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Students help break ground on much-needed expansion

Construction to begin for new Mary Help of Christians School Parish & Student Center

Students lend a hand at the May 24 groundbreaking for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center. The $ 3.2 million, 15,000-feet structure will allow students to eat lunch inside as well as provide additional space for administrative offices and classrooms.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Students lend a hand at the May 24 groundbreaking for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center. The $ 3.2 million, 15,000-feet structure will allow students to eat lunch inside as well as provide additional space for administrative offices and classrooms.

Students at Mary Help of Christians School in Parkland currently eat lunch outdoors. The Parkland school broke ground May 24 for a new Parish & Student Center which will replace the current temporary classrooms and outdoor cafeteria space.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Students at Mary Help of Christians School in Parkland currently eat lunch outdoors. The Parkland school broke ground May 24 for a new Parish & Student Center which will replace the current temporary classrooms and outdoor cafeteria space.

Students lend a hand at the May 24 groundbreaking for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Students lend a hand at the May 24 groundbreaking for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center.

PARKLAND | On pleasant days, the students at Mary Help of Christians School might have looked forward to lunch in the outdoor space that has served as a cafeteria over the years.

But probably less so whenever the South Florida temperatures and humidity crept upwards.

All of that will soon change as the relatively young parochial school serving northwestern Broward County adds a new Parish & Student Center. The $3.2 million, 15,000-feet construction project will replace temporary classroom and cafeteria space.

Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino presided at the May 24 blessing and groundbreaking for the project, which was designed by Alberto Llorente Architect. On hand were local civic leaders, student representatives and parents, along with Father Thomas Wisniewski, the community's founding pastor, who was set to retire a few days later. 

“Our students do not have anywhere inside to eat. They are basically out on the back patio at school and when it is really hot our kids are sitting outside,” said school spokeswoman Julie Winninger. “The other problem is we have a kitchen at the church and they have to cart the food over from there.”

The new building also will accommodate parish ministry get-togethers, student drama and choral programming, two additional classrooms and the school administrative office. “Right now we are in a module,” Winninger said.

Stephen Brown, principal at Mary Help of Christians, told The Florida Catholic he hopes the building permits come sometime in June, so the project can be completed in about one year.

“This is long awaited by many of us. Our school was built in 2005 and the enrollment has just been through the roof,” Brown said, noting that the school has had to turn away new applicants in recent years.

“We are over 500 students in the building and we are practically on top of each other. Here in Parkland I think we have some secret sauce: an amazing community, wonderful students, an outstanding faculty and staff and one that really treats each other like family,” Brown said.

Parkland City Commissioner Stacey Kagen extended congratulations to the gathering on behalf of the city and Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, who was unable to attend but has two children who graduated from the school.

“They sat where you are one day and they have turned into such wonderful young men, and I am sending her warm wishes from her to you,” Kagen said of the mayor.

“I have met a lot of the students who have been graduates of this school and part of this program and parish and the mission statement that you have is truly inspiration. We are so thankful that you are part of the community and I can’t wait to see the new building,” Kagen said. “It will bring new dynamics to everybody here.”

Before blessing the ground, Bishop Baldacchino noted that the new building will bring people together to contemplate the many gifts God has given them.

“You bring us great hope, young people,” the bishop said. “All this is for you and those who will follow after you. The same God says about us: the school is for you, the church is for you, the priests are for you, the service is for you because He loves us so much. May we love one another.”

Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino, left, and Father Thomas Wisniewski, who was pastor until his retirement June 1, break ground May 24 for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino, left, and Father Thomas Wisniewski, who was pastor until his retirement June 1, break ground May 24 for a new Mary Help of Christians Catholic School Parish & Student Center.


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