Creighton Prep

Creighton Prep President, the Rev. Tom Neitzke, center, with Scott, left, and Cindy Heider. 

With the help of the largest gift in school history for a capital project, Creighton Prep will build a $16 million “learning commons” to address students’ academic and emotional needs.

The Heider family, a longtime supporter of the high school and Creighton University, is donating $8 million. Prep will raise the rest.

The center will be named for the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, the school’s president from 1988 to 1995. He also served as president of Creighton University from 2011 to 2015.

The Rev. Tom Neitzke, Prep president, said the Lannon Learning Commons “will help assist our young men as they navigate their emotional and academic needs.”

Neitzke called the planned addition to the school’s northwest side a comprehensive student services department. It will provide counseling related to “the educational, emotional, psychological and socioeconomic needs of each student.”

No specific incident led to the plan, he said, but he added that “kids are under a lot of pressure to perform.”

Neitzke noted that a recent Mental Health America study said nearly 12 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in a year.

The Virginia-based organization says youth mental health is worsening. Rates of youth with severe depression increased from 5.9 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in 2015.

The learning commons, Neitzke said, is in keeping with the school mission of “Cura Personalis,” a Latin phrase meaning care for the whole person. Construction could start in the fall with completion by summer of next year.

Prep will hire a school psychologist to help students and parents deal with emotional and behavioral concerns. The psychologist will provide individualized mental health counseling, group sessions, drug and alcohol education, and counseling and suicide awareness and consultation.

The commons also will include a specialist to identify “learning differences,” as well as an academic coach and a director of student outreach and advocacy.

Cindy Heider is a member of the Prep board of directors. She and husband Scott Heider, a 1981 Prep graduate and managing principal of Chartwell Capital in Omaha, will lead the capital campaign to raise the additional $8 million.

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