The Summit School in Edgewater to be renovated as part of ABC2's Built Upon A Dream project

EDGEWATER, Md. -

The Summit School is a place of transformation.

Since 1989, the Edgewater-based not-for-profit school has served students in first through eighth grade who have language-based learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to education, teachers tailor learning plans to fit individual students’ needs. Class sizes are small—there’s roughly one teacher for every four students—and hands-on activities are emphasized.

As an alumnus of the school, art teacher Chris Davis has seen firsthand how Summit can transform a student’s educational experience.

He had a hard time learning to read before coming to The Summit School for his middle school years.

“I felt like I could be more myself,” said Davis, also a technology coordinator at Summit. “I was able to get my confidence back.”

Today, he gets to see the same transition in his students.

“There’s this point where you just see the change,” he said.

The Summit School, too, will be undergoing its own transformation as part of ABC2 News’ Built Upon A Dream project.

The project, styled after ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition program, matches contracting professionals with a non-profit organization that could use some help.

When ABC2 contacted Summit School executive director Dr. Joan Mele-McCarthy, she was thrilled.

“We were saying, how did this happen?” Mele-McCarthy said.

Founded in 1989, The Summit School has been at its current Anne Arundel County campus for 21 years.

“The classrooms were built for students who sat at desks and learned from teachers,” Mele-McCarthy said. “That is not how children learn today.”

Today, it’s STEM labs and 3-D technology, and the school needs space for such amenities. Plus, the school boasts robust sports and performing arts programs that need room to grow.

There’s no field, so student athletes play on nearby fields at the local American Legion, which creates travel obstacles and makes it harder for families to come watch.

By the same token, the school’s auditorium, which doubles as a gym, also needs better lighting and acoustics to best showcase students’ talent.

What does she want most? A new building, Mele-McCarthy said with a laugh. Of course, she knows she can’t have everything.

But Built Upon A Dream will get her close. The program will give The Summit School the necessary upgrades to the auditorium, plus a new roof on the school house, a better irrigation system on school grounds, a re-paving job and landscaping upgrades and a barrier around the driveway into the school to make it safer for carpools.

Mele-McCarthy is still hopeful for a STEM lab and an athletic field. But once she has an architect’s renderings and permits in hand, she’s hopeful she can drum up donations for both.

These are changes that will aid a learning process that is no longer “drudgery” for students, she said.

Students that come to The Summit School may struggle with reading and writing, but they’re intelligent, pointed out Melanie Sipple, The Summit School’s director of marketing and communications.

“They just need to be taught differently, and that’s what we do,” Sipple said.

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