‘It was just magical:’ Nonprofit school founder celebrates new location on former Lake County golf course

Nicole Duslak first opened school in 2020

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – Nicole Duslak dream has come true. She’s celebrating the opening of the new location for her school, CREATE Conservatory, in Lake County.

The private nonprofit school sits on the grounds of a former mini golf course in Mount Dora.

“I dreamed about that moment for so long and to be able to have it with the kids, it was just magical there’s no other way to describe what that felt like,” Duslak said as she tried to hold back tears. “It was exhilarating. It was exciting, and it was hard. It was very hard.”

The mother of two said she’s pushed through every obstacle to get to this moment.

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“I know that this wasn’t a mistake and I know that all of the challenges and all of the hard times were absolutely worth it,” she said.

In 2020, Duslak took a leap of faith and started the school that teaches students from kindergarten to 6th grade through arts integration, a method that’s gotten more noticeable since the school was founded.

“That’s I think the biggest challenge we’re facing right now because with 28 students enrolled, we already have 30 students on a wait list for next year,” the former Orange County Public School’s teacher said. “When we moved into the parent building that is currently on this property, we knew that it would be small and that it would only be a temporary space for the whole school. We need to add buildings as quickly as possible.”

CREATE Conservatory (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Duslak said right now, they need $150,000 to clear the land where parts of the golf course remain, and to pay for surveys and permitting.

“We took out the first three holes we need to clear the rest of the land and so that’s incredibly expensive,” she said. “For us, it’s a deadline obviously. We know that our new building won’t be built by August so we’re trying to find temporary solutions. Whether that’s portable modular classrooms temporarily or a satellite location just down the road for our middle school cohort.”

Duslak said the journey she embarked on has been filled with heartbreak and challenges, but it’s one she has no regrets on taking, and she hopes her students will learn from her journey.

“They have been a part of something that a lot of people that was impossible and so what I would say to them is, just don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t because you can, and it’s not gonna be fun it’s not gonna be easy all the time,” she said. “But if it’s something that you really want put in the work, take the time and just don’t quit. Because you can do whatever you set your mind to. I’m proof of that.”

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About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.