Cranston West auditorium project a true group effort!

PROUD ALUMNI: David DiMaio, was just one of several alumni association members and project organizers on hand last week as the first seats were taken out of the auditorium, making way for new more comfortable seating to come in later this summer.

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Fifty-four years after the Cranston High School West auditorium was installed, it is getting its very first, much-needed overhaul, thanks to the Cranston High School West Alumni Association (CHSWAA) and its partnership with the Cranston Public Schools, the City of Cranston, the Local 271 Laborers’ Union and the New England Laborers’ Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy. A project 18 years in the making, it finally came to fruition on the morning of Thursday, June 22, and according to CHSWAA president David DiMaio, although the project is important, it’s the partnership he values most.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a project like this has ever been done this way, pulling in all these different groups around the city for this one goal,” he said. “It just shows that if people work together we can accomplish these types of goals.”

Fellow association members, alumni and Cranston High School West employees Karen Casale and John Fontaine agree, and were also on hand last Thursday morning, checking out the demolition of the auditorium seating space, sharing photos of the project now underway, and discussing the overall project goal.

Said goal is a total overhaul of a space that seats over 700 guests and hosts dozens of community events throughout the year. The Cranston West auditorium is not just used by Cranston West, but rather is utilized by schools and community groups across the city, thanks to its ability to accommodate large groups and events. The venue has also been used for regional events in the past, such as last spring’s Rhode Island Drama Festival and the New England Drama Festival several years before that.

“Ultimately, the bigger goal is for former students to be able to give back to current students so that the current students can succeed in the future,” DiMaio said of the alumni association’s mission. “Our motto is ‘Once a falcon, always a falcon,’ and we believe that. We have all come back to make things better for those students who are here now and those who will come after them in the future.”

DiMaio and the alumni organization have seen local business owners and community groups coming together to host fundraisers, attend events and make donations, all supporting the auditorium project. He hopes that this ongoing support, which has gained momentum over time, will continue.

The CHSWAA launched their auditorium renovation fundraiser at the 2015 Thanksgiving football game 18 months ago and the project has gained momentum over time, with seat sponsorships selling quickly. However, DiMaio said that despite the fact that the project is underway, there is still additional funding needed and there are still seat sponsorships available. He notes that in addition to the need for additional monetary donations, in-kind donations are also a need for materials and services.

“This is an ongoing project with several goals,” he said. “Right now we’re working on the seating, the carpeting, the lighting, but we have other goals for this space we’d like to accomplish next. We’d like to continue to improve this auditorium indefinitely.”

He cited one such improvement goal, to air condition the space, as a future goal that is a need. A recent mid-June event held in the auditorium by a local community organization saw temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees inside and backstage. However, each improvement is costly and DiMaio hopes more donations will continue to roll in.

“As a non-profit organization, it’s hard for the school to support the needs of its students in these tough financial times,” he said. “It’s been 54 years and there have been no improvements to this space until now.”

To sponsor a seat, make a monetary donation or an in-kind donation to the CHSWAA auditorium renovation project, contact David DiMaio at 588-1313, davidcdimaio@gmail.com or Karen Casale at kcasale@cpsed.net. Visit the organization’s Facebook page to keep up with the progress of the renovations and to learn about upcoming events at www.facebook.com/cranstonwestalumniassociation/.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the renovations at Cranston West. Part II will appear in next week’s edition.