Catholic Academy Focuses on Inclusion

Tags: Currents, Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Queens, NY

By Emily Drooby

Students at Our Lady Of Grace Catholic Academy started their day by simply saying hello to their fellow classmates, teachers, parents as the NYPD police band put on a concert to kick off the new school year.

The school’s principal, Kelly Wolf, says this year students will focus on the greeting as a way to spread kindness.

“You turn to your left and you say hello to a friend, you turn to your right and you say hello to a friend, and hopefully then throughout the day it just turns into a conversation and by the end of the day it becomes a friendship. If we could build upon that and have that every single day, wow what a better world we might have for our children, Principal Wolf explained.

The exercise comes from a national movement called ‘Start With Hello,’ which seeks to create a culture of inclusion at schools. It was started by family members of those killed during the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting in 2012.

“Anything we can do to help the kids feel welcomed and to feel like they belong,” is important, said Angela Donnelly, a first grade teacher at Our Lady Of Grace Catholic Academy.

Teachers are hoping that if students just say ‘hello’ to each other it will make everyone more comfortable, especially the school’s 20 new students.

“There’s a lot of people, friendly people and they’re nice and the teachers are awesome,” said Charles, a new student at the school this year.

“It warms my heart because there are so many new students, and it will make them feel welcome and it’s easier to make friends that way,” added Kendra, a student who has been at the academy since she was in nursery school.

The school’s population has steadily increased over the past three years, which Principal Wolf credits to the positive and welcoming community they’ve built within the school and neighborhood.

“When they come here at OLGCA they’re joining a family, I am opening our doors and welcoming them into our family,” she said.

The initiative comes naturally to Our Lady Of Grace. Each, day students learn basic Catholic values that focus on loving your neighbor as yourself.

Principal Wolf further explained, “We are supposed to be more like Jesus so starting your day with hello to so many new faces that are there it’s just what I think Jesus would want us to do.”

The new initiative is a small but powerful action that the academy hopes will go a very long way.