Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Friendship’s founder and chairman Donald Hense, vice chair Friendship’s board, DC Public Charter School Board Chair John “Skip” McCoy, and principal of Tech Prep Doranna Tindle. (Photo courtesy of Bernie Dare)

The band played, the students marched, and the audience of school leaders, officials, and parents cheered. Friendship’s Technology Preparatory Academy (Tech Prep) officially opened a new, $18 million, STEM-focused facility during a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 24 in Southeast D.C.

“This building is a reflection of what we expect from our students,” Doranna Tindle, principal of Tech Prep, told the audience. “We want to inspire them.  We don’t want our kids to just buy the next iPhone, we want them to make the next cell phone.”

Housed where a neighborhood Boy and Girls Club stood before, the LEED-certified facility has a clear focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and innovation. Students can write on desks and classroom walls, grow plants in the school’s greenhouse, and use multiple labs to spur invention and origination, including a robotics lab, a chemistry lab, and several computer labs.

The building is also located across the street from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and adjacent to the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters. School leaders hope this U.S. agency’s location will help create new internship and learning opportunities for traditionally disadvantaged students and transform the area.

“Friendship sees this educational complex as being a significant contribution to the revitalization of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue,” said Donald Hense, founder of the charter schools. “We believe that this school will provide a world-class education that will lead to leadership positions in our community and the world.”

Tech Prep is one of six Friendship campuses in underserved neighborhoods in the District. The entire network serves nearly 4,000 students.

Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy 12th grader, Jasmine Kibler, served as a Student ambassador for the grand opening.

Located in Ward 8, Tech Prep was financed with charter school revenue bonds and some philanthropic donors who attended the school’s grand opening. Several dignitaries were also on-hand to celebrate including Ayanna Gregory, daughter of comedian and humanitarian, Dick Gregory; D.C. Councilmember and former mayor, Marion Barry’ D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds; and D.C. Councilmember At-Large and mayoral candidate, David Catania.

“This investment allows further resources to be provided for our scholars who are working diligently to enter this growing and often lucrative STEM career field,” Hense said in the grand opening’s welcome letter.

Jasmine Kibler, grade 12, was one of the scholars Hense and Tindle were discussing. Dressed in a pristine navy blue uniform, she smiled from ear-to-ear as she served as a student ambassador during the grand opening program.

A wall displaying the school’s core values is an artistic feature of the new school. Standing in front of it, Kibler stated that the word “persistence” was her favorite. Though it was hard to finish Tech Prep’s program, Kibler stated that her teachers and guidance counselors helped her through it. Kibler expressed being happy that the facility was around the corner from where she lives, however, she said she was sad she wouldn’t be there to fully experience it. “We’ve been waiting for it for so long,” Kibler said.