Published November 17, 2022 / All Stories
In 2019, the students and teachers of Neal Math and Science Academy, the only middle school in North Chicago, were posed a challenge: describe what you would want in your dream school.
While teachers dreamed of a new HVAC systems and functioning bathrooms, some students imagined bouncy houses and roller coasters.
In response, leaders at AbbVie said: dream bigger.
Now, three years later, Neal students and teachers are leaving the halls of their old school to enter a new, modern learning space that gives them what they wished for – and so much more.
With a $40 million donation from AbbVie and the public-private partnership between AbbVie, the North Chicago Community School District 187, local government and construction partners, North Chicago has a brand new Neal Math and Science Academy, built from the ground up.
“No words can explain how awesome this opportunity is, and the lives this school will change,” said Jaelah Edwards Turner, an 8th grade student at Neal. “This is the beginning of a bright future.”
Compared to the old school, the new Neal is almost unrecognizable. Gone are the water leaks, uneven heating and cooling, and ongoing electrical issues. In their place are large, open spaces, modern science labs and a host of other new features to enhance STEM learning and inspire Neal students to reach higher in their academic careers.
“Our new space is exactly what we need to push expectations around not just culture, but also academics,” said Michael Grenda, principal, Neal Math and Science Academy. “Before, we avoided focusing on the space — now, it’s a source of inspiration.”
Built on the grounds of the former school, the new Neal provides a flexible and reimagined learning space for students to help improve graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and increase college and career readiness. The new design also supports educators by giving them new spaces to expand academic curricula and collaborate more effectively.
“My new classroom will allow me to engage students in more versatile art projects and empower me to focus more on instructional time vs. project planning and logistics, which is amazing,” said Rubina Datta, a teacher at Neal.
Before students and staff begin classes in the new building on November 28, leaders from the North Chicago School District and AbbVie hosted a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the grand opening. Elected officials, AbbVie representatives, local community leaders, students and teachers were in attendance.