COLUMBIA CITY — TROY Center School’s board recently acquired a building that will serve as the new location for the independent accredited alternative learning school.

Later this fall, the 43 enrolled students at TROY School will have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals in a building dedicated entirely to their learning, located at 1911 E. Business 30, Columbia City. The purchase was made possible by grants from the Community Foundation of Whitley County and the McMillen Foundation.

Understanding that not every child has the same style of learning, TROY Center School strives to help students gain an education and earn a diploma at their own pace while supported by loving teachers, counselors and support staff.TROY stands for “Teaching and Reaching Our Youth.”

The nonprofit school has a 20-year history of successful outcomes. Founded on the belief that regardless of past behavior or current circumstances, everyone deserves the opportunity for an education, the school evolved from a program started by Whitley County’s court system.

While the educational services have been ongoing over the past two decades, the school’s location has changed a number of times due to financial considerations. Two years ago, Trinity Presbyterian Church opened its doors to the students and teachers when the school’s former location became unsuitable for the students.

“Trinity Presbyterian’s generosity has been overwhelming,” said Nicole Trier, TROY director. “They never gave us a deadline or made us feel that we were an imposition, but like any good guest, there comes a time when you need to go home.”

Moving forward, home for the TROY students will be a 5,000-square-foot building, complete with a kitchen area, large group area, classrooms, office spaces, counseling areas and a rec room, as well as outdoor space for gardening and other life skills exploration.

Last year, the school operated with a wait list for most of the year.

“We never want to turn away a family or a child who is seeking their education and feels that they have nowhere else to turn,” said Trier. “This building will allow us to serve more students and eliminate the need for the wait list that we had to put in place last year.

“We talk a lot about the importance of creating a family atmosphere for students to thrive in. Having a ‘home’ of our own as a TROY family is such a significant step in creating a sense of belonging and purpose in the community. Even more importantly, these kids are beginning to see themselves as part of this community with value and something to offer. The support thus far in making this dream a reality has been incredible and these kids have been able to see that our community values them and the hard work they are doing. This will inspire them in return as they become successful productive members of this community, this project benefits everyone.”

In the tradition of family and community, Mike Steele, one of the previous owners of the building, was one of the first participants in the TROY Center program at its beginning. He expressed his appreciation for seeing his own success come full circle by being able to give back and help make this agreement happen.

“Not every student learns in a traditional classroom. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for this program,” Steele said in regard to his success. Steele along with his business partner and co-owner, Billy Reffitt, worked with TROY’s board to make this dream a reality for current and future students of TROY.

“The Community Foundation has been an avid supporter of the work carried out at TROY since its inception. We understand the importance of reaching students who feel they can’t succeed in traditional classrooms. TROY’s staff has a unique ability to support, encourage and counsel their students, helping them develop confidence as well as knowledge. When a child is surrounded by that kind of caring, they are more likely to thrive and avoid destructive decisions. That’s a win for the entire community,” said September McConnell, director of the Community Foundation. “The acquisition of this building is the next step in the growth of this organization and we were proud to partner with them to make it happen.”

While the $150,000 cost of purchasing the building is covered by grants from foundations, there remains a considerable amount of work to be done in preparation for the students.

Some remodeling will need to be done to make space more efficient for classroom use, the HVAC system in the building is not functioning and will need to be replaced, additions will need to be made to bathroom space, appropriate fire, security and technology updates will need to be made, as well as several other minor repairs.

An anonymous donor offered to match gifts directed toward internal renovations of the building $1 to every $2 donated, up to $30,000. This means that a $50 gift will bring $75 to the project. Gifts to the TROY School Building Fund are tax deductible and can be made by sending a contribution to the Community Foundation of Whitley County, 400 N. Whitley St., Columbia City, 46725, and noting TROY Building, or by visiting the crowd funding campaign online at chuffed.org.

The TROY Center School board includes Jim Stapel, Patty Cook, Shelby Lamm, Laura Lefever, Jim Heuer, Laurie Gray, Cathy Diamente, Kathy Heuer, Andy More, Melissa Long and Judy Dusman. For more information about TROY Center School or how to enroll a student or get involved, visit troyalternativeschool.com.

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