OCA Landsharks hoping to land a few new sports fields
In the two years since its opening, many high school sports players and enthusiasts have watched, and moved to, Oceanside Collegiate Academy in Mount Pleasant. The charter school’s fixation on college courses and athletic scholarships has made it a top choice for scores of teenage athletes, including several who reside in the Daniel Island/Cainhoy area, but the academy lacks one key element required for any winning sports program: places to play and practice.
“We’ve got 19 different sports,” said OCA Board Chairman Marvin Arnsdorff. “It ends up being 27, if you’ve got boys and girls [teams].”
To build a lacrosse field, football field, tennis court, and pickleball court, OCA hopes to raise over $15 million. Local resident and longtime school volunteer Mary Nemeth joined OCA as the capital campaign manager around the time the project came to light. She said that efforts to raise the money for the athletic fixtures “will be a community building event.”
While $15 million is a tall order, Nemeth’s fundraising resume is extensive. As a former PTA president at both Daniel Island School and Bishop England High School, and current PTA president at Philip Simmons High School, she has helped bring in important fundraising dollars for each facility. But her impressive efforts have not been limited to schools. Recently, Nemeth served as the capital campaign manager for Saint Clare of Assisi Catholic Church’s “Blessed to Build” initiative. Thus far, the campaign to construct a new church for Saint Clare on Daniel Island, adjacent to Bishop England, has generated some $14 million in contributions.
“I got to see the generosity and the more I see that, the more my heart grows,” said Nemeth, of her experience at Saint Clare of Assisi.
Nemeth says that, just like her work with Saint Clare, raising money for sports fields for OCA will be a group effort from businesses and individuals in the area. She also believes nearby residents will find personal incentive in OCA’s new sports areas.
“The idea is that the students will obviously have success on the fields and in the classroom, but also the community will get the benefits of that facility” Nemeth said. “All the fields will also be not only for Oceanside kids, but for the town of Mt. Pleasant.”
“We have over eight acres left to develop that is developable acreage,” said Arnsdorff. “We’ve got a lot more that’s wetland, so we’re going to try to fit as much as our sports complex into that as we can.”
Some of the ways OCA has coped with not having a home for a handful of their teams is through playing home games away from home. According to their online schedule, the girls’ soccer team would meet travelling teams at Charleston Southern University during the spring season, almost 30 miles away from the academy. The boys football team in the upcoming fall season will play at Park West Recreation Fields, which lies two miles from the OCA campus. The Landsharks haven’t been forced to travel for their home games when playing basketball and volleyball, because OCA has a gymnasium.
“We desperately need to get our kids back on campus, and that’s our focus,” added Arnsdorff. “We’ve been bussing our kids and providing the transportation. We’ve had practices that were everywhere from out in Awendaw all the way to North Charleston.”
The board chairman sees the sports program at OCA as integral to its educational experience.
“To us, it’s an extension of the classroom,” he said. “Participation in sports really provides these kids with the opportunity to develop self-discipline, leadership skills, loyalty to team, school, and community.”
For additional information on OCA, visit www.oceansidecollegiateacademy.org.