It’s the beginning of a new era for the Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA), thanks in part to the generosity of Swarthmore College faculty, staff, and alumni.
Founded in 2012 with the support of several members of the Swarthmore College community, CCSA is an academically rigorous nonprofit public charter school in the Chester Upland School District. In early June, CCSA held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new, 11-acre campus for its high-performing and arts-integrated program, serving one of Pennsylvania’s most impoverished school districts.
The new $25 million, three-story, 90,000 square foot building will include a multipurpose cafeteria and auditorium, a regulation-size gymnasium, a band room, two visual art studios, a kiln, two science labs with accompanying prep rooms, a media lab, two large dance studios, and, in phase two of construction, a 350-seat performing arts space with accompanying costume and set design workshops.
Almost 200 guests attended the ceremony, which included remarks from community leaders and performances of “Imagine” and “Oh Freedom” from CCSA students.
Funding for the new campus includes a $1 million anonymous donation from a Swarthmore alumnus; other Swarthmore-connected supporters have contributed to a $7 million capital campaign.
Swarthmore alumni Barbara Klock ’86 and Salem Shuchman ’84—who also is a member of the College’s Board of Managers—are leading CCSA’s capital campaign. To date, Klock and Shuchman have helped raise $3.852 million and hope to raise the rest in the next 18 months as the campaign goes public.
“CCSA is a model of educational excellence in Chester,” says Klock. “Every year as CCSA adds a grade level, we have the opportunity to assess and improve our academic program, ensuring a rigorous and enriching academic experience in a consistent and supportive environment.”
Joe Turner ’73 and Lana Everett Turner ’74 have also contributed to the effort, making a $250,000 gift to support the construction of science labs in honor of their friends, Peter and Peggy Thompson. (Peter Thompson, professor emeritus of chemistry, was a member of Swarthmore’s faculty for nearly 37 years; Peggy Thompson worked in the Theater Department, Financial Aid Office, and the bookstore for many years.)
“Lana and I met at Swarthmore over 40 years ago. Even then, the College community was very aware of its neighbors in Chester,” says Turner. “After Swarthmore, we lived far away, but our dear friends, Pete and Peggy, had fallen in love with CCSA and it was impossible not to take a closer look. The more we learned, the more we wanted to become supporters. CCSA nourishes our most important treasure: our children.”
CCSA’s new facility will be located in Chester's most densely populated West Side neighborhood on land purchased by The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts, a nonprofit organization founded by Maurice Eldridge ’61 and John Alston H’15, with help from other Swarthmore alumni, including Jeff Scheuer ’75 and Jane Lang ’67.
“Swarthmore’s support for CCSA exemplifies the College’s commitment and leadership in Chester, and the College’s overall emphasis on social justice and community engagement,” says Akosua Watts, CCSA’s head of school and CEO. “The number of Swarthmore faculty and alumni at our groundbreaking ceremony was evidence of the tight bonds between Swatties and the connection that has been forged with our community.”
Read more about the CCSA at the Philadelphia Inquirer.