High School Designs with MiEN Furniture a Flexible, Collaborative, College-like Student Union
- August 22, 2022
- Anthony Bowie
Josh LeSage, High School Principal at Valley Christian Schools in Chandler, Ariz., recently turned to MiEN for help designing and furnishing its student union space with MiEN collaborative and flexible furniture.
With nearly 1,100 K-12 students, including 485 high schoolers, the school is currently in growth mode and wanted to modernize more of its communal spaces. After a few area feeder schools closed, Valley Christian stepped in to fill the gaps. “Our growth has been phenomenal,” said LeSage. “But along with that growth comes the feeling that you have to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.”
After completing a new, 2-story STEM building, the school then set its sights on constructing a new student union. LeSage said the idea came about because Valley Christian had a “library full of books that weren’t being checked out.” With so many materials being distributed digitally, there was no real need to have those books taking up valuable physical space on campus.
After surveying the space that would be freed up once the books were gone, LeSage came up with a vision for a “student-centric” space that supported Valley Christian’s own mission of preparing students for success in college.
“We’re truly a college prep school and we celebrate that, but we didn’t have anything on campus that represented a ‘collegiate feel’ for the students,” said LeSage. After clearing out the physical books and moving over to a 100% digital library, the team started looking at how it could recreate a college student union—albeit on a smaller scale—for its students.
“MiEN was a greater partner,” LeSage explained. “They brought in a design team and made us some great computer models for our new student union. We liked what we saw!”
To fund the project, the school held few fundraisers and received an additional donation from Colorado Christian University, which sponsors some of Valley Christians’ other school events.
“We presented the university with a plan that included furniture sketches from MiEN,” LeSage said. “We showed them what it was going to look like, and they agreed to donate the rest of the money for us to complete the project.”
The student union opened for the 2022-23 school year, with all its furniture provided by MiEN. All of the furniture is multifunctional and designed to support collaboration or independent study, whichever the individual student prefers at the time. Most of the tables include USB outlets and can also be used for teacher meetings.
“I’m really impressed with the quality of the MiEN cafeteria soft seating furniture,” said LeSage. “I especially like how it can be used in the academic space and how kids can spread out and study, attend events and also use the student union’s targeted study halls.”
The space includes a corner coffee shop nook where students can order a cool drink. “Instead of giving an outside coffee shop $5 for a coffee with ice in it,” LeSage said, “they can get one from us and help raise money for their own school and local charities.” Through the generosity of one specific donor, the school added a spirit shop where students can purchase merchandise adorned with the Valley Christian logo.
Walking into the space, students see the café lounge furniture situated throughout, the coffee shop on their left and the spirit shop on their right—similar to the way a college student union would be set up. The walls are glass, so even if there isn’t anyone manning the shop at the time students will be able to select items using a QR code, grab a cold drink and “just kind of hang out on the furniture,” LeSage said.
Success in today’s job market requires good collaboration skills and the ability to work with others in open spaces. “Even when you look at how some Fortune 500 companies set up their office space,” LeSage said, “it’s very much a shared collaborative approach.”
With its new student union and modern MiEN lounge space furniture in place, Valley Christian now has a flexible space for showcasing its school, hosting pre-game tailgate gatherings and even raising money for local charities. In fact, it plans to select 10 different charities to donate 20% of the coffee shop’s proceeds to every month.
In its student union, Valley Christian also has a new tool for prepping its students for life after high school and for success in college. “This is a space that gets kids out of the traditional classroom setup and into a place where they can work together on projects, attend a class in a different setting or just relax and unwind,” said LeSage. “As we go forward, we’ll be coming up with even more ideas for using the shared cafeteria and learning space for both academic and non-academic purposes.”