By Jessica Easthope
At St. Mel’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, Queens, students celebrated career day as part of Catholic Schools Week. By the display of doctors, police officers and astronauts, it’s clear they have high hopes and at this age the future of their school key.
“Our faith is based on renewal and rebirth and that’s what we focused on this coming year, and that’s been our driving force,” said Principal Amy Barron.
Principal Barron has had a rollercoaster of a year. At the end of her first as principal of St. Mel’s, she was told the school and five others in the Diocese of Brooklyn would be closing. But then, the school was given a second chance to reimagine itself as an early childhood center for students in nursery school through third grade.
“When our parents and our teachers and our students work together our students are succeeding, and that’s what we’re seeing now,” she told Currents News.
This year St. Mel’s even gave its students new tools to succeed, like a playground and a piano lab. They’re features the administration hopes will attract more families.
It’s “a new beginning here that we don’t take for granted and that we know that we have to — like any growth — preserve and protect it and not go too fast, but trust in God first and foremost,” said Father Joseph Fonti, the pastor of St. Mel’s Parish.
The school is hoping to tack on a new grade at the end of every year, but the ultimate dream, though slow-going, is powerful.
“The dream is for our current third grade students in five years, my ultimate dream is to hand them their 8th grade diploma from St Mel’s Catholic Academy,” said Principal Barron.
That’s good news for parents like Josephine Del Greco, who feared the worst this past summer.
“I got the news and it felt like a family member had died,” she explained. “This is home away from home for our kids and our family, so it was devastating to find out the school would be closing.
Josephine practices pediatric emergency medicine, and her daughter dressed up like a doctor for career day. Now Josephine is thrilled to have her daughter and her faith back in St Mel’s.
“It brings us back to Easter,” she said. “It’s almost as if the scripture is coming to life. We were reborn into an early childhood center, and we’re going to rebuild from that.”
When it comes to rebirth and renewal, there’s no better example than St. Mel’s. It’s a second chance they’re not taking for granted.