By The Hand breaks ground on addition

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By The Hand Club For Kids broke ground over the weekend on a new $8 million, 30,000-square-foot addition that will allow both the non-profit and Moving Everest Charter School to serve more students.

“Anytime we’re able to build something new and safe for our children and families, it provides a functional benefit but also hope for the whole neighborhood,” said Donnita Travis, founder and executive director of By The Hand.

The non-profit is adding onto the 50,000-square-foot facility it opened in 2015 at 416 N. Laramie Ave. By The Hand leases the building to the charter school during the day while providing activities in the afternoon after classes end.

Now at capacity with 540 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Moving Everest will be able to serve another 270 students in sixth through eighth grade starting in August 2020.

“The new building is going to give my scholars … an opportunity to have a holistic education,” Moving Everest Principal LaRita Henry said.

Across the street at 415 N. Laramie Ave., the faith-based nonprofit also offers after-school programs and activities to 250 students  in kindergarten through 12th grade who attend partnering Chicago Public Schools.

Families attending Saturday’s ground saw designs of the new project, took classroom tours and had the opportunity to sign an ‘I’ beam that will later be used in the construction of the addition.

“I love the staff, they all do an amazing job with the kids,” said Shakina McNeil, 27, whose daughter, Casey, attends first grade.

She was “disappointed that the school only went to a certain grade level” but is excited to hear it will be expanding.

The expansion will allow 5th graders like Tanila Williams to continue her education at Moving Everest alongside her friends.

“This means I get to stay in my dance class,” Tanila said. “I can’t wait until next school year.”

Elected officials attended Saturday’s event, including U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward).

“This school and program have transformed this block,” said Davis, a 35-year member of the New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, at 431 N. Laramie. Davis mentioned his own experience teaching Sunday school at the age of 14 and the importance of education.

“Our children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside and give them a sense of pride,” the congressman said.

“Everything we do should be for the kids,” said Ald. Mitts, who added she’s proud to see faith and education work hand in hand.

With the new addition, By The Hand will have invested more than $30 million in capital in the last six years and contributes another $5.2 million in annual operating expenditures to Austin, the group said.

The addition was designed by the architectural firm Team A and will include special education and administration spaces, a maker lab, a large multi-purpose room and outdoor play space.

“Every year we take a step forward with the addition of more scholars, more technology  and more staff,” said Brad Ritchie, director of technology at Moving Everest.

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