How An All-Hands Approach Empowered an Underserved School Community

Room: D137-138

Audience: Educators

Call to Action: 

  1. Leverage the combination of new and renovated spaces to create a welcoming, cohesive home for an underserved school community.
  2. Phase a design to expand in anticipation of fundraising milestones.
  3. Infuse an emotional connection to a new school through visual storytelling.

Abstract: As the most diverse private high school in Oregon with 91% of its student population identifying as persons of color, the new De La Salle North Catholic High School (DLSNC) is a heroic story of the school leadership, design and construction team, students, alumni and donors coming together around the school’s mission: empowering students to learn so they could in turn serve their community. Since its opening in 2001 the college preparatory school had never had a home of its own and by 2016, facing the looming end of lease for their rented home, risked closing entirely.

Bora worked with DLSNC to evaluate more than 40 potential sites before landing at the St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland, which, with some creative design thinking and impressive fundraising, was determined to be a viable new long-term home where they could co-locate and renovate to support a full high school curriculum. In its largest capital campaign to date, championed by Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, DLSNC raised a miraculous $26 million in just 17 months to fund the new school, an undertaking that took place throughout all design phases to support the project’s constrained budget. We worked closely with the mechanical and electrical consultants as well as the design-build contractor to be cost-effective and creative with systems, while still setting the school up for the long term. Leveraging the “good bones” of the existing building and its natural advantages such as daylight, circulation, and orientation, the design team stretched every dollar raised to achieve a beautiful, functional, and sustainable home for this important community. Our colleague and De La Salle alumnus, Nik Tucker, provided incredible perspective on life as a student, helping the team clarify the most important aspects of the design and further honing our ability to achieve the project within tight budget constraints. In addition, the effort included donations of in-kind materials and equipment and flexible design options to accommodate budget unknowns. For example, since the full budgeted amount was not raised until the project was in for permit, we designed the new gym and weight rooms to be phased construction, should the funds not be raised in time. The construction team bid the project with this phasing in mind, including the scope into the final phase of work. Down to the wire, funding came through, and the full scope of the school was completed on time and on budget for the 2021-22 school year. This accomplishment was a testament to all stakeholders’ resounding support for the school and its mission to empower underserved students. This session will explore the power of bringing various parties together on a project from its earliest stages—and the creative thinking that must go into the design process—in order to overcome challenges and nurture a thriving educational experience.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn how to establish and leverage innovative partnerships to provide resources and mentorship opportunities for your students and educational community.
  2. Identify strategies for planning and designing facilities that are heavily reliant on donor funding and whose final budget may be unknown during initial design phases.
  3. Learn how creative strategies employed in design and the leveraging of existing assets can stretch dollars to achieve programmatic goals on a limited budget.
  4. Anticipate opportunities to plan educational facilities so they can double as a community resource, thereby embedding them in their neighborhood and providing additional streams of revenue for the school.
Amy Donohue
Amy Donohue
Principal, Bora Architecture + Interiors

Amy is a Design Principal at Bora with over 25 years of experience designing equitable, collaborative spaces for education and community. Her deep understanding of interdisciplinary and synergistic environments blends concepts from a broad range of sectors, resulting in a sophisticated body of work that enables people to learn, live, make, and thrive together. Believing design can be a force for good, she is a passionate advocate for social justice within the architectural industry.

Ashleigh de Villiers
Ashleigh de Villiers
President, De La Salle North Catholic High School

Ashleigh brings over 20 years of experience in management and resource development for educational and social change organizations locally and internationally. After building her career in South Africa as a Project Manager and eventually Managing Director and Trustee of the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, Ashleigh worked in grant writing before arriving at De La Salle North Catholic High School, where she led the school’s $26M capital campaign and was appointed its fourth President.


Ashleigh will identify the ideal student to co-present with her and Amy closer to the date of the conference. De La Salle has a long history of having its students speak at a wide range of public events

Core Competency

Community Engagement
Leads the internal and external communities through a discovery process that articulates and communicates a community-based foundational vision, forming the basis of a plan for the design of the learning environment. The vision is achieved through a combination of rigorous research, group facilitation, strategic conversations, qualitative and quantitative surveys and workshops. Demonstrates the skill to resolve stakeholder issues while embedding a community's unique vision into the vision for its schools.

LearningSCAPES 2024 Conference in Portland, Oregon


Oregon Convention Center
777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Portland, OR 97232


October 16-19, 2024


+1 480.391.0840