Collaboration makes $20-million ‘Access to Opportunity’ possible
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — In 1966, Mount Vernon Nazarene College and the current campus of Mount Vernon High School/Middle School were cut from the cloth that was once Columbus Delano’s Lakeholm Farm. Fifty-three years later, pieces of that fabric are being woven back together in a progressive partnership with benefits reaching beyond the classroom.
The close collaboration of community partners, bearing the name “Access to Opportunity,” encompasses four major construction projects on or near the campuses of MVHS/MS and Mount Vernon Nazarene University. The Education Gateway Project at the MVHS/MS will include a new sports Field House, a bus garage and will extend Yellow Jacket Drive to Cougar Drive. MVNU will build a Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium and Community Soccer Fields while the city of Mount Vernon will replace the Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge and connect the Kokosing Gap Trail with Memorial Park and MVNU.
The flurry of activity that will come as these four construction projects become a reality will position the university and the school district for the future, but will also provide a boost to the area’s marketability for new industry and residents.
“We are always in the market to help drive business growth in Knox County and land new companies. That work is assisted by the fact that you have world-class facilities because it makes recruitment that much easier,” said Jeff Harris, executive director of the Area Development Foundation Inc., which serves as the county’s economic development organization.
While individual facilities are not the lone draw to expanded economics, Harris explains it is the sum of the parts such as Ariel-Foundation Park, plus the Woodward Opera House, plus a dynamic Industrial Park, plus the athletic expansion at MVHS and MVNU, plus a thriving and expanding hospital — that add up to one community being more attractive over another.
“They will serve as deal clinchers,” said Harris. “Envision someone considering an investment in Mount Vernon but they are on the fence. They start going through the tally sheet. Having these new facilities allows another checkmark on the Mount Vernon side of the ledger, and makes that decision more in our favor.”
What’s even more impressive than the structures that will be built, is the collaboration between local entities to make this all possible. From the bridge and bike path project to the athletic facilities, conversations and cooperation have included city school district leadership, Jacket Boosters Inc., MVNU, city officials, Knox County Foundation, the YMCA, Mount Vernon Soccer Association, ADF, Mount Vernon City Council, Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education and a long list of advisors and donors.
“What’s unique about this community is the way the people love to collaborate and share resources,” said William Seder, superintendent of Mount Vernon City Schools. “I strongly believe we can do things together and be fiscally responsible for the betterment of everybody. Donors were initially excited about the Gateway Project and there was an even greater excitement about the potential to share and make this even more of a community resource.”
To make all of these projects work, entities have working together to re-imagine land usage, partner for efficiencies and shared utilization of facilities for students and the community, and enhance both campuses as well as Mount Vernon Avenue.
“These projects demonstrate the long history of collaboration between Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the city of Mount Vernon and Mount Vernon City Schools,” said MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II. “We are excited to see how this project will enhance sports competition in the City of Mount Vernon. I cannot wait for that day when people drive down Mount Vernon Avenue and see multiple games being played. It will be a source of joy for the community, and especially for the university.”
Knox County Foundation has already pledged funds to the Field House and the Community Soccer Fields. In addition, it continues to provide guidance to assist in optimizing fundraising endeavors.
“This multi-faceted project, the Access to Opportunity, is one more example of the vibrancy of our Knox County community,” said Sam Barone, executive director of Knox County Foundation. “The Foundation is delighted not only to support components of the Education Gateway Project, and MVNU’s soccer and lacrosse complex, with grants from its unrestricted funds, but also to reprise a role it has played many times as a central receiving point for contributions to the project from the community. In this capacity, we can facilitate gifts of stocks and bonds, and donor-advised funds gifts, which are often complicated for school systems and colleges to process.”
Those interested in financially supporting the Field House can do so by contacting Tiell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-679-6509; Justin Sanford, Athletic Director, Mount Vernon City Schools at email@example.com or 614-580-09000; or mail donations to Jacket Boosters Inc., P.O. Box 776, Mount Vernon, OH 43050. Online donations are accepted by visiting www.mvkcfoundation.org and clicking “Donate Now.”
For more information on MVNU’s stadium project, or to donate, visit www.mvnu.edu/future.
Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and several convenient Graduate and Professional Studies locations throughout the state, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education to more than 2,200 students from 31 states and 22 countries/U.S. territories.
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