By: Sarabeth Weszely, Senior Writer
September 13, 2019
“There are a lot of equity issues in our community when it comes to school buildings. You can walk into a school in Lower Manhattan and be blown away by how beautiful it is, and then you walk into a school in Upper Manhattan and things are falling down, there are holes in the walls. So we are thrilled to provide the kids in our neighborhood with this beautiful new space that was created for them.”
-Christina Reyes, Founder and CEO
In the fall of 2010, Inwood Academy first opened its doors to one hundred fifth graders, who became the high school graduating class of 2018. The school began meeting in what the Department of Education calls a ‘mini-building,’ and what our students refer to more commonly as a trailer (pictured on left). Over the past 10 years as we’ve grown, we have consistently transitioned spaces, sometimes settling for less than ideal situations in order to welcome new classes. Most recently, the high school was divided between two buildings on opposite sides of Inwood, about a mile’s walk away from each other.
Long-awaited, on August 20 of this year, we held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony to open our new high school building, which will accommodate our entire high school student body and staff! The space was originally a parking garage that, with the help of JLL real estate, the WPA, A1 Security and WB Mason, and keeping the external structure, we gut renovated, creating a fully-functional high school building equipped with new technology for science, the arts, and college prep.
“This is a significant milestone, not just for this school but for the community,” begins Board Chair Tomas Almonte in his speech at the ceremony. “This building signifies the investment we’re putting back in our community to produce future leaders in every profession. I grew up just a couple blocks away from here, and this was always just a grey parking lot. Now we have turned it into something beautiful.”
High School Principal Mary Hackett follows, “I cannot tell you the difference this building is going to make in our students’ lives. Having freshman watch seniors get into college will change the culture for the better. It’s really special to see these words and to know that this vision is a vision in action.”
The new space also allows us to offer new classes and provide fuller academic and socio-emotional support to our students. Because we designed the building with our specific students in mind, the space is in many ways catered to them, with cushioned lounge seating in the hallways for gathering between classes, desks that can rise on command, and chairs that can lean to accommodate different learning styles. The excitement for the building among students is tangible. While we normally have a significant opening for new freshmen, only ten incoming freshmen chose to attend other schools this year.
Jenny Pichardo, a neighborhood native and our CFO/COO of four years, was in many ways the head architect for the space. She was tasked by the board in 2015 to find and build Inwood Academy a high school, and she did so with outstanding success. The lease she attained will allow us to keep the building for 42 years, a near-eternity in New York real estate.
“Inwood Academy is going to be here forever,” Mrs. Pichardo celebrates. “We are a pillar, a cornerstone, a safe haven for families; we’ve made a place for the community to come to, and we are able to give students the space that they deserve to learn.”
Mrs. Pichardo’s son graduated from Inwood Academy in 2018 and now attends the college of Mount St Vincent. He is pictured below with his sister Abigail (left).
We are so grateful for everyone who shared this milestone moment with us, and want to give a special thank you to Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (below), JLL broker Ellen Herman, board members, proud parents (above right), students and alumni for attending. Even more so, we thank all of you who join us in the day to day work of engaging our community with ever-widening arms, inside and out of these walls.
“I believe quality education should belong to everyone, and I know that great things will come out of this building.
– Carmen De La Rosa