OGDEN -- Nancy Van Valkenburg did not graduate from Ogden High School, but she wishes she had.
The sentiment developed as the Standard-Examiner reporter shot her documentary, "The Million Dollar School." The film documents the $65 million renovation of the high school, a renovation that is scheduled to finish at the end of next year.
As she moved forward with the project, she began to see in Ogden High School what the alumni and donors who helped make the costly renovation possible also saw.
Van Valkenburg moved from the paper's Life section to the education beat last year and began working on the documentary as she familiarized herself with her new job.
"I was trying to learn my beat at the same time. It was spring before I got started on interviews," she said.
As she got to know the major players involved in remodeling Ogden High School, she fell for the school. The more people she interviewed, the more she got into the story, she said.
In all, more than 1,000 and individuals donated to see the renovation through despite the tough economy.
"It started as just an assignment, but hearing about how much they care about the school... I wish I was a graduate of Ogden High," she said.
The art deco design and long history of the school is a far cry from Van Valkenburg's alma mater. She graduated from a university-run high school in Illinois, with a graduating class of 24.
Charmed by the beauty of the school and the loyalty of its students and alumni, Van Valkenburg stepped up to the personal challenge the documentary presented. She had done three-minute videos for the Life section before. For the documentary, she was taking on a project about 10 times longer.
She said she could not have completed the documentary without the help of Kera Williams, who works in the Standard-Examiner visuals department.
"She's done several of these (documentaries) as an editor... She's a real artist," Van Valkenburg said.
Kent Norton, long-time weekend weather man for Channel 5 and an Ogden High School alum, provides narration.
DVDs of "The Million Dollar School" will be available for sale at the open house of the school and auditorium scheduled for Sept. 24. Proceeds from the sale of the DVDs will go to the Ogden School Foundation. A preview showing of the film is also scheduled for the open house.