Dow School History
MECA has been serving at risk youth and their families from throughout Houston for over 30 years, with a specific focus on the 6th Ward, 1st Ward, Near Northside, and Heights neighborhoods. MECA provides a safe and valuable alternative to the streets. Youth have excelled at our site, taking from our programs the tools to succeed in life, education, and employment. Currently MECA is at a critical juncture. The facility which MECA occupies, Dow Elementary School constructed in 1912 and located in 6th Ward, must be renovated and upgraded to meet current life safety and accessibility codes, and to prevent further deterioration of the historic structure. Today, we need your support in guaranteeing that at risk youth will continue to have a place where respect, creativity, and hope flourish.

Dow Elementary School was leased to MECA by the Houston Independent School District in 1993, for $1 a year, for a fifteen-year time frame. As a condition of the lease of Dow School, MECA agreed that the building would be upgraded to meet current life safety, accessibility, and code compliance requirements. MECA accepted this condition and is currently looking forward to moving ahead with the renovation. MECA recieved the title to Dow School on January 7, 2004

It is planned that the renovation will be completed in three phases, beginning with life safety and code compliance issues, then renovating classrooms and the exterior of the building, and finally completing mechanical improvements. The first phase of the renovations are the most crucial, and the most needed, startup expenses for this phase are critical to the success of the project.

It is proposed that in each of the three phases young people will be involved through an onsite job training program which would include not only construction related skills, but additional employment skills, education, architecture, design training.

MECA has a long history of providing valuable job training sites for youth. Old 6th Ward Community Park, completed in 1988, a gem of public and community art in Houston, was completed largely by young people enrolled in a job training program. The park was constructed over a 3 year period and the total construction costs were approximately a half of a million dollars. Additional job training programs sponsored by MECA include an initial move in renovation of ten classrooms in Dow School and the construction of a grape arbor in the community garden on the grounds of Dow School. In all of the job training programs that MECA has offered young people the goals have been to foster responsibility, effectiveness, community awareness, and valuable life skills for youth to take with them into the academic world and future employment.

The following entities have been contacted to collaborate with MECA in providing job training opportunities and to provide professional services in support of the renovation of Dow School:

  • Avenue Community Development Corporation - assistance with obtaining financial support as well as being a part of the facility committee

  • Community residents and committed professionals who continue to work with MECA and have vast experience and knowledge in the areas of construction and design

  • Urban Harvest

  • Youthbuild Houston

  • Michael Gaertner and Associates

The renovation of Dow School will strengthen the partnerships that have been established in our community and will guarantee the sustainability of existing programs and services that serve the surrounding community into the future. The renovation is also an integrated solution to achieving the community's larger civic, economic, and cultural goals and providing valuable experience to at risk youth.

Three primary goals have been defined for the renovation project:

*To upgrade and renovate Historic Dow School

*To provide a valuable job training program for at risk youth in the target area

*To assure the sustainability of MECA and the other organizations housed in Dow School into the
future. To strengthen and assure the future of Dow School as a Community Cultural Center and
a nonprofit incubator.