The future high school history classroom at Saint Teresa's Catholic School in Albany. Photograph by Jessica L. Marsala.

Albany Catholic school expands to include high school

Originally Appeared in : 9711-5/25/17

ALBANY--In past years, when students at Saint Teresa’s Catholic School graduated from the eighth grade, their only options were to attend much larger public high schools or alternative private schools, which may not have shared the same religious affiliation or prioritized small class sizes. 


Come August, all of that will change when Saint Teresa’s opens its doors to its first high school student body--ninth and 10th grade for the first year, 11th and 12th to follow. 


According to Father Ray Levreault, a high school has been on the wish list of the school’s accompanying parish Saint Teresa’s Church, where he is pastor, for some time. 


 “Everything had to align, and it did, finally. As we embarked on this journey, the Lord has been providing for us in many wonderful ways and things just seem to be falling into place which is really exciting,” Father Levreault said. “The families will continue to have a good, moral value-based Catholic education.”  


Noting that much of the surrounding area is not affluent – according to the United States Census Bureau website, Albany has a poverty rate of approximately 34 percent – Father Levreault said that many of their current families would not be able to afford other local offerings, some of which charge nearly double the planned annual tuition rate of Saint Teresa’s high school. 


“The options were not so good and those that would be considered good were also very expensive,” Father Levreault said, adding that this combined with the possibility of another local public school closing created a “perfect storm” for Saint Teresa’s. 


Though the high school is less expensive than its competitors and brand new, students in the upper grades of Saint Teresa will not miss out on the positive experiences characteristic of other high schools.   


“You’re going to have those experiences of formals and homecomings and sports and afterschool clubs and being able to have your own parking space in the school and things like that,” Principal Susie Hatcher said, adding that students are being encouraged to voice their thoughts to help shape their own high school experiences. “Your high school experience is going to be different than it would be if you were to go to public or some of the other private schools in town. But those same things you loved about elementary school here at Saint Teresa’s are the same things that you’re going to love about Saint Teresa’s high school.” 


Among the school’s expected offerings: dual enrollment as part of Georgia’s Move On When Ready program, a laptop program as well as a number of athletic teams – Father Levreault also stated that the school recently signed up to be part of the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association.


 “It’s going to be a good experience still because I’m still going to be around this Catholic environment to grow in my faith and also in my education,” eighth grader Taylor Sokolowski said. Sokolowski, who also said he looks forward to continuing to play soccer next year, is one of six eighth grade students who will attend Saint Teresa’s for high school.


Though the strong foundation provided by Saint Teresa’s longevity as a 70-plus-year institution and the support – financial or otherwise – provided by its parish will set the high school apart from its peers, Father Levreault and Principal Hatcher also both praised the school’s supportive and diverse environment. 


“We provide kids with not just the academics, not just the faith, but the nurturing that they need,” Hatcher said, explaining how teachers at Saint Teresa’s can “really talk” to their students and pray with them about passing of their pets or their sick grandparents, for example. 


Hatcher, whose son will also be a member of the school’s first high school class, added, “High school and college age is where we lose the most of our children, our young adults in the Catholic faith. But if they can be in an environment where faith is around them every day, all day…having that experience really will change the future and hopefully continue to build the Catholic faith.  To me, there’s no greater gift you can give your children than a Catholic education.” 


Jessica L. Marsala is assistant to the editor at the Southern Cross.

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