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Aim High Academy celebrates upgrades to facility six years after tornado

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 08:50:14-04

TULSA, Okla. — It’s been more than six years since a tornado destroyed Aim High Academy's west Tulsa facility, but now it has a new reason to celebrate.

March 25, 2015 is a day many at Aim High Academy won’t forget. A tornado destroyed the gymnastics facility while coaches, parents and gymnasts hid in the basement. Firefighters rescued them and carried the children out of the building one by one. Everyone made it out safe.

“It was very scary," said Jennifer Bjornberg, founder and executive director of Aim High Academy. "Just lots of noise, lots of children crying, screaming.”

“It was really scary," said Aleeyah Caligone, a gymnast at Aim High Academy. "I couldn’t really hear much of anything because we were like playing music and trying to distract other kids from hearing that, hearing outside.”

In 2016, Aim High moved into its new building near 41st and Memorial, but founder Jennifer Bjornberg knew something was missing.

She wanted to make their new facility a safer place. So, she built a new wind event center, which was unveiled to donors on Thursday. In case of severe weather, garage doors will come down and protect those inside from up to 150 mph winds.

“I knew from my experience that as a leader, it was important for me to have a place for my families, for my kids to go in case of severe weather," Bjornberg said.

Since the tornado, Aim High has raised more than $2 million. It opened a second facility in North Tulsa and a “Ninja” gym at its main building.

The nonprofit serves 600 kids in the community, including John Morrison’s son and daughter.

“They’re at that age where they have a lot of vigor, a lot of energy, a lot of joy," Morrison said. "And once they come here, it’s a safe environment, it’s a healthy environment.”

Aim High focuses not only on gymnastics but faith too.

“We believe that our program is feeding the kids," Bjornberg said. "Obviously physically because they’re physically active, but we want to do more than that. We want to feed them spiritually as well. We want every kid that walks through our doors to know that God made them special with a purpose and a plan for their lives.”

The gymnasts are hard at work to reach their goals. With the Olympics getting ready to start, Caligone knows who she’s rooting for.

“Simone Biles," she said. "I really hope that she wins.”

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