August 25, 2010 — Hundreds of students, families and local leaders joined in a seven-hour chorus of celebration recently to commemorate the grand opening of the Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita, a school in Uganda supported by the University of Virginia community. The academy's nearly 200 students headlined a song and dance marathon that lasted well in to the evening to show their appreciation and excitement for the opportunity to learn inside a permanent classroom.
"You have cleared the land, you have carried materials, you have filled jerry cans of water, you have planted kassava and you have made this site your own," Building Tomorrow Uganda director Joseph Kalisa said at the Aug. 6 dedication. "Your work has just begun. Now it is time to support the students who will sit, study and prosper because of these classrooms."
Area leaders and officials praised the commitment of parents and U.Va. for their outreach to the community.
"We are grateful for what has to be one of Waksio District's best-built primary schools," headmaster M. Zizinga Ssemuyaga said. "We are excited for all that is to come here and hope that the parents of these children and local leaders will support us moving forward."
The academy is the result of Building Tomorrow's first multidisciplinary collaboration on a college campus. Throughout the 2007-08 school year, U.Va. undergraduate architecture and engineering students in Architecture Studio reCOVER and the Engineering in Context Capstone Design Program crafted a design for a new 10-room schoolhouse, funded by the student chapter of Building Tomorrow at U.Va. and the School of Architecture.
The academy is the fifth opened by Building Tomorrow in Uganda, with another five academies slated to open in the next year.
"It is so awesome to see the academy open and come to fruition," said Liz Braden, a May graduate of U.Va. and former vice president of fundraising at the University's Building Tomorrow chapter. "To know that the University of Virginia community puts a roof over the heads of hundreds of students each day is nothing short of incredible."
Over the last four years, more than 2,000 students and community members have participated in Building Tomorrow-sponsored events, including Bike to Uganda, a 7,500-mile stationary bike "ride" held on the Lawn held each spring. Through these and other events, more than $50,000 has been raised in support of the Gita academy.
In March, the Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita received the American Institute of Architects' Education Honor Award and was highlighted at the spring meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
Building Tomorrow Inc. is an international social-profit organization encouraging philanthropy among young people by raising awareness and funds to build and support educational infrastructure projects for underserved children in sub-Saharan Africa. The organization works with a network of nearly 30 college chapters nationwide and hundreds of grade schools through an innovative service-learning curriculum, Sit for Good.
Building Tomorrow is headquartered in Indianapolis and has offices in Kampala, Uganda.