Ms. Horton, Sister Hagar, and LEAD students on their furniture tour
An Interview with President, Sister Hagar and Capital Campaign Director, Monica Horton
Elizabeth Seton, a private, all-girls Roman Catholic high school in Bladensburg, Maryland, is just about ready to welcome a brand new cafeteria to their community! During interviews with Sister Ellen Marie Hagar, Seton high school’s President, and Monica Horton, the school’s Capital Campaign Director, it was clear that Seton’s students are part of a close knit community driven by a strong support system.
Horton has worked very closely with Sister Hagar to make sure that the community supports Seton’s growth. Just recently, for the cafeteria campaign, Horton has helped Seton parents hold an online fundraiser called, “Seton’s Cafeteria Renovation Needs Your Support!” Parents, family members, and friends all came together to contribute and raised $25,000 in the first week of February!
There have been several other fundraisers for renovations throughout the school, but the cafeteria is special to Seton because as the first room visitors see upon entry, it sets the tone for the rest of the school. It is also unique because it is open to the surrounding Bladensburg community! According to Horton, the school’s recent auditorium renovation is what inspired the renovation of the cafeteria. The students felt that a renovated cafeteria would speak to the modernity and vibrancy of the auditorium and library renovations that have been implemented to represent Seton’s spirit of excellence. “Both rooms are next to each other,” said Horton, “so before, when someone would walk into the school and see the beautiful auditorium and then see the 60 year old cafeteria next to it, there was a disconnect…”
“A lot of students are at school until 6:30 p.m. - at which point the library is no longer open, and the next space to work or lounge in would be the dining hall,” said Horton. This has made carrying out the representation of the school into the cafeteria that much more important. The previous cafeteria had no representation of Seton. It could have been placed in any other high school in the country. Now, students can be certain that the cafeteria will represent Seton’s true identity because their ideas have been put at the forefront of the design!
According to Horton and Sister Hagar, being a part of the LEAD program and collaborating with Soto has been a very unique and beneficial experience for the students. “Tracing back to the original three girls who laid down the foundation for the project through their research, Soto Architecture has taught them in ways that were very practical and project oriented. I don't know where they would have been if it weren’t for this experience. I believe that if you’re not project oriented, you’re just learning random things and processes,” said Sister Hagar.
Kevin showing LEAD students the HVAC systems and walking them through the construction site
The four current LEAD students and the three who graduated in 2020, are all aware that there are a lack of women in the engineering field. Being able to participate in such a collaborative project with consistent mentorship has helped them gain a more profound understanding of the industry. “Kevin, [the construction manager on site] and Fernando, [Soto’s Founder and Principal] have been very welcoming and supportive to the Seton students during the process. They are interested in answering the student’s questions and helping them succeed,” said Horton.
Each of the current students has had to do research on a particular topic within the renovation project, for example, students would have to ask Fernando or Amber questions to figure out what to say during their HVAC or cloud ceiling pitch decks. They have each had very active roles in the design and development of the project, (Horton). Participating in the design process last year and currently following through with construction has given all seven of Seton’s students the opportunity to understand the practicalities of a project. In order to be articulate about the process, the four current girls have had to study the foundation of the project. Saving the research that the original three girls did last year and passing it down to the current students made this possible.
Discussing renderings with Amber in the construction space