Duneland Education Foundation Pledges Support for STEM Education with Generous Investment in the Duneland YMCA’s Healthy Living Campus

Duneland Education Foundation Pledges Support for STEM Education with Generous Investment in the Duneland YMCA’s Healthy Living Campus

Pictured (from left to right): Dave Kasarda, CEO of Duneland Family YMCA ; Abby Evans, secretary of DEF; Meg McCarel, executive Director of DEF ; John Kroft and Darlene Kittredge, founding board members of DEF ; Jim Trout, Chief Volunteer Officer of Duneland Family YMCA ; Elissa Dortmund, President of the Board of Directors of DEF

For Immediate Release – June 18, 2024 Press Release

As a long-standing non-profit staple in the Duneland community, the Duneland Family YMCA is elated to have strengthened its relationship with another local non-profit that is also continuously positively impacting our youth. The Duneland Education Foundation, founded in the mid-1980’s, has been steadily expanding upon their efforts to enhance the learning experiences for children in Duneland and their donation towards a STEM room at the new Healthy Living Campus is a significant move indeed. 

Noting their confidence that the YHLC will serve as a vibrant community center in the heart of downtown Chesterton, the foundation’s board of directors was excited to explore their possibilities to both benefit the masses while also honoring their founding members.

"As our foundation began discussing the possibility of donating to the YHLC, we wanted to make sure we chose something that would match our goal of enhancing educational experiences with the Duneland community. When the board learned of the opportunity to put our donation toward a STEM room, we never looked back!"

The foundation’s director, Meg McCarel, echoed Dortmund’s excitement in getting involved with the YHLC project as the foundation’s board expands upon their community works. “It is so exciting to work with this board,” exclaimed McCarel. “We are now more visible than ever before and are finding new, fun ways to help the students and teachers in our community.”


While the Duneland Family YMCA has offered a handful of engaging STEM related programs and activities over the years, the ability to have the space at the YHLC to build out a dedicated space for STEM will be a game-changer for Y programming. Stepping in to support this opportunity and make it happen was seemingly kismet for the foundation, who at their core seek out these types of moments to best benefit students and educators. “Being able to give Duneland youth a place to enhance their learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is the perfect way to give back! I am incredibly excited to see this room in action and so proud of our foundation for making the decision to support this incredible project,” exclaimed Dortmund.


It goes without saying that as the Duneland Family YMCA continues to forge ahead with finalizing plans for the YHLC, these types of investments are undoubtedly appreciated and imperative to bring this first of its kind vision to light. “The philanthropic gift made by the Duneland Education Foundation to the Duneland YMCA’s Healthy Living Campus STEM classroom is a truly transformative investment in our community’s future,” said Dave Kasarda, Duneland Family YMCA CEO. “It not only enhances educational opportunities by providing vital resources for STEM learning but also empowers our youth to develop essential skills for tomorrow’s challenges. This contribution underscores their commitment to fostering innovation, education, and health, creating a brighter, more promising future for all.”


This announcement follows closely on the heels of the Duneland Family YMCA’s announcement of the extraordinary contribution from the Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation for a 20-acre public park on the YHLC campus. More information regarding this project and how to contribute to the capital campaign can be found at www.yhlcduneland.org.


About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women, and children – regardless of age, income, or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has long-standing relationships and a physical presence not just to promise but to deliver lasting personal and social change. More information can be located at www.dunelandymca.org.


About the Duneland YMCA Healthy Living Campus Project

At the Y, we believe that when we devote our full strength to our mission and cause, work in partnership with others, and build on our commitment to the children, families, and underserved people of Duneland, we can address the most pressing issues of our community unlike any other organization. The Healthy Living Campus is combining adaptive reuse and new construction to create a new community hub and park in the heart of Chesterton. With the inclusion of several non-profit and healthcare partners, we are building more than just a YMCA. The campus will be an innovative space fostering collaboration within a one-stop-shop capable of addressing a variety of community health and wellness needs.

The New Duneland YMCA and Healthy Living Campus is on it’s way!

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Duneland Family YMCA and the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) has been executed by the Duneland School Board of Directors. The MOU was unanimously supported by the Board of Directors at their meeting on Monday, April 3, 2023.

For Immediate Release – April 3, 2023 DSC YMCA PRESS RELEASE

This MOU results from a shared vision for the future of this property, dedicated leadership, and the support of our partners. This is the first step toward a new YMCA in Duneland. We can’t wait to continue this story with our members, staff, and the Duneland Community.

“The new YMCA, the Healthy Living Campus it will anchor, and the creation of a community park will help advance the Y’s cause and stand as a testament to the visionary leadership of the YMCA, the DSC Board, and our partners.”

