hallway, making it a “Hall of Saints,” Father Schmitt said.

People will see St. Therese, patroness of vocations; St. Francis of Assisi; an image of Divine Mercy; and the Eucharist, as well as images of the Blessed Mother and a Guardian Angel. In the hallway outside the gym there are panels depicting St. Michael the Archangel, who was a warrior, and St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes.

There are more coming, Father Schmitt told The Post. People can expect to find St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things, for example.

Lewis said the renovation was accomplished in six weeks with the help of professional organizer Diane Dawson.

“She was our salvation, to be honest,” Lewis said. “She would go out to the different contractors and get bids.”

There is more work to be done, especially in the junior high classrooms and hallway. Lewis already has a wish list started.

“We’re happy — happy for the kids and the school,” Father Schmitt said.

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