The future is looking bright for students at St. Dominic School in Springfield. The small Catholic school recently added a new library/media center, as well as a community center/gymnasium. Now, a new science lab appears to be on the horizon.
Staff and board members of the school, as well as parishioners and St. Dominic church representatives, visited Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary School in Lexington to get a sneak peek at the future of their own school.
Thanks to a gift being provided by Dr. Pierce Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, owners of Alltech, St. Dominic School will soon have a brand new science lab like the one recently completed at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary.
St. Dominic’s new lab will be the tenth lab created by Dr. and Mrs. Lyons and their company, and the goal is to see students get started earlier in studying science.
“Science is all around us, and we thought the younger they start, it would get them exposed at an earlier age,” Dierdre Lyons said.
She explained that Alltech offers a PhD program in connection with several universities, and it came to the attention of her and her husband that they had few, if any, American students applying for the program.
“We find that all of the applicants are Indian, Pakistani, or other nationalities, but we realized that we didn’t have any American kids for many years, and we thought that was a shame. They’re not starting young enough,” she said. “We thought we would start this and it would get them exposed at an earlier age. I think when you get to high school, if you haven’t been exposed to science, it’s harder because you think it’s going to be harder.”
The inspiration to help children was a natural one, but an additional motivation came from Mrs. Lyons’ brother-in-law, who was a priest in London, England. She said before she and her husband ever thought about creating science labs for children, her brother-in-law suggested the idea to help students with whom he worked. They were students called throw-away children, and she said they didn’t fit into the typical school system.
“I was talking with him one day, and he said he’d like to have a lab for the children,” she recalled. She told him they would look at the details, but unfortunately, her brother-in-law suffered a heart attack the following day and passed away.
“We never got to do it for him, but now we have taken his idea and use it to help other children,” she added.
As for the St. Dominic lab, it will be a completely free gift, but there will be some ground work to be completed before Alltech’s crew comes in to do its part. Those touring the new lab in Lexington were taking a close-up look, but also preparing to raise funds for their part of the project.
“First of all, the people here today are going to look well at this and see what’s possible,” Mrs. Lyons said. “Then they are going to go back and form a group to raise money and develop the room so that we can come in and finish it out like this.”
Lyons said there are several factors of the current school that need to be updated to make the new lab possible, including updates to plumbing, heat and air, electric, and of course a fresh paint job.
“It’s going to force us to do some things we really have wanted to do all along,” said St. Dominic Principal Pam Breunig. “We have some things we have to do to prepare for this, obviously. We have a committee coming together now that will be comprised of parishioners, school board members, an adjunct building and grounds committee, teachers, and we even want some students to be on the committee.”
Breunig addressed some of the same issues as Mrs. Lyons pointed out when looking at updates, including the school’s heating system, which is a boiler system featuring older heat registers.
“We have some decisions to make on how this can work. Right now, we’re getting numbers together. They (committee members) had to visualize this first, then we’ll see on paper what we have to do,” Breunig said.
Karen Spaulding, who teaches science at St. Dominic, said the new lab is like a dream come true.
“It’s just unbelievable what they’re able to do,” she said after touring the new lab in Lexington. Breunig agreed, saying that this lab gives students the hands on experience they will need.
“We think our kids can be inspired and maybe go into some careers that never would have crossed their mind this early, and I just think it’s amazing,” Breunig said.
The work being done by the Lyons family also saw a Springfield influence. Jerry Mudd, a Springfield native and St. Dominic School graduate, happens to be in a key position with Alltech, and he works closely with Dr. and Mrs. Lyons. Mudd is MIS director for The Americas with Alltech.
“They have been very gracious to the schools here in Lexington by donating labs. One of Alltech’s core pillars is research, and being good Irish Catholics as they are, they wanted to do something with the science labs for the schools,” Mudd said of Dr. and Mrs. Lyons. “They did labs for all of the Catholic schools in Lexington, and now they’re moving out to Versailles and Frankfort, and now Springfield. When the conversation came up, and we have a plant there, she came and saw the school and said, ‘I think we can help.’”
Like Mrs. Lyons, Mudd said getting young children involved in science is a key for Alltech.
“They need resources to do proper experiments. There is only so much you can do with water and a bucket. They learn and really grasp it this way, and kids can get excited and want to do something with science,” he said.
Mudd said for the Springfield lab, the idea was to have the key people tour the Lexington site, then go back and get ready for things at the start of school next year.
According to Mrs. Lyons, the idea plan would be for St. Dominic to do the work to get ready for the project, and as soon as the 2011-12 school year ends, a crew would come in and get to work on the lab, having it finished by the start of the 2012-13 school year.
John Graves is president of the St. Dominic school board, and he said the new lab being given to St. Dominic is just a matter of the school having the tools it needs to better educate its students.
“This is going to be a great addition to our St. Dominic parish, and our community. It’s all about having the tools, and not just how you teach,” Graves said. “If you’re going to build a house, you have to have a hammer, and if you’re going to have science, you need a lab, and this is the kind of lab our kids at St. Dominic deserve. We’re just blessed to have Dr. and Mrs. Lyons, and Jerry Mudd and all of those involved be here to facilitate this project and make it happen.”
Graves added that having a St. Dominic alumni like Mudd working with Alltech was a key factor in the gift being given to the school.
“It’s typical for what we have in Springfield. Dr. Lyons and his wife, they’re not from Springfield, but you send one of our alumni to their office, and this just shows what you can do when people give back,” Graves continued. “It’s an amazing gift, and we’re blessed to have these great people in the state who can afford to bless others. What if because of this, just because they have the right tools, one of our kids cures cancer? You have to have the right tools, and that’s the main thing. They (Dr. and Mrs. Lyons) have the tools to do something like this, and they share the gifts they’ve been given, and we are being blessed by them.”