The Big Reveal: Industry Keeps “Welcoming” Immigrant/Refugee Kids

By on November 28, 2017

Just before Thanksgiving, the children at a Nahed Chapman New American Academy, a school for immigrant/refugee children got a surprise from the St. Louis construction industry when new classroom furniture was installed.

Peter Tao, president of the Gateway Welcome Project and Steering Committee Member of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, was approached about the classroom needs of the school, so he put the word out to the industry again.

Helen Lee, Peter Tao’s wife and partner in the firm TAO + LEE, made a connection with Lisa Moehle, business development, and Claire Erker, principal, of CI Select, an office furnishings firm in St. Louis. The result was CI Select securing a generous donation of this much needed furniture through one of their national workplace furnishings brands, The HON Company.

HON donated 50 new chairs and 44 new tables to outfit classrooms and support teachers in creating better learning environments, a retail value of $57,000. The furniture was distributed at both NCNAA locations, the main campus on Grand Boulevard and the Roosevelt High School location.

This video shows the reaction of NCNAA students to the new furniture when teachers did the “big reveal”. 


In September  2016, the Nahed Chapman New American Academy celebrated the dedication of its new soccer field and outdoor recreation area, an idea conceived and envisioned by Peter Tao. That became a major community effort and construction project led by the Gateway Welcome Project and the generosity of the regional construction industry and design professionals.

The project recently won a 2017 St. Louis AIA Design Award, including recognition of the shelter designed and built on the site by the Washington University Sam Fox School of Visual Arts and Design Studio.

Since the dedication, many individuals and organizations have joined this welcoming spirit by supporting this St. Louis Public School system’s transitional school for new immigrant and refugee children, grades K through 10. This has included a variety of program support, donations, as well as the establishment of the Alexander Hamilton New American Fund set up through the SLPS Foundation.

“It is all about connecting people and organizations,” Tao said.

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