A heavy beam bearing a small tree on one end and an American flag on the other was hefted by a huge crane and bolted into place Thursday. It was the last piece in the steel skeleton of the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit.
Next, floors will be poured, and the exterior will be finished. The final work, the interior, will be completed in June, in time for for classes in August 2017.
A small crowd of dignitaries at a “Topping Out the Beam” ceremony listened to short remarks by school and university officials, signed the beam and watched it placed by construction workers. The piece was the last of about 72 truckloads of steel making up the structure at 1101 N.W. Innovation Parkway, near Independence and Tudor roads.
The Summit Technology Academy/Missouri Innovation Campus provides students from area high schools technology-related classes. With cooperation of the university, it allows them to complete bachelor’s degrees in two instead of four years after high school. The program also includes paid internships and mentoring with 200 business partners.
It is a joint program operated by the Lee’s Summit School District, Metropolitan Community College-Longview and the University of Central Missouri. The program began in 2012.
“When these kids graduate, they’re work-force ready and without student loan debt,” said Charles M. Ambrose, president of the University of Central Missouri.
In 2017, the program is expected to have between 500 and 600 students, with about 300 from Lee’s Summit’s three high schools and the rest from 20 high schools in neighboring school districts.
Phyllis Balagna, a school board member, was raised in Lee’s Summit. She graduated from Lee’s Summit High School and University of Central Missouri, started her own dance studio in town. At the ceremony, she said she believes the program creates opportunities for more students to have the success the community allowed for her.
“It’s emotional; I’m getting a little teary,” Balagna said. “Our city just keeps getting better and better.”