In Support of Catholic Schools

The mission and vision of Catholic schools in Hudson County has never changed, never wavered, and never varied in its goal.  The goal of all Catholic schools, elementary or high, co-ed or single sex is to provide a faith filled educational foundation for students whose parents wish to see their children achieve. One needs only to look at the mission statements of schools in Hudson County, and regardless of whether they were founded by the Dominicans, the Jesuits, the Marist Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers or another religious community, the purpose is shared.  Catholic education is different from public education, in ways more myriad than the placement of crosses in a classroom or prayers before the end of the day.  Catholic school is a tradition, a way of life, a path that many of us were raised on and that we continue to have our children follow to this very day.  Catholic school alumni, educators, and parents are a community of our own- one that believes in the value and need for quality Catholic education within our communities, in order to best prepare our next generation of children for the future.

It should then come as no surprise how shocked and saddened I was this past Monday when I learned that Marist High School has been given just one month to raise 1.5 million or its doors will close in June.  This is a pattern I have seen far too often during my years in education.  I have been blessed to have been educated by Catholic institutions in Jersey City from kindergarten through 12th grade, and it is with sadness that I look back on those years, for both of those fine schools, Our Lady of Mercy and The Academy of Saint Aloysius are no longer here to serve the Hudson County community.  Over the past few years, many of us have seen other schools consolidate, combine, restructure or even close and a loss of one of those institutions is a significant loss for Catholic education overall.  

This county was once filled with thriving, academically challenging Catholic elementary schools and high schools and now, their reflections are seen only in the pages of yearbooks from days gone by and in the actions of those who once passed through their doors and now are leading by example in their individual lines of work; retaining the essence of faith, service, charity and compassion that was taught in their Catholic educational setting.

Where once Jersey City and, indeed, all of Hudson County was primarily a homogeneous geography of Catholic immigrants, it is today a market of enormous diversity. While our product, a faith-based education that empowers women of all backgrounds for leadership, is appropriate for many beyond the graduates of Catholic elementary schools, the fact is that there are, indeed, fewer families seeking these educations for their children. Although that is the case, there is room for diversity in those offerings – both single gender and co-ed – because it is from diversity that we all thrive.

For all of us, myself included, a thriving Catholic school community is one where all schools are successful, all schools serve the student population, and the choice, for co-ed or single sex is offered- to meet the individual student’s best interest.  If we are to be successful, we must be supportive of all Catholic educational endeavors and we must reach out and be there for each other in times of trouble and despair. For, isn’t that what being a Catholic community is all about?

We do not want to sit back and watch as doors close around us; we want those doors to be open, to continue to promote their educational programs and their outstanding achievements.  For we are a community, one that believes in Catholic education and one that wants to see it thrive for time in memoriam.  

In that vein, Saint Dominic Academy will do more this spring than just promote Catholic education within our own walls.  We will be making a donation to the #savemaristnj campaign and will hope that our donation, partnered with so many others, will ensure that the doors of another Catholic school do not close forever, but rather, remain a vibrant part of Hudson County for years to come.  Saint Dominic Academy supports Catholic education and we want to see it thrive…always!

This Is Us…at SDA!

Are many of you on the This Is Us bandwagon? I was not at first, but more and more people kept telling me I was missing “the best show on television.”  So one night I gave it a chance and after two episodes, I was hooked. Now, tissues are on my weekend grocery list because I have not made it through many episodes without either filling up or freely crying. ( Although, no spoilers, I found the season finale very anti climatic. No tears shed there folks!)  I am sure those of you who watch have your favorite characters, ( Team Randall here!)  plot lines to follow, and overall weekly reactions. (Here is a question: is the Mom too demanding or is the Father just a bit too perfect? Thoughts? Anyone?)  

The writers, director and actors have created a television show that, for one reason or another, has struck a chord with our culture today.  It has drawn us in, held our interest, made us talk, made us think, and made us ( at least me) weep. That is quite a big impact for a television show to have, especially in the day and age of reality television, an over-choice of what to watch using whatever device one is plugged into each day, and in a world where many of us are too busy to just take a moment and enjoy on a regular basis.  And that made me wonder; what is it about this show, with no violence,  no gratuitous sex (at least not in this season), no focus on anything other than family and what it means to be a family today, that has captured the hearts of many of us?

And I went from that wondering to this pondering; Saint Dominic Academy could be viewed in the same type of weekly “snapshot”, a picture of what makes us so engaging, so captivating, so beloved week after week, year after year, from 1878 to now.   For at heart, the SDA community is a family and at different times throughout the years, different aspects have been given the limelight, the focus, the love of the students, parents and alumnae. Each of us have grown to care for SDA for different reasons and have different motivations for attending, for serving, or for supporting, but we all do it. There is something almost magic about Saint Dominic Academy; it draws people in as students, it calls people back, as alumnae. It motivates, it challenges, and it supports- the school has an engaged following that cannot be denied.

One need only to look to our social media; our Twitter followers, our Facebook page, as well as the alumnae and parent SDA Facebook pages to see how much support we have; a following that far surpasses any TV show following. Memories, accolades, inspirations, they are posted and shared daily for all to see. And so, this week I am very happy to announce via this blog a new undertaking at SDA this spring.  As you know, the weekend of April 28th is our Alumnae Reunion weekend. In honor of that, we at Saint Dominic Academy will be naming April  “Alumnae Celebration Month.”

So, Saint Dominic Academy…This Is Us!  From April 1 to April 30th, we will be reaching out daily, via email and social media to share memories of the SDA of years past and achievements of the current SDA students. It is my hope that you continue to remain our “loyal viewers” during this venture and I look forward to sharing these daily highlights with you.

