From Design to Delivery, HDR Helps Students Create their Own Classroom

The HDR Foundation has awarded a $90,433 grant to the NorthStar Foundation to create a multipurpose classroom for high school students, which the students designed with help from volunteers at HDR.

Prior to 2016, there were no high school students at NorthStar, an afterschool program dedicated to underprivileged youth in north Omaha. But as the eighth-grade students aged out of the program, some of them started to return. NorthStar did not want to turn the students away, organization president Scott Hazelrigg said, so it hosted them wherever they had space – hallways, study lounges, even the nurse's station.

As more and more high school students returned, the organization wanted them to have their own space, Hazelrigg said. That meant converting a 465-square-foot storage room into a multifunction room at the expansive NorthStar building off of 49th and Ames.

“Developmentally, high school students need space that is their own,” Hazelrigg said. “The redesign of what was a storage room into the Leaders & Achievers Classroom will allow us to expand programming over the next few years to meet their needs, in pursuit of great futures.”

HDR was already a NorthStar partner, with volunteers regularly teaching a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum to the students for nearly three years. This renovation project was an opportunity to take the partnership to the next level.

Volunteers from NorthStar taught a dozen students the different areas of the design process, including the mechanical engineering, room design, interior design and communicating the project. The students then created their own design and on Tuesday they made a pitch to the NorthStar Board of Directors to approve the plans.

Once approved, Brent Kollars, HDR’s National Director of Employment who also has been overseeing HDR’s role with NorthStar, presented a $93,000 check to NorthStar to pay for the renovation as a surprise to the boys and the NorthStar Board.

“We have been honored to work alongside NorthStar to help these young men experience STEM in a very real, very hands-on manner,” Kollars said. “You can see their faces light up as they brainstormed, designed their space and practiced their presentation. The support of the NorthStar Board and the HDR Foundation shows them that their hard work paid off, and we couldn’t be happier for them.”

The plans for the renovation include three TVs, a lounge space and study space. A collapsible wall will replace the current one running the length of the room to connect an adjacent classroom. This will allow for quiet areas to hold ACT prep courses, study halls and various hands-on lessons. It will also allow for expected growth as NorthStar expands to accommodate more high school students.

About the HDR Foundation

The HDR Foundation was founded in 2012 and has provided more than half a million dollars in grants to local organizations — fueled by donations from HDR employees. We provide grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribal governments, and to political subdivisions. Our giving is targeted to the communities in which our employees live and work, and to organizations where HDR employees are highly active. Grant recipients are also required to align with HDR’s areas of focus, which include education, healthy communities and bettering the environment.

About HDR

HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push the boundaries of what's possible since 1917. We specialize in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services. With nearly 10,000 employees in more than 225 locations around the world, we think global and act local.