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20130905 JDAcademy-gets-new-gym AF  1164 featureMISSION – K-lee Flores, a junior and volleyball player at Juan Diego Academy in Mission, was brought to tears when she saw the school’s new gym for the first time.

“I’m an athlete, so just the fact that we will be playing volleyball in here is an excitement,” Flores said. “We were all singing the songs and tears came to my eyes because when this started, there wasn’t even grass here. Now we have grass and this beautiful gym. It’s just amazing how far we’ve come in the last three years.”

More than 100 people were at the academy Sept. 5 to celebrate the opening of the 17,000-square-foot gymnasium, which includes classrooms and changing spaces. Students, staff and visitors celebrated the ribbon cutting through song, and a blessing from Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.

Richard Walsh, a member of the Juan Diego Academy Board of Trustees, said there are 78 students who will benefit from the addition. Walsh said there are only ninth- through 11th-grade levels this year, and the intimate setting allows for more one-on-one attention.

Principal Bob Schmidt explained the campus encourages an attitude of love and acceptance. The new addition is all about the students, who were overjoyed about having a new competition/practice space, he said.

The academy has students participating in basketball, cross-country, soccer, tennis and volleyball. The academy’s Lions volleyball team became the first in the campus’s history to win a tournament championship on Sept. 7 after defeating Santa Maria High School in the South Texas Med Tech Tourney.

Bullard Construction Inc. built the facility for about $2 million, according to Juan Diego Academy President Sister Marcella Ewers.

The gym will be equipped with bleachers that will seat about 300 visitors, according to Walsh. He said the gym is the first of more plans for the academy’s future.

“Next year will have our first senior class,” Walsh said. “We still need classrooms for those seniors. So that will be the next big thing we kick off.”

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