The new Innovation Center at St. Brendan High School has a date set for its inauguration ceremony, Sept. 26, just a year and two weeks since the ambitious project broke ground.
For faculty, students and alumni, this represents a momentous occasion as the $9 million, two-story, 24,000-square-foot center marks the first significant addition to the campus since it opened in 1975.
An impressive, ultramodern work designed by Miami-based firm Zyschovich Architects, the Innovation Center is a marriage of inventive aesthetics and classicized functionality — a college building on a high school campus. Its open spaces, abundant use of natural light and free-flowing interior design encapsulates precisely what its imaginers intended — to foster an environment where learning is contagious and high school isn’t merely a center for education, but for social, cultural and intellectual commerce.
“In designing the Innovation Center, we wanted to include what we call ‘learning acceleration centers,’ common areas that can be used for many different things that will make students want to be here on campus, to be in the building and to learn,” said Steve Piscitelli, alumni liaison and director of St. Brendan’s Law and Global Business Academy. “With the way it’s designed, learning will be contagious; students will walk by other classes, look in, see what’s happening and get interested.”
Ideas for the center first began to germinate in 2012 when St. Brendan introduced major overhauls to the curriculum in conjunction with a move toward a paperless education system in which every student and teacher got an iPad and high-speed Wi-Fi was installed across campus.
Freshmen were asked to choose between four new “academies” in which to enroll in their sophomore year: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Law and Global Business, Medical Sciences, and Visual and Performing Arts. The Innovation Center now serves as home to those four academies.
“By the time our students reach college, they’ve got so much background and experience,” Piscitelli said. “They’ll find out what they want to do halfway through high school instead of halfway through college. They’ll hit ‘the pulse.’”
The Innovation Center — which also serves as the new location for the school’s main office, guidance centers and history wall — houses a STEM center with a current focus on physics and robotics, a medical and biological lab with a fully equipped “patient simulator” hospital room, a chemistry and science research lab, a new BTV broadcasting studio for in-house productions such as St. Brendan News, a law and global business capacity, and a massive multi-purpose lecture hall capable of hosting shows, events and mock trials.
An indoor balcony equipped with charging stations overlooks stairs leading to the second floor, which are adjoined by “social steps” for sitting, socializing, learning and media viewing.
Everywhere students look there is something interesting going on, from screens showing news, stock market numbers and other informative media to ongoing classes, broadcasts and presentations.
“We don’t want our students running out at 2:30 p.m.,” Piscitelli said. “We want them to stay, socialize, talk and share ideas, to accelerate the idea of learning and get more out of going to school than just what happens between the bells. I think our Innovation Center enhances that concept.”
The first phase of a three-phase master plan to update and beautify the campus, the Innovation Center has energized everyone at St. Brendan. Now with Phase I complete they will look toward their next two developments. Phase II, which will renovate the school’s fields, modernize the gymnasium and build a track, should begin soon. Phase III, an equally ambitious plan to build a new auditorium with deck seating, will commence afterwards.
“It’s a great step forward for us and represents a new era for the high school,” he said. “We’re going to the next level, from a Chevy to a Rolls Royce.”
For more information, visit www.StBrendanHigh.org.