Dave Kasarda, CEO of the Duneland YMCA

The MOU gives the YMCA the right to renovate and build on the portion of the Chesterton Middle School (CMS) site not designated for demolition or continued use by the DSC. The MOU allows the YMCA and its collaborative partners to reimagine, repurpose and add to the remaining facility and surrounding real estate. The new Duneland YMCA and the YMCA Healthy Living Campus it will anchor are being designed to serve as an education, health, and social equity hub accessible to all Duneland community residents.

You can learn more about the new Duneland YMCA, the YMCA Healthy Living Campus, and its partners in the link below. For a better us. For a better Duneland. Tomorrow begins today!

Duneland YMCA and Duneland School Corporation announce partnership to develop Chesterton Middle School property

Duneland YMCA and Duneland School Corporation announce partnership to develop Chesterton Middle School

August 9th, 2022


CHESTERT0N, IN, AUGUST 9, 2022 – The Duneland School Corporation (DSC) and the Duneland YMCA (YMCA) will begin talks to transform the current Chesterton Middle School (CMS) into an education, health, and wellness hub. Responding to DSC’s request for a community partner, the YMCA is working to be a catalyst for change and collaboration in Chesterton and the Duneland communities through the development of a healthy living campus on the current middle school site.

The YMCA and DSC have a long and successful history of program, service, and facility-based partnership. The development of the CMS site as the new home of the YMCA would be a continuation and expansion of the relationship between the two organizations. The Y is currently engaged in collaborative discussions with a wide variety of non-profit agencies and major employers in the region. Included in this group of potential, collocated partners are: Town of Chesterton, Duneland Chamber of Commerce, Franciscan Health, Northshore Health Centers, Jacob’s Ladder, Porter Starke Services, and Visiting Nurses Association.

“To better address the expectations of the Y’s members, and meet the needs of the community, the Y was looking to renovate or replace our current facility,” said YMCA Board Chair Elizabeth Adcock. “The opportunity presented by the Duneland School Corporation, and the middle school site will allow the Y to exceed member expectations as well as meet current and emerging needs in collaboration with providers and employers whose work compliments, supplements and supports our own.”

Chesterton Middle School, located between West Morgan Avenue and Porter Avenue in Chesterton, was previously the site of Chesterton High School from 1922-2000. As part of its long-term capital improvement plan to reduce operational costs, DSC is moving from nine school buildings to eight. Plans call for DSC to continue housing district administrative offices, student programs in early childhood, virtual, and alternative education, a wellness clinic for corporation employees, and a 25-meter competition pool for competitive club and school programs on the east side of the current CMS site. Parts of the building west of the pool are not part of future plans and set to close when construction at the Liberty and Westchester campuses is completed. Due to construction delays, the Liberty and Westchester campuses will not be ready for students in grades 7th & 8th until August 2024. As a result, CMS will continue to host 7th & 8th grade students through May 2024. The facility, in need of extensive renovation and site work, will be reimagined and repurposed by the YMCA and its partners.

“Long-term sustainability, evolving relevance, and transformational impact are strategic priorities for the YMCA,” said YMCA CEO Dave Kasarda. “The opportunity presented to the YMCA and our potential partners allows us to address these mandates as well as collaboratively multiply resources, significantly expand our reach and increase access to needed programs and services across a broader cross-section of the Duneland communities.”

The YMCA has moved through a comprehensive planning and investigative process seeking input and direction from its membership and community leaders, as well as current and potential partners.

This insight, along with information provided by nationally recognized consultants and market research has helped the Y envision itself as a catalyst for positive change and collaboration. The YMCA’s volunteer leadership has chosen to engage the school corporation on the redevelopment of the middle school property as a result of its study, the recommendation of its consultants and the endorsement of potential partners.

“The Y has been very deliberate and disciplined in its approach to identifying community needs, seeking collaborative partners and considering locations that will enhance operations,” said Elizabeth Adcock. “We believe that the CMS site and an expanded relationship with DSC affords the Y the best opportunity to change the way we and are partners support each other and serve the community.”

The YMCA is a nonprofit organization, serving over 5,000 people annually via programs, outreach, and events throughout the Duneland Communities. The Duneland YMCA is part of the national YMCA movement, operating in 10,000 communities across the US. The YMCA, which does not deny services due to an inability to pay, serves the community by providing opportunities for individuals of all walks of life focusing on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

“The school corporation is excited about the possibilities this partnership presents for extended and innovative use of the CMS site in service to the entire community,” said Duneland School Corporation Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chip Pettit. “The School Board and I look forward to participating in the development process with the Y and its impressive list of potential partners.”