The start of freshman orientation Monday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy kicked off like any other school day would — reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer.
It was led by Principal Chris Chirieleison as a way to help students get acclimated with how each day begins.
The first day of school is Tuesday, but Chirieleison said an orientation is held annually the day before to help in the transition to high school.
It’s not just a new school; it’s a new high school, and for some, it’s the first time at a Catholic school. This sets a positive tone, and is a good transition into that so they get that sense of value in school and as a community.
Chris Chirieleison, principal
“It’s not just a new school; it’s a new high school, and for some, it’s the first time at a Catholic school,” he said. “This sets a positive tone, and is a good transition into that so they get that sense of value in school and as a community.”
The day also started with an introduction with administrators, and icebreaker activities that allowed students to get to know each other. It also included a meet-and-greet with teachers; a tour of the school; lunch; mentoring time with upperclassmen; and other activities students can expect when going to St. Joe’s.
“It’s a full day where they can see that day-in-the-life,” Chirieleison said. “I think they had a good sense of what we’re about because they had to go through an application and interview process, but this helps them get to know teachers and their peers, and we can get to know them.”
Many students entering St. Joe’s were looking for a small learning environment.
Jameson Reigh, 14, of Julian, is one of the freshmen starting at St. Joe’s this year.
He’s heading into school with classmate, Maggie Mangene, 14, who went to Centre Learning Community Charter School with Reigh.
They both said it’s nice to see familiar faces, and think going from one small school to another will make the transition smooth.
“I went to a school that was really small before, so I was looking for something equally as small,” Reigh said. “I like that kind of atmosphere that makes things feel personal and individualized.”
And already, he’s starting to make friends.
“Football starts and you immediately meet your close friends,” Reigh said. “It’s been a good time.”
He’ll be playing football with classmate Patrick O’Neill, 14, who’s headed to St. Joe’s from Park Forest Middle School.
“We’ve gotten to know a lot of the older kids, and they haven’t given us a lot of tips, but I think it’ll be easy to start because we’re going in making friends,” O’Neill said.
Classmate Elizabeth Peters, 14, on the other hand, already has experience at a private school.
She attended Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in State College, with nearly half of this year’s incoming freshmen.
Even though Peters said she knows many students, she’s looking to start from scratch.
During an icebreaker activity, students were asked to draw a flag on a piece of paper that represented them.
On it, Peters wrote the Latin phrase, “Ave atque vale,” meaning “Hail and farewell.”
“I think it’s saying goodbye to the past and starting new — at a new school,” she said. “It’s my way of moving on to a new chapter.”
Freshman class has 54 students.
The freshman class included 54 students — the school’s largest ever class, Chirieleison said.
St. Joe’s started in 2011 with 38 total students.
“We’ve been looking at our strategic plan and evaluating how large we can grow,” Chirieleison said.
This year, there are about 150 students in the school. Next year, Chirieleison predicts the number of students to be about 170.