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  • Writer's pictureHHA

Breaking Barriers and Embracing Inclusion: A New Era for the HHA McLean Educational Centre

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Since its establishment in 1962, the Hamilton Hebrew Academy (HHA) has welcomed thousands of children through its doors. Yet, during these six decades, the school's campus had a physical obstacle - five steps. These steps separated students from their playground during recess and stood in the way of strollers, toddlers, and individuals with physical disabilities.

Recognizing the need for change, the school embarked on a journey towards inclusivity by developing its Inclusive Campus Plan. Collaborating with a team of architects and engineers, a visionary masterplan was crafted and approved by City Hall's building department. At the heart of the plan was installing an elevator, making all school levels accessible to everyone. The vision also included an ambitious excavation project, removing the five steps at the front of the school and opening its doors to every community member. The redesigned school entrance also featured an inviting Welcome Center, a new parent drop-off zone, and an upgraded playground area.

To turn this vision into a reality, the initiative required champions and heroes. At the school’s recent Gala Dinner, a new parent and community member was deeply moved by the school's vision and chose to dedicate the project in memory of his late mother, Rivka. His mother lived an inspiring life of selfless dedication to her family, community, and those in need. Her granddaughter (and namesake) who currently attends the school, will be able to learn and thrive in a nurturing and inclusive educational environment dedicated to her grandmother.

The construction firm hired to take on this ambitious project, Concur Construction, was owned and operated by Alen Zlatic. Beyond his professional expertise, Alen brought his own incredible story of resilience and optimism to the table. A decade ago, he faced a debilitating car injury that left him wheelchair-bound. Instead of letting this define his life, Alen reinvented his approach and, through sheer determination and intensive therapy, reclaimed his place in the construction field.

Today, Alen leads his team with unwavering inner strength and a contagious positivity that permeates every aspect of the project. He arrives each day, transferring himself from his pickup truck to his wheelchair to the seat behind the excavator wheel. Defying the obstacles, Alen embodies the true power of the human spirit, literally breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations.

As the school's Inclusive Campus Plan becomes a reality, the stories of these visionary figures inspire us to dream. As we aspire to install an elevator for our school community, we wait to see who will be the next champion and hero.

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