St. Junipero Serra Catholic School celebrates new chapel and Student Creation and Leadership Centers

By Corey Overton     10/7/2018

More than 600 faculty and staff, families and city leaders celebrated the completion of the final phase of construction at St. Junipero Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita on Saturday, Oct. 6. Among those attending were founding families: Ralph and Oonagh Linzmeier, Bill and Pat Kaszton and Steve and Kathy Brandlin. Bishop Vann was also present and blessed the chapel.

The school completes its third and final phase of construction with the completion of the St. Junipero Serra Chapel and the Student Creation and Leadership Centers. 

Twenty-three years after first opening its doors to 250 students in 1995, St. Junipero Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita opened its doors this fall with excitement and anticipation, as students, parents and staff got their first look at the new Student Creation and Leadership Centers and the St. Junipero Serra Chapel. This final phase of construction began on April 3, 2017, with a ground-breaking ceremony and blessing by the Most Reverend Bishop Kevin W. Vann of the Diocese of Orange.

According to SJSC President, Angeline Trudell, “This final phase brings together the key components of our Mission as a Catholic School in the Diocese of Orange: our commitment to living and modeling our Catholic faith with our new chapel; our dedication to advancing student learning and opportunities; preparing them to be leaders in the 21st century; and our recognition that we are partners in leadership with our parent community. Our Miracle of 23 years has blossomed.”

Perhaps the most anticipated part of the construction project is the St. Junipero Serra Chapel, which has seating for 200 and is a place for prayer and worship for students and families. Outside of the chapel is a beautiful Rosary Garden, canopied by olive trees, which includes an inlaid stone rosary and cross. Students will have the opportunity for prayerful time in this tranquil space. Next to the garden is a Trinity Fountain, welcoming students to pray the bronze Stations of the Cross hung along the stone wall. The chapel, built and adorned with stone, oak and bronze, houses a 17-foot crucifix in addition to a tabernacle, cross, and corpus that were hand-sculpted in Mexico.

In addition to the chapel, the SJSC teachers and administration are excited about the new Student Creation and Leadership Centers. The first floor of the center includes a Production Studio with video equipment and green screens, a Think Space with writable walls for sharing and projecting ideas, a Performance Room to support the school’s music and theater programs, and two SmartLabs from Creative Learning Systems. SmartLabs are state-of-the-art STEM centers for students to explore, think, collaborate, problem solve and more. The labs engage learners of all ages, abilities, and interests. As Beth Thomas, Director of Education Technology at SJSC, puts it, “The SmartLabs are like learning playgrounds for the students.”

After the chapel blessing and lunch, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Student Creation and Leadership Center was held. Matt Dickstein, CEO of Creative Learning Systems and Corey Zilli, regional sales manager, were part of the team that brought the centers to life. St. Junipero Serra Catholic School is preparing students to be leaders who live with the light of Christ. The SmartLab Program is an engaging program where students explore STEM and media arts through applied technology and project-based learning. The jobs of the future have not been invented. 

Dickstein said the questions for students are now: “Who do you want to be and what problems do you want to solve?” He added, “Next generation skills include problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, collaboration, communication, and information literacy. The resources are here. Students can dream big.”

The second floor of the new building houses the Leadership Center, including a 1,400-square-foot parent hub; a space for administration and parents to work collaboratively. According to SJSC President Angeline Trudell, “The Leadership Center is where parent leadership, collaboration, hard work, and community building come together.” 

When asked about the the Leadership Center, PTO President Shannon O’Connor said the approach at SJSC has always been focused on teamwork between administration and parents. “Parental involvement has been a differentiator for the St. Serra educational experience and the new leadership facility demonstrates the administration’s commitment to parental volunteerism enabling us to have a beautiful and spacious meeting and work area on campus.”