It has come a long way from the dilapidated locker room and greasy auto body shop it contained in a former life, and supporters of the newly revamped MAD Academy got a peek Friday at the slick new facility that now houses the student organization.
The MAD (Multimedia Arts and Design) Academy — described as a "school within a school" by Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash — is a program within Santa Barbara High School that aims to prepare students for college and the workplace by teaching them media arts and technology skills.
The curriculum is focused on the areas of digital imaging, graphic design, web design, digital photography, video editing and video production. About 270 students are involved in the program.
As part of its grand opening, attendees were invited Friday to check out the newly redone MAD building, located in a historic 1920s building at 905 N. Nopal St.
MAD students lined the entrance of the building like paparazzi, taking pictures as attendees entered the new building on a red carpet.
The public got a firsthand look at the newly renovated computer labs decked out with the latest photo, video and design software, along with an impressive photo studio with backdrops and professional lighting setups, and even a large room with a green screen.
MAD students Kyla Zavala and Will Pulice emceed the gathering, and introduced SBHS Principal John Becchio, Cash, and MAD Foundation board members Isis Castaneda, Dr. Angelo Salvucci and Ron Pulice.
"Today is about celebrating … and saying thank you for making something great for our students," Becchio said.
In addition to being a huge asset for SBHS students, Becchio said the building will also serve as a building for the community, and that the space could be used for adult classes as well as bringing in younger kids from the district.
Cash recalled coming to the school three years ago and asking the students what he could do to better serve them.
One young woman stood up and told Cash, "I want you to act as if the future matters, because I am that future," he recalled.
That statement cut to the quick, and Cash said the new building sends its own message to students, and "tells them that they matter."
The program has increased its outreach to the campus in order to increase diversity and make the academy available to all students, according to Castaneda.
Pulice also spoke, saying he has had three children go through the MAD Academy and thanked the school district for allowing the foundation to buy the building.
The foundation is "very close to retiring that debt," and Pulice thanked some of the major donors that made the revamped building a reality, including Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin of Lynda.com as well as Karl and Pam Lopker of QAD.
For more information about donating to the MAD Academy or how to apply, click here to visit the school's website.