Contemporary Spaces, Innovative Programming Define the New Center for Student Life

Contemporary Spaces, Innovative Programming Define the New Center for Student Life

ETHOS: Contemporary Spaces, Innovative Programming Define the New Center for Student Life

Two named gifts, the Norona Wellness Room and Patio and Papou’s Kitchen, exemplify and expand Ravenscroft’s commitment to student well-being.

Janice Lewine
Nov 17 2021

Palpable excitement is brewing across campus as construction of the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center nears completion. Slated to open in early 2022, the 33,000-square-foot community hub features amenities and programming that emphasize holistic wellness.

The expansion, named in recognition of the generosity of lead donors Michael and Candace Olander, revitalizes the A.E. Finley Activity Center, which was dedicated in 1974 and is home to the Main Arena, aquatics center, fitness facilities and several Physical Education and Athletic department offices. New features include a full-service dining area with a dramatic two-story glass curtain wall, study areas and classrooms, informal and formal gathering spaces, an upgraded Alumni Hall of Fame suite with an adjoining balcony, and a revamped RavenZone school store. Former trustee John Jenkins, an alumni parent who chaired the Buildings and Ground Committee as the Center was being envisioned, characterized these elements of the new facility as “similar to a university student union.”

“Coupled with the recent upgrades to the weight and cardio training spaces in the A.E. Finley Activity Center,” he added, “these features show the school’s commitment to the all-around physical, mental and emotional health and wellness of every student.”

As integral parts of the overall vision for the Center, two new spaces — the Norona Wellness Room and Patio and Papou’s Kitchen — will help make good on that promise for students and other members of the school community.

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Above, shown here catching the last rays of the day in mid-October 2021, the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Center is approaching its opening date.

A rendering of the Norona Wellness Room with the patio beyond

Norona Wellness Room and Patio

Guiding Ravens toward a well-balanced lifestyle

The Norona Wellness Room and Patio will facilitate innovative programming to inspire students to care for themselves while uplifting their minds and spirits.

Located on the Center’s first floor, the 28-by-30-foot Norona Wellness Room features two digital screens for programming use, speakers that can connect to iPads and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer ample natural light. In a nod to programs that may include yoga or other mind-body work, the Rexcourt flooring absorbs impact, offers optimum traction and slip resistance, and has softer acoustics while maintaining the aesthetic of natural wood. The adjacent 17-by-30-foot Norona Patio overlooks Stefanou Field and the trees and sky beyond. The effect is a calming atmosphere where Ravens will feel invigorated and restored.

Kendra Varnell, Assistant Head of School for Student Affairs, explained that she and other members of the faculty and school leadership have met with groups of students to get their input as Ravenscroft develops programmatic options for this exciting new space. What’s taking shape, she said, promises to be transformative for student wellness initiatives.

This construction photo from Oct. 26 shows the Norona Wellness Room’s floor-to-ceiling windows and the view beyond where the patio will be.

“We’re researching wellness practices and programming options to offer the best opportunities for our students. We know mindfulness will be a huge part of that,” she said. “In preparation, each of our counselors is getting certified as mindfulness instructors through a training program at Duke University’s Center for Koru Mindfulness,” an evidence-based curriculum and teacher certification program specifically developed for teaching mindfulness, meditation and stress management to young adults.

For Mike and Helen Norona, parents of Jordan ’17 and Dylan ’22, equipping Ravenscroft to support the well-being of students is paramount.

“With social media and other new frontiers that we as parents didn’t have growing up, these experiences today are causing kids anguish,” Helen Norona said. “The new center at Ravenscroft will really put the children’s mental health at the forefront because, without that, nothing else can follow.”

The focus is not new to the family. They established a wellness endowment, the Norona Family Health and Wellness Fund, at Ravenscroft several years ago in gratitude for the support Dylan has received from the school’s nurses and teachers in helping to manage his type 1 diabetes. They were moved to make a second gift to the endowment last May during Teacher Appreciation Week — which led to the naming of the Norona Wellness Room and Patio — after witnessing the dedication of employees throughout the school year.

