The Rio Rancho Melting Pot and Leadership Sandoval celebrated the completion of a renovation project at R4 Creating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

The Melting Pot, which consists of representatives from Central New Mexico Community College, Sandoval County, the district attorney’s office, Honeywell, TLC, Rio Rancho Public Schools and Chalmers Ford. Leadership Sandoval is a group within the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce that is committed to enhancing the quality of life in Sandoval County by improving their knowledge of the community and increasing their leadership effectiveness. Associates develop and refine their leadership skills through a 10-month educational experience. The two groups combined to raise $6,000 for R4.

The project consisted of upgrading R4’s building room, where students create their projects. The floor was epoxied, the walls were painted, shelves were installed and new lighting was put in.

Dr. Shelly Gruenig, the executive director of R4 Creating, has run the championship STEM/STEAM program at the career training center on Sara Road for about 18 months. The program started in her family garage nearly 20 years ago.

R4 Creating, which has won multiple championships and awards, works to connect STEM educators with the necessary resources to prepare students ages 6-18 to enter the STEM Workforce Pipeline. R4 promotes the growth of STEM education and enrichment through its robotics teams and a Robotics Leadership Academy. Classes cost $175 per semester, but Gruenig said no child has ever been turned away from the program. She works tirelessly to raise money to make sure any student who wants it has access to the lessons learned at R4. That generosity was repaid with the renovation project.

“We just have had so many amazing partners over the years, you guys make this happen,” Gruenig said. “We’re so thankful to the chamber and all of the leaders and leadership program for everything from painting and hauling and moving things around.”

County Commissioner Katherine Bruch and Chamber President and CEO Jerry Schalow were also on hand to offer congratulations and tour the facility.

“We’re excited about your continued progress and success and how you’re developing all these kids,” Schalow said. “You guys have done great work. You guys continue to make an impact, not only are you making impact today, you’re making an impact tomorrow. That is just huge to see from a nonprofit and organization such as yours.”

Gruenig was joined by several R4 students, including some who recently returned from the world’s largest robotics competition in Dallas. She praised her students for their work in state, regional, national, and even, global competitions. She also recognized their work outside of the building to help drum up interest in STEM.

“We’re not just a robotics program, we serve the community,” Gruenig said. “We’ve always done a lot of community outreach to encourage kids to have a love of science and technology and learning. My goal is to help young people stick around and contribute to our community and to make that relationship, to bridge that relationship between amazing experiences and future careers.”