Friday, October 15, 2021

On the Cusp of Making A Dream Come True

Dylan Clark.

For as many years as one can remember, the emphasis on building school has laid in simply providing a building from which educational professionals might produce the brilliant minds of the future. That has equally been true regarding the buildings which house K-12 and within our university and college campuses. 

In the last dozen years or more, architects, educators and others have been concentrating on making the environment in which our young minds are stimulated as much a part of the educational equation, as well as the curriculum. That is why the executive staff and volunteers involved with the Marco Island Academy have taken their time to get the job done right. 

In addition to classroom space, schools also utilize extensive land and site amenities such as roads, parking, lighting, walkways, recreational areas, as well as athletic fields, while taking that entire equation into consideration as part of a total conceptual design of what will benefit a balanced approach for their new campus. 

The leadership at the Marco Island Academy is well aware of the “global picture” regarding school design and costs. Not only do they escalate as each year passes, but they are bombarded with new facts and findings regarding the changes and innovations being proposed. That is why the final design package hasn’t quite yet been created, but instead is being cautiously evaluated to ensure they will be getting the “best bang for their buck,” commented School Founder Jane Watt. 

“We no longer see this as a brick and mortar issue, but instead creating the best educational environment, for both our students, faculty and staff,” said Watt.  

“We have produced a great product here at MIA due to the diligent efforts of our personnel in all areas and are preparing to bring that to the next level. I really don’t think we’ll ever cease to be looking at ways to improve, as we can’t afford to rest on our laurels or the statistical evidence which places us as one of the best Charter Schools in the Nation and as a High Performing School here in Florida. 

Watt points to a few of those successes, and they aren’t what you’d think. They have nothing to do with the monies raised, land purchased or any of the other items we see bantered about in some media releases, but instead deal with the “successes” of the students the Academy graduates year after year. 

Examples of that lie in the academic achievements of its graduates. 

Kasey Bersh.

Kasey Bersh is one of those outstanding students who graduated from Marco Island Academy in 2016. She was accepted at several colleges when she applied and was happy to accept an invitation from Princeton University where she received a degree in Public Policy and International Affairs in June 2020. 

Another wonderful example lies in Dylan Clark who was a 2017 graduate of MIA and chose Brown University to pursue a Public Policy degree and will go on to law school after graduating in 2021 and has a keen interest in the political process. 

Duneshka Cruz will graduate from Pennsylvania State University in 2021 and is majoring in Biological Anthropology with a Pre-Med concentration. While in school, she has been working as a Research Assistant in the Anthropological Genomics Lab at Penn State. Her goal is to attend medical school after graduation and become a Forensic Pathologist 

For Livia Lenhoff, it was a love of art and design which helped her to choose the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota. Livia graduated in 2014 from MIA and got her degree in Motion Design. Today, she is living in New York City and working as a Designer/Animator at Nickelodeon Studios.  

These examples represent only a shortlist of MIA success stories since its opening in 2011 and are a large part of why Mark Melvin agreed to join the MIA Leadership Advisory Board last year and eventually the Steering Committee for their Capital Campaign. 

He is no stranger to promoting education and what team-oriented staff and faculty can accomplish. An engineer, businessman and entrepreneur himself, he understands the need for America to continue to compete on the global stage, it must up its game in education and has committed himself in time, talent and treasure to ensure that happens. 

Melvin himself initially committed $250,000 to the capital campaign two years ago. In December of 2019, he committed to providing $1,000,000 in additional funding for matching purposes to the goal of raising the final $4.8 million. “I am confident the community will come together as they see the dream closer to reality as we move ahead,” said Melvin. For more information on the match, please visit 

“We want everyone within the community to be able to say they had a hand in making this a success,” Melvin stated. Should someone donate $1,000, $25,000 or just $100 we will match it from my donation. That will put us within the striking distance of their $13.8 million goal. They have raised or have pledges of $9 million. 

The Marco Island Academy is a Public Charter High School, and as such, they can accept students from throughout the Collier County areaThe Collier County School District, however, does not commit capital funding for buildings, other than those they build and staff. That is why the Marco Island Academy’s Staff and supporters are forced to have to raise those capital funds themselves.  

For more information regarding the Marco Island Academy, you may visit their website at There you’ll find more information regarding the academy and how you can become a donor to this great project. 

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