Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan School Headmaster Zach Young, right, speaks with Assistant Headmaster for Advancement Chris Cleveland, left, while giving a tour of new athletic fields that are under construction on the Wesleyan School's Norcross campus.
PEACHTREE CORNERS -- When he looks out on lush, green lawns, marvels at sturdy buildings of red brick construction, watches children crisscross Wesleyan School's 85-acre campus, a single word escapes the mouth of Headmaster Zach Young:
Located in western Gwinnett County, the Christian school has come a long way since uprooting from Sandy Springs, where it was established in 1963.
Cutting back 53 acres of North Georgia woodland growth in what was formerly Norcross, contractors originally made way for Wesleyan in 1995.
"When we moved out here, there was nothing but trees, a road and a detention pond," said Young, who took the job of headmaster in 1996 shortly after Wesleyan's move to Gwinnett County.
"We could never have expected what would happen over the next several years," Young said. "It's been miraculous."
It's a word Young also uses to describe the generosity of donors in the success of a recent campaign push that allows the school's continued expansion.
Over the past several weeks and for many weeks to come, earth-moving machines are a mainstay on the usually-silent grounds as crews clear the way for expansion of athletic fields, tennis courts and buildings.
In a $16.4 million campaign to raise funds for expansions -- as well as funding for the school's endowment and continued giving for another campaign -- Communications Director Chad McDaniel said the push has thus far been fruitful.
"We've raised a large amount of money in a short time," said McDaniel who estimated that the school is less than $200,000 from its goal.
Included in the physical expansions are plans to enlarge Austin Chapel, expand the athletic fields at the lake field complex, create meeting space and expanded daycare space in Warren Hall and add four tennis courts to the tennis complex.
Home to assemblies and weekly services, Austin Chapel will grow from a capacity of 400 to 600 in order to accommodate the entire high school student body and faculty as well as visitors. New space also will be created under the chapel, including classrooms and faculty offices.
Warren Hall, which is home to Wesleyan's Lower School, will be expanded to include a small wing with a 110-person meeting room and two rooms for faculty childcare.
The creation of two additional athletic fields at the lake field complex will give athletes more practice space and pave the way for a middle school lacrosse program for girls and boys.
An expansion of four courts at the Curley Tennis Courts will give young athletes enough space for simultaneous boys and girls tennis matches.
In describing the private school's continued improvements, McDaniel said that Wesleyan is "a school that aims to achieve things at a high level."
Young said the quantity of other local Christian schools has "increased exponentially since 1996 when we first moved out here. There weren't as many of this type of school, and if you just look around now you become aware of how many schools have popped up and grown in the area. It's a testimony to the market, but there are a lot that weren't here in 1996 that are still here now."
Part of Wesleyan's staying power, he said, is continued improvement.
Outside of the current capital campaign, other projects on the horizon include updating the school's gates and signs, which are the originals from 1996; press box improvements; and swimming facility upgrades.
Young said all of the projects within the current capital campaign are scheduled to be finished shortly after Christmas.
In Wesleyan's fifth fundraising campaign in nearly two decades, Young said progress on this phase has so far been nothing short of miraculous.
"God clearly wants this place to be here for his purposes, and people have stepped forward to make things happen we never could have anticipated," Young said.