MOUNT GREENWOOD — Just before winter break, students at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences received a sought-after gift.
Seniors were brought together Wednesday morning under the veil of a meeting with teachers only to learn the school won $100,000 in an online contest, said William Hook, principal of the Southwest Side high school.
The Dream Big Teacher Challenge grant will be used to build an indoor horse riding arena at the northwest corner of the campus at 3857 W. 111th St. in Mount Greenwood.
"The kids were obviously just ecstatic," Hook said.
Kendall's proposal sought to build the arena as a way to boost the therapeutic riding program offered at the school. The program allows students with physical and cognitive disabilities to interact with large animals.
Winners were selected based on online voting. Students were encouraged to vote daily and spread the word. When the school learned its proposal was in second place on Oct. 2, students rallied by turning to social media.
It worked. The insurance company notified Kendall that she was leading her region on Nov. 10. However, the lead was slight.
Voting ended on Nov. 30, and Kendall hadn't heard anything until Wednesday.
"It was a surprise for the kids. It was a surprise for Maggie," Hook said.
He plans to meet with Chicago Public Schools administrators next week to determine how to proceed with the project. Hook envisions a groundbreaking ceremony in the spring.
Since becoming a finalist, Kendall has also been working to line up sponsors for any additional costs related to the arena. Along the way, the scope of the project has increased along with the price tag.
Kendall estimated on Nov. 25 that the indoor barn will cost roughly $1.5 million.
"When I first wrote the grant, it really validated the project," Kendall said late last month.
She also believes a portion of the costs will be offset by the fees generated through community programming. Kendall hopes to use the arena for number of classes and mutually beneficial programs, including partnering with Special Olympics Chicago and Horses For Heroes — which works with returning military veterans.
"There's even a class I was looking at that's for stressed-out moms," Kendall said, adding that the yoga on horseback program could be a popular draw in Mount Greenwood.
The indoor arena will also give all Ag School students added opportunity to interact with the animals. Rain, sleet and snow will be eliminated as reasons to keep students in the classroom, she said.
Meanwhile, Kendall has been invited attend to the 2015 Rose Parade, where she'll be a guest on the Farmer's Insurance float on Jan. 1, Hook said.
"They are taking Maggie to Pasadena," he said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: