Park Forest, Schools

Southland College Prep Dedicates New Performing Arts Center

Southland Performing Arts Center
Left to Right: Southland College Prep CEO Dr. Blondean Y. Davis; Richton Park Mayor Rick Reinbold; University Park Mayor Vivian Covington; Matteson District 162 Board Member Karen McCray; Southland College Prep Board Chair Ron Bean; and Illinois Senator Michael Hastings cut a ceremonial ribbon to open Southland College Prep’s new Performing Arts Center. (Photo by John Smierciak)
Richton Park, IL—(ENEWSPF)—September 9, 2018
By: Richard Barry

“To know this place is in the Southland area makes my heart chime,” Mayor Vivian Covington of University Park, declared at the grand opening of Southland College Prep Charter High School’s new Performing Arts Center in Richton Park late last month.

Mayor Covington was one of several civic and community leaders who addressed an audience of several hundred students, faculty and school administrators the opening of Southland’s new Performing Arts Center that will serve the Matteson Elementary District 162 and the public charter high school whose enrollment is drawn from the far south Chicago suburbs.

“Southland College Prep is the premier institution in the south suburbs,” Illinois Sen. Michael Hastings (D-19th) asserted.  “You have much to be proud of with the opening of this phenomenal performing arts center. “

Mayor Rick Reinbold of Richton Park, said, “This is a magnificent facility. Your board, administration and faculty should be proud. But this investment is a testament to you, the students who will practice and perform now, and in the years to come.”

Southland’s Board Chairman, Ron Bean, told the students, “You are the reason for this new facility. We’re proud of your accomplishments of excellence so the board created the space and facilities for you to practice and perform and continue to excel in all that you do.”

The one-story steel frame striking trapezoid-shaped 5,200 square-foot building adjoins the east wall of Southland College Prep on the site of a former parking lot. Its ceiling soars to 37-feet high. Natural light streams through large vertical windows on three sides of the building which features the latest in acoustical materials.

“This is a proud moment for us,” explained Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, Southland College Prep’s CEO and Superintendent of Matteson District 162. “Matteson District 162 has a long and rich tradition of supporting the performing arts.  Today, more than half of Southland College Prep’s students are engaged in our offerings of marching and jazz bands, a new strings ensemble, chorus and dance groups and a speech and forensics team which has earned several Illinois State championships as well as national honors.

“This new Performing Arts Center provides our students with a much-needed state-of-the-art facility.  An added benefit is that our 70-member chorus no longer will need to practice in school hallways but can enjoy their own space in the former band room,” Dr. Davis explained.

Homer Thomas, Southland’s athletic director and program emcee, surprised the crowd with an announcement that the school’s spirited Ambassador Marching Band and Lady Eagles will perform in McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Chicago for the second consecutive year and had just been notified of its acceptance to march in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in April, 2020.

Seniors Armanti Reed and Alexis Eiland, speech and forensic team members, opened the program with a welcome.

In addition to selections by the band, led by Dr. Carl Cogar, Southland’s director of fine arts, the event featured musical selections by Dr. Stirling Culp, director of music, who delivered a stirring “Tribute to America Medley” and music faculty member Elizabeth Norman-Sojourner performed with a mixed chorus ensemble as did a newly formed string ensemble.

The new structure’s principal space is a large band rehearsal/performance room, 71 x 74 feet, with five permanent tiers for seating.  The new space will comfortably accommodate more than 200 musicians, double the size of the previous band room.

The new Performing Arts Center features an open floor space where speech and forensics and other programs will be staged.