Stay tuned…

Why Attend SDA? The Answer Is Simple!

When it comes to high schools there is no doubt in my mind that Saint Dominic Academy offers the best possible education for young women in grades 7-12.  Our classes are academically challenging, our athletic program is competitive yet welcoming, and our learning experiences exceed the perimeters of the classroom setting more than a few times throughout the year.   We create a warm and nurturing environment for our students and truly work to inspire them to become empowered leaders of the future.

 However, I know that oftentimes, parents and other potential stakeholders do ask the question: Why is Catholic secondary education for women so important?  In a day and age where many public and charter schools are offering specialized academic programs and where co-ed Catholic schools offer the allure (and drama and tears) of taking classes with young men,  what makes so many parents and their daughters choose Saint Dominic Academy?  It is because, day in and day out since 1878, we have offered a foundation supported by the Dominicans that truly shapes young women for the future.

As a graduate of the Academy of Saint Aloysius, I can attest first hand to the importance of Catholic secondary education for women. I would not be where I am today without the backing and support of the Sisters of Charity and without the strong foundations I received at their institution. Catholic education provides young women with the opportunity to become, as we at Saint Dominic Academy so frequently phrase it, “empowered”.  

During the formative years of 12- 18, attending an all girls school allows our young women, your daughters, to learn that they can indeed do it all. Our girls are the star athletes, the student council presidents, the leads in the musicals, the top students in the class. As parent Eileen Gill recently stated via Facebook: The dedication, discipline and teamwork that these girls put into this team week after week are a tribute to their hard-working coaches, and the culture of Saint Dominic Academy. While your daughters attend Saint Dominic Academy, they are the innovators and achievers, with nobody to stand in their spotlight or to make them feel that what they are doing is not something “women do.”  It is at all girls Catholic schools where girls truly learn that all people are created equal and that intelligent, faith-filled women can change the world, make it better, and reach any goal they set for themselves.

I learned all of those lessons during my time in Catholic school and it is those lessons that set me on my path to the future. If I had not had the opportunity to attend The Academy of Saint Aloysius, I may not ever have truly realized how important it is for our Catholic girls’ schools to stay strong, stay vital and to maintain a true presence in the lives of all girls.  Those sentiments were recently expressed to me via email from parent Joyce Debronsky, who shared her feeling that SDA’s future is bright…I am glad our family is a part of it!  

Today, I thank each of our parents in grades 7-12 for choosing Saint Dominic Academy, for putting the future of your daughters into the hands of all who work so hard daily, and for entrusting us to set them on the right path to the future.  You chose wisely, you chose well, and we are honored to have your daughters here with us each day.

From 1878 to today, and far into the future, Saint Dominic Academy will offer young ladies a chance to be everything they ever dreamed of being: STEM scholars, Presidents, Soloists, Athletes, and there is never someone saying “girls cannot…” At Saint Dominic Academy, we work every day to send the message that “Girls Can” and “Girls Should” and that message, more than any other, helps to create a world of women who work for the betterment of society as a whole.

The Most Magical Place on Earth

March is here and with it, hopefully, the advent of spring! I know that each year, I look forward to March, even if most of its weather is more winter like than filled with spring warmth. However, there is just something about the anticipation of spring that makes me more cheerful and happy. It’s a challenge for educators and students to focus, day after day as grey clouds fill the sky, cold winds blow and barren trees wave their branches.  With the sight of buds on branches, grass peeking through the soil and blue skies, it is my hope that all of us at Saint Dominic Academy will be filled with energy and excitement for the remaining months of school.

The warm weather will be arriving extra early for some members of the Saint Dominic Academy community. Last Thursday, our Dance Team headed to Florida to compete in the National Dance Alliance competitions. We have nine young ladies, in grades 8-12 representing SDA at this monumental event. Our team has done well in its past competitions in Florida, always bringing home a trophy to display proudly here at school. Although they have a tight schedule, hours of practices for their three competitive challenges, it will not be a case of “all work and no play” for these young ladies. They will be able to experience the fun (and frights!) of Universal Studios, Orlando, where I myself can only hope that they will visit the World of Harry Potter and take lots of pictures for this Potter fan!

As these nine return, ten more leave Saint Dominic Academy to head to Disney World. From March 6 to March 10th, students selected for SDA’s first participation in the DISNEY YES Educational Program will fly to Orlando and check into the Pop Century Resort, located on Disney property. Once there, the girls, in grades 9-12, will spend three mornings in intensive workshops hosted by Disney. The workshop topics are Disney Leadership Strategies, Evolution of Technology, and Properties of Motion Physics Lab. All will involve interaction with Disney “cast members” and give the young ladies a glimpse into the inner workings of both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Again, this is not a work only event; the young ladies will be able to “experience the magic” of Disney by spending the afternoons and evenings in the parks once the workshop is complete. Take a spin through the Haunted Mansion for me, ladies!

Having 19 of our students heading to Florida for various academic and athletic recognition is a wonderful achievement for all of us here at Saint Dominic Academy and also a wonderful achievement for each of the young ladies who were selected to attend. As a personal Disney vacation lover ( the photos for this blog were taken by me last March!) , part of my mind and heart next week will be in Disney with these girls and I commend them for the success and honor that they bring to SDA through their achievements.  Bring home some of the magic to SDA ladies and sprinkle some pixie dust in the halls of 2572 Kennedy Boulevard, where magic is happening daily in our classrooms!