GEMS School built on hopes and dreams
By Nicole VandeBoom
GEMS World Academy Chicago celebrated the laying of their Upper School foundation, 355 E. Wacker Dr., with a hope-filled building dedication ceremony on Dec. 14. The ceremony was attended by students, faculty, parents, and community members who gathered outside the construction site.
A Lucite box filled with messages illustrated and written by students and faculty about their hopes and dreams for GEMS was placed inside a wooden box and cement was poured over it—the new school will literally be built on the hopes and dreams of its community.
To open the ceremony, music teachers Christopher Roebuck and Robert Mayfield, playing guitar, led the students in the performance of the Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun.”
Interim Head of School Andrew Sherman gave an opening speech about the
future of GEMS. “At GWA we recognize that non-cognitive skills such as cooperation, resilience, empathy and leadership along with the acquisition of academic material determine student achievement,” Sherman said.
Sherman explained that the new building is designed to allow a student-centered model for teaching and learning to prepare young people to engage in innovation. Other speakers included the CEO of GEMS Americas, Denise Gallucci, Director at Chicago Forum on Global Cities, Vanessa Vardon and two GEMS students, Siena Guccione and Lileny Lone. Guccione, a freshman, ended her speech by saying, “Different environments of a school really set the mood for the students. As for our school, a very positive one. I can’t wait to
spend my next few years learning in this new and outstanding environment.”
GEMS had been waiting on the approval of a building permit that they received the day after the ceremony. Director of Marketing, Alissa Calamino explained the dedication ceremony came to fruition as a desire to celebrate how far they’ve come in this process.
“It is important to celebrate. It’s exciting to have the permit in place and
we start building after this,” Calamino said.
The opening date of the Upper School has been pushed back, with no set date
announced. In order to accommodate their growing school body, GEMS is in the
process of seeking out a nearby temporary learning space for Upper School students.
Grades 2–9 were able to attend the ceremony outside, while the younger students watched a live-stream video from inside the warm gym. Several screens were set
up outside allowing spectators to witness cement being poured on top of the box.