Last Thursday evening, the new "Center of Excellence" at the Beacon of HOPE was on display during a special open house. The Beacon of HOPE relocated from Pine Island Road to the new building in January 2015. Since then the center third has been "under construction."
"In June 2016, an anonymous donor stepped forward and offered the Beacon a total of $30,000 in matching funds," Executive Director Betsy Haesemeyer said. "As part of the agreement, the donor also recognized 'in-kind' donations because the Beacon has a number of people who donate their time and labor. This not only allowed us to finish up the space but allowed us to purchase the tables, chairs and some of the high-tech teaching aids that can really make a difference to our students."
The highlight of the Center is the "Smart Board."
On hand for the open house were, front, from left, Elsie Stearns, MaryLou Martin, Guadalupe Herrera, Betsy Haesemeyer, Dick Maher, Jane Bennington, Doug Kruger and Caryle Regan; and back row, from left, George Miller, Diane Maher and Judy Grove.
"You could call this an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection for user input and can be used for teaching, training, meetings, presentations and anything you can think of," Haesemeyer said. "This is probably the most important and advanced teaching tool available out there and we're very fortunate to have it here.
"The range of educational subjects we offer in the Center of Excellence is mind-blowing," Haesemeyer continued. "Geography, science, energy, math, English as a second language and many other things. One of our students explained why he comes here. 'In other classes,' he said,' they give you a book and sit you down in a room - here the instructors actually care.'
"Our instructors will pick them up, drop them off, be there on Sunday or whenever they're needed for extra tutoring," Haesemeyer said. "As a result, the success shows our students finish in 6 to 8 months instead of two years."
When the room was designed it was planned as a multi-use room.
"In addition to teaching the GED program, we also have Caryl Regan's Wellness programs here," Haesemeyer said. "The Wellness Committee has covered numerous subjects including being prepared for a doctors appointment, the need for exercise and even bladder control. This center has become a community center for the island and used by a number of organizations."
The Beacon of HOPE has started a "Center of Excellence Society" for people who would like to contribute to the Beacon and the Center. There are four levels: Ambassador, Advocate, Leader and Champion beginning at $500 a year for five years.
"We also have the Breast Health Caravan here on Monday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.," Haesemeyer said. "The Breast Health Caravan offers no-cost breast exams for those who live in Lee County without health insurance. Just bring a photo I.D., your Social Security card and proof of income."
The Beacon of HOPE is at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle in St. James City. For more, call 283-283-5123 or visit beaconofhopepineisland.com/