Downtown high school launches $10M fundraising campaign


An aerial view of the school's new entrance, courtyard and grotto, featuring its patroness, the Blessed Mother. Courtesy Catholic Central High School

A downtown high school has kicked off a $10-million, phase-two fundraising campaign for new construction, scholarships, teacher support, student services and deferred maintenance.

Catholic Central High School CEO and Principal Greg Deja said the Grand Rapids school, at 319 Sheldon Blvd. SE, began planning its latest round of fundraising more than two years ago, starting with a feasibility study.

Phase one

After the study was completed, the school launched a $9-million, phase-one capital campaign to build a comprehensive athletic complex, Cougar Athletic Trails, at 2770 Knapp St. NE. The project included a new athletic facility called Cougar Stadium, a more prominently located grotto, a varsity track, an additional turf field, field pits and technology enhancements.

Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction broke ground last April on the phase-one athletic facility project, designed by Grand Rapids-based AMDG in collaboration with the sports architectural firm URS, which was recently acquired by AECOM. Construction was completed in August.

“Donors paid for the athletic complex in full," Deja said.

Phase two

"Now we have The Greatest Gift campaign, which will pay for phase two," Deja said.

Catholic Central High School launched phase two this year, seeking $10 million for a two-pronged set of improvements that will begin in June:


Increasing scholarships, re-investing in teachers and staff and improving student support services


Building a student center that will hold 400; a STEAM center that will house the math, science, art and choir departments, along with 12 employees, five science labs, two computer labs and about eight classrooms; band facility upgrades (re-purposing the existing band and choir room to be dedicated solely to band); gym upgrades for the downtown campus (this portion was completed in September); upgrade finishes (aesthetics, bathrooms, window treatments, TVs, etc.); technology improvements; and deferred maintenance (upgrading old mechanical systems and the roof)

Deja said the school plans to break ground on the project in June and complete it by March 2018.

Grand Rapids-based Integrated Architecture is the architect and interior designer, and Rockford Construction is the contractor.

Catholic Central said one of the goals behind the facility upgrades and investments in teachers, students and services is to make the campus “a model of student-centered learning by 2019.” Part of that goal is to bring enrollment up to 800 students per year.

Deja said phases one and two fit into the school’s master plan, and a third phase is possible, though nothing has been solidified.

“We know that there’s always a tremendous need for tuition assistance, so as we look to grow enrollment…many of those families will need financial support to access our school,” Deja said.

Major donors

Although Deja did not disclose how much has been raised so far, Catholic Central’s website lists more than 120 individual, nonprofit and corporate donors, including the Cook Foundation, Larry and Nancy Erhardt, Ken and Noreen Hungerford, Jandernoa Foundation, Knights of Columbus, Request Foods and Deja and his wife, Caroline.

Catholic Central High School

Founded in 1906 by Bishop Henry Richter and the Dominican Sisters, Catholic Central High School says it is the oldest Catholic, co-educational, Diocesan high school in the U.S.

It has a culturally diverse student body and has graduated more than 20,000 students since its inception.

The main campus, located in Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood near the Cathedral of Saint Andrew and Cathedral Square, is comprised of three buildings with a pedestrian mall and parking for students and guests. 

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