NFL player’s gift leads to makeover for Gables High athletic facilities
Coral Gables Senior High School has finished major renovations to its indoor athletic facilities despite a lack of public funding, thanks to alumni and community donations.
Although Miami-Dade voters in November approved a $2.1 billion school-improvement referendum, extracurricular programs, such as athletics, are not included, school officials said.
“We all know the current economic status of academics, let alone athletics,” said Roger Pollard, Gables High football coach and alum. “Everything but the bare minimum is funded by donors. If there is something we want, such as new uniforms, we won’t get it unless the money comes from an outside source.”
The renovations for Coral Gables High were spearheaded by New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, one of many successful former CGHS players. Vilma donated $25,000 for the locker rooms, then urged other alumni to put their mark on the school.
The Miami Dolphins donated 21 new lockers, which were installed along with carpet, air conditioning and new roof, thanks to Vilma’s seed donation. Other alumni donations paid for a new gymnasium floor with painted school logo and lines for basketball and volleyball courts. The renovations, completed in November, came with a large “Cavalier Nation” mural for the gymnasium.
The effect on morale shows the vital role athletics can play in education. Teachers say they’ve noticed an increase in school spirit among students.
“Athletics give kids a sense of ownership and reason to care about school,” Coach Pollard said. “Being a Cavalier means you represent every player who has walked through our doors, and the new changes have helped players identify with the school.
“Overall, it has given them a sense of pride.”
Alexa Dowell is a sophomore at the University of Miami studying public relations and sports administration.