“Last year was a very tough year for students, faculty and staff,” Mike Norona, who also serves on Ravenscroft’s Board of Trustees, said. “What the faculty and staff did for the students is beyond inspiring and incredible, because they were able to have a very consistent experience despite the pandemic.”

Mike and Helen Norona with their sons, Dylan ’22 and Jordan ’17, at The Getty in Los Angeles

A rendering of the serving area, with Papou’s Kitchen behind it

Papou’s Kitchen

A modern culinary space honors the love of grandparents

As part of a much-anticipated expansion of dining services in the new building, Papou’s Kitchen will play a large part in Ravenscroft’s approach to health and wellness by offering students nutritious, delicious — and convenient — meal options.

Designed to serve Upper and Middle School Ravens, Papou’s Kitchen will feature a hot meal-service line, a soup and salad bar, a sandwich station, a pizza station and an “action station” that will vary each week. The serving area will also have a convenient grab-and-go section offering both hot and cold items. Students may choose to eat in the Center’s spacious, light-filled dining hall, which seats 350, or elsewhere on campus.

This construction photo from Nov. 1 shows one side of the serving area of Papou’s Kitchen, which will soon be finished with green tile walls and millwork paneling to give the space a collegiate feel.

Contemporary in its design, the space conforms to the state health department’s standards for a commercial kitchen. Gleaming stainless steel equipment, acquired via a commercial kitchen vendor, includes brands such as Hobart, Robot Coupe and TurboChef. The floor is finished with a gray epoxy resin for ease of sanitation and cleaning. The serving area will inspire school spirit with its green tile walls, and millwork paneling along the walls at the serving stations gives the space a collegiate feel.

The name, Papou’s Kitchen, celebrates the love of grandparents, and all beloved figures, that inspires younger generations. Carmin and Laura Helton Kalorin ’92 made their gift in recognition of the vital role many grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives, from their wisdom and guidance that provide a sense of security to their knowledge of family history and cultural heritage. 

The Kalorin children, Victor ’24, Audrey ’26 and Hope ’28, shared a close bond with their paternal grandfather, Angelo Kalorin, who lived with them for seven years prior to his passing. “Papou” (“Grandfather”) had immigrated from Greece as a child and later operated a successful food truck — “before it became fashionable,” joked Carmin Kalorin — in New Jersey. His true source of pride, however, was preparing meals for his family in Raleigh and regaling them with stories of his youth as they sat around the table at dinnertime. He cooked Greek and Italian specialties that Victor, Audrey and Hope fondly remember.

Laura (’92) and Carmin Kalorin and their children, Hope ’28, Victor ’24 and Audrey ’26 at their home. Photo courtesy of Simon Capell Photography

“Grandparents nurture us with food and love,” Laura Kalorin said. “We thought that naming the kitchen would be a great way to honor all the grandparents that help us in the various stages of our lives.”

The Kalorins’ stewardship and philanthropic support for Ravenscroft run deep. The Helton-Kalorin Family Endowment Fund supports teachers’ professional development opportunities and the Helton Awards, which were founded by Laura’s parents to recognize faculty and staff for excellence in teaching and service to the school. Laura has served on the Board of Trustees since 2016 and is chair of the Educational Stewardship committee.

Now, with the Kalorins’ gift of Papou’s Kitchen, Angelo’s love and legacy — and that of all beloved figures who give of themselves as he did — can be celebrated at Ravenscroft.

As the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center nears completion, stay up to date with the latest photos and videos on our dedicated project page!

Work is underway to upgrade and expand the Lower School's early childhood playground, a gift from parents Geoffrey and Courtney Brock.

Great things are coming to the Lower School, too!

Middle and Upper School students aren’t the only ones who will benefit from this facility expansion! With the opening of the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center in early 2022, the existing Dining Hall will become a vibrant and flexible community hub for students in PreK through fifth grade. Read about the exciting expansion of the adjacent early childhood playground, also underway this year, in Fit.