As numerous Catholic Schools on Long Island have closed in the past few years, Holy Name of Mary in Valley Stream has remained strong and vibrant. That alone was reason to celebrate last week.
National Catholic Schools Week is always a big deal at Holy Name of Mary, but students, teachers, administrators and parents were a little extra thankful this year for their school. “There’s not that many Catholic Schools left,” said eighth-grader Kevin Higgins, who will be graduating in June and attending Chaminade High School. “We’re one of the schools that’s still running. It’s fun to be proud that we’re one of the few.”
Higgins had one of the lead roles, Rolf, in the school play, “The Sound of Music,” which was produced on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 as the centerpiece to Holy Name’s Catholic Schools Week celebration. It was directed by teacher Eileen McEnaney and featured scores of the school’s nearly 350 students.
Deidre Kassebaum, an eighth-grader who has been acting in the school plays for several years, played the part of Maria. She said the annual play is important to the students who take pride in the school. “It’s a chance for the kids to standout and show everybody their talent,” she said.
The production was just one of several events during the week, which kicked off with an open house following Sunday mass on Jan. 27. There was a eighth-grade volleyball game, trip to Hot Skates, pizza party and academic challenge. Students also completed a variety of service activities to celebrate the school’s commitment to helping others.
“We really did a lot,” said Principal Richard McMahon. “I thought it was a very joyous and happy week.”
McMahon said the open house was a success. About 30 families visited, with many parents seeking to register their children for the next school year. McMahon said that is a positive sign, considering that no other Catholic schools are slated for closing next year.
The purpose of the week is to set aside time each year to show what Catholic schools are all about. There’s a lot that the schools can offer that public schools can’t, McMahon explained, such as a spiritual education. This year’s theme was “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.”
McMahon said many perspective families were impressed by the school’s facilities, including the new laptop computer lab.
The week is also designed to instill pride in those already associated with the school. McMahon said the energy shown by the students throughout the week demonstrates that they are proud of Holy Name, and want to share that enthusiasm with others.
Drawing off that energy was a new event this year, a TV-style game show in the cafeteria last Friday morning. Students split into two teams and participated in a variety of physical and mental challenges such as a tug-of-war, dance contest, academic trivia and a vigorous Simon Says match.
Lisa Ortiz, president of the Parent Teacher Organization and mother of two sons at the school, brought the event to Holy Name after seeing a flier. “I think it’s a great ending for Catholic Schools Week, go out with a bang,” she said. “It gets all the kids involved. They’re learning while they’re having fun.”
Ortiz said the activity required teamwork and played to the competitive nature of children and teens. “We’ll definitely put this on the list for next year,” she said.
Many of the eighth-graders spent the week wearing the sweatshirts of the schools they will attend next year. McMahon said 95 percent of them will be going to a Catholic high school.
Because this year’s eighth-grade is so large — two classes instead of one — the student-teacher volleyball game was changed. Rather than the teachers playing the students, the two classes played each other with teachers joining the mix.
The younger students participated in a Spell-a-thon. Children got pledges for each of 50 words that they spelled correctly, with money going to Reason to Smile, an organization that sponsors a school in Kenya.
The event was organized by Honor Society advisors Christine Goldstein and Andrea Ciminelli. Goldstein said the students learned how their smarts can literally pay off. “They’re studying so another kid can have shoes on their feet, a meal to eat,” she said.
Children also participated in a Trike-a-Thon to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
McMahon said he was proud of the students for all the service activities they participated in, and the week gave him strong faith for the future success of